Pine Marten acknowledges my Martin-ness

Pine Marten acknowledges my Martin-ness

Who am I to speak to the Wisdom of Animals?

Versions of this question have been looping through my mind ever since my sister and I started talking about creating a deck of ‘messenger-type cards’ based on my photographs a few years ago.

Creating such an entity, in my opinion, is a big responsibility. This card deck falls within the realm of ‘guide’ or ‘messenger’ cards, in the sense that the choice of a card and the message within is guided by something greater.

Speaking on behalf of ‘something greater’ should never be taken lightly. And, speaking on behalf of animals in general should never be taken lightly.

I was often overcome by the magnitude of this responsibility during the process of co-creating a deck of Animal Wisdom Cards with my sister, Tina Forsyth.

However, am very happy to announce – I was able to move through this uncomfortableness and our Animal Wisdom Cards deck is now officially for sale!

Among the 40 Canadian Animals represented in the deck is the Pine Marten (aka Pacific Marten,) who is at least partially responsible for giving me the confidence and esteem to get these cards out there.

When a Marten appears, in any form, you know you are in for a roller-coaster of a ride. But rest assured, by the end – you will have stepped into some deeper aspect of who you are; claimed an important part of your identity.

I can attest to the ultimately rewarding, yet unpredictable, turbulent path that results from aligning with the erratically focused energy of the Pine Marten.

Almost exactly two years ago, a Marten (who I named Marty) appeared to remind me that my worth is in my Kerri Martin-ness. This, and countless other magical experiences with wild animals, is the essence of these cards.

My plan is to dedicate a full blog post to my Pine Marten experiences soon, and of course, the 39 other animals represented in the cards, and beyond.

The physical Animal Wisdom Cards deck will also be accompanied by the AWC website, where you also have the option of digitally choosing a card.

Please join our Animal Wisdom Cards Facebook Group here if you would like to be part of future discussions on the energy and essence of wild animals.

And, sign up for the Animal Wisdom Cards mailing list here to have weekly doses of animal wisdom delivered to your inbox.

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments on our new cards and continue to love life and everything wild!

Kerri :)

The Evolution of an Animal Artist

The Evolution of an Animal Artist

I was sitting in the back of my mom’s Chrysler LeBaren, encased within the perfect expression of a 70s station wagon, a maroon red exterior accented by wood paneling.

I was eagerly hunched over my new possession – a large, blank, sketch pad, about the size of a desktop calendar.

We were driving home from downtown Lethbridge. Having recently revealed my plans to become an Animal Artist to my mom, she had taken me to the art store to get supplies. All I needed, I thought, was a massive sketch pad and multi-coloured pencil crayons.

I imagined the canvas filled with an abundance of beautiful, Bambi-like animals with massive, expressive eyes. The creative potential was palpable – I could not wait to get home and start drawing the animal characters who currently only existed in my mind. I had a vision of a lush forest filled with myriads of wide-eyed animals.

I think I was around the age of eight. When I got home that day, I immediately started working on my creation. I drew a Thumper-like bunny at the bottom-right corner of my new sketch pad, and that is as far as I got.

I don’t recall exactly why I stopped, but my sense is I became acutely aware of the stark nothingness that lay beyond the bottom-right corner. The overflowing potential in this blank canvas become oppressive. Perhaps my eight-year old self wasn’t ready to face the equally terrifying and exhilarating feeling of having a beautiful blank canvas before me.

But I am now…

Before I continue my story, take a browse through some of the images I have re-created in recent weeks, from the perspective of not just being a photographer and animal lover, but a full-fledged Animal Artist.

Click on any of the images below to see the full version.

If you happened to notice the above images look animated, don’t worry – your eyes are not deceiving you.

A couple of weeks ago, I was looking at a picture of my cat Buttons, and as usual, I was overcome by her beauty.  I felt the need to amplify her adorableness, so I applied a stylizing effect in Photoshop and was struck by the result. So of course, I applied the same effect on a picture of Gracie and was equally impressed.

I started applying this effect to some of my favorite wildlife photos. Most of them dissolved into swirly obtrusiveness and looked fake. Others, however, seemed to magically transform from photographs to art.

Then I started experimenting, refining my technique,  applying the effect to everything in the photo EXCEPT the eyes.

