Sunday, January 5, 2014


We read in the Toronto Star yesterday there has been record sightings of the Arctic Snowy Owl all over the central and eastern part of Canada and the United States.  One of the best places for viewing the owls in Toronto is at Tommy Thompson Park at the edge of Lake Ontario.

We have never been to Tommy Thompson Park so we decided to drive there, to see if we would be lucky and get to see a Snowy Owl.  It was perfect weather for the outing - temperatures rising to near zero after a week of below fifteen on most days.  The sun even came out at times from behind the grey clouds.

The park is at the end of a desolate stretch of industrial lands.  It is only open on weekends and holidays, the rest of the time construction trucks roll up and down the pitted worn roads outside and the gates of the park are closed. 

We parked at the entrance and walked into the park.  The paved trail was covered with slush and ice and we had to walk slowly to avoid slipping.  It was a busy day for the park - every few minutes we encountered fellow visitors on their way out, fully dressed for the cold in boots and parkas, hats and scarves.  We stopped everyone to ask, "Did you see the owls?"  Some were lucky and saw a few, some weren't so lucky and didn't see any.  There was no doubt that everyone was at the park for the same reason.  Everyone we met was in a jovial mood - owl or no owl, it was worth it to just be there enjoying scenes of sunlight, sky and water.

Alberto and Paulina loved being in nature, and decorated their house with the natural things they found on their travels - dried grasses, feathers, sea shells.  Every time we were in Buenos Aires, Alberto always tried to persuade us to go fishing with him.  "A few days, just the four of us by the river.  You haven't seen the beautiful countryside in Argentina yet!  It is so peaceful.  Afterwards I will make you the best asado ever, right on the riverbank."

We would react with looks of terror in our eyes.  We were only in Buenos Aires for two weeks and we had dancing to do, the last thing we wanted was to be sitting still under a hot sun with a fishing rod and no milonga in sight.  "Next time!  Next time!" I said, but Man Yung was more honest.   He would look at Alberto with a big frown and say, "Alberto!  Please!  No fishing!" Alberto would look at Man Yung and laugh until his eyes disappeared.  Every time we returned to Buenos Aires he would repeat his threat, just to get the looks of terror in our eyes all over again. 

It was easy to spot the Snowy Owl - we just had to find several groups of people standing still with their cameras all pointing in the same direction.  It was standing on an ice covered bush at the edge of a cliff, its head swiveling around towards all the cameras, to the lake, and back again.  We had our camera ready and managed to zoom in and snap some photos.

We were pretty sure that the owl thought that us humans were quite silly with our camera equipment and binoculars and hushed awe as we stood in a reverent twelve meter radius around the target of our attention.  Nevertheless, the owl indulged us all and let us take photos for a few more minutes. 

"Look, the owl has changed its position!" said Man Yung.  It looked like she was preparing to take off - and she did, unfurling her wings and climbing the air effortlessly.

"Darn! This camera is too slow!"  Man Yung was trying to take a photo of the lift-off.

I knew that it would be too late. "Forget the camera, forget it!  Just use your eyes - look with your eyes!  Try to remember that you here at this moment, that you are seeing, that you are watching the snowy owl fly," I said.

The owl was now a pair of white wings flapping slowly and further and further out over the water - now, a ghost; now, a shadow; now, nothing more than a mote against the steel-gray waves.

Our lives are filled with missed moments.  Moments when we are fumbling with the camera.  Moments when we are thinking of something else.  Moments when we are preoccupied with things to do, people to see, goals to accomplish.  Moments too, like this windy day in the park - when we tried to capture everything to impress it in our memory forever, because we finally realized how our moments are not infinite and maybe this moment is something we should stop to treasure.  How our moments slip through our fingers, despite all our hopes and best wishes.

In remembrance of our dear friend Alberto Dassieu October 13, 1936 – December 5, 2013


jessiechung said...

Dear Irene and Man Yung,

A beautiful blog about the snowy owl. Your reflections are absolutely spot on. That is why I don't use a camera anymore. Jessie takes the pictures.



Pm said...

Gracias por la entrega muy linda. No sé porque es tan fácil perder la conciencia y vivir verdaderamente los momentos nuestra vida.
Feliz año nuevo para Ustedes!

Irene and Man Yung said...

Queridos Jessie, Dorian y Pm,

Gracias por los comentarios! Feliz Año Nuevo a todos!

Irene y Man Yung

Toronto Weather

Buenos Aires Weather