And I have to say, WOW. Eyes, as they say, are windows to the soul – so remarkably expressive and powerful, they do not need any sort of alternation. Eyes are striking.

A few days after my initial round of digital experimentation, my friend Jen came over and I projected my new art to my 42 inch TV screen. Jen’s reaction to my artistic creations was such a joy to witness. She was deeply moved by many of the images and was able describe certain characteristics of the animals that I had not previously thought of. Jen helped convince me I had created art, and I really appreciate her expressive energy.

 A few days later, my sister Tina and I decided to collaborate on the creation of a set of Animal Wisdom Cards. With a focus on exploring the intricate layers of our human-ness through the energy and essence of wild animals, we had been discussing this card deck for years.

I like to think the re-emergence of my Animal Artist within, 39 years after my initial attempt, was at least partially what inspired us to take more concrete steps towards manifesting this creative endeavour.

One of these steps is a new Facebook group focused on our Animal Wisdom Cards. The purpose is to explore the impacts of and reaction to my newly stylized images. And, to share ideas and prototype designs for the physical card deck, which will consist of 60 different animal images and personal stories.

If you would like to join us for this journey, please visit our new Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/animalwisdomcards

There will be a new post of an animal on a weekly basis (minimum) along with a story and invitation to members to share your insights and experiences. Join now to see which image, within the above gallery, left Jen so overcome with the sheer adorableness of the subject, she was rendered a quivering mass of undying admiration for this soulful little being.

Until next time, continue loving life and everything wild :)

Happy 420: Willard says ‘Hi’

Happy 420: Willard says ‘Hi’

Willard is a Great Horned Owl who has been roosting in a large spruce tree just outside my work entrance at Lethbridge College.

I noticed him for the first time just over a month ago on March 14. As soon as I got to my office, I excitedly sent a note to the college communications team to alert them of the news. I happened to have my camera in the car, I told them, if they would like pictures of the owl to include in our internal newsletter.

Lethbridge College is known for its Great Horned Owl occupants, at least by the long-term staff and faculty. In fact, our internal website is called ‘The Owl’ and features a large heading image with the yellow-eyed beauty. Perched on the edge of the Old Man river valley, scattered with multiple gopher burrows and numerous spruce trees, the campus is perfect territory for Alberta’s Provincial bird.

I knew the appearance of an owl in mid-March was not really news, so was surprised when the comms team emailed me back almost instantly, urging me to take pictures. I happily obliged.

When I left later that day, I noticed the owl was in a slightly better position, so I snapped a couple more pics before heading home. When I downloaded the images later that evening, I was shocked to see the time stamp on the last two images was 4:20pm.

420!!?? Awesome! I love those three digits for so many reasons, but mostly because the number is connected to the spirit of my dad, who died in 2017. Read more about the relationship between 420, wildlife sightings and my dad here.

I racked my brain, trying to remember when I left work. My day ends at 4:30 and I don’t typically leave early. I remembered waking out with my friend/coworker, and was sure we left 5 minutes late. So why does the time stamp say 4:20 on the last two images?

Obviously, the time on my camera is about 15 minutes slow. And also, obviously, some part of the spirit of my dad resides in that owl.

He appeared for a reason, to let me know he’s happy I am back home, in Lethbridge. He wanted me and my family to know he is always watching over us, that love-based bonds never break, even after death.

My co-workers and I named him Willard, after my dad, and he has been hanging out in the spruce tree two or three times a week since I first saw him. I assume there is a nest around, and Willard is the father. Male Great Horned Owls keep guard in the general vicinity of the nest while mom sits on the eggs.

Last Friday, my sister, nieces and I went for a drive to Waterton for the day. It was a nice trip, but having found no photographable animals, I was anxious to give my camera a bit of a workout. With the college on our route back into town, I suggested we stop in and see if Willard was in his tree.

Sure enough, he was, and Tina, Sam and Lexi were super excited to see him! We said ‘hi Willard! and he acknowledged us, briefly half-opening one eye, then the other, before resuming his day time rest.

Tomorrow is 420, and if my blog scheduler worked, this post should have been published precisely at 4:20am. I am planning on celebrating the day with a drive out west in the morning, and a little gathering with friends in the afternoon – starting precisely at 4:20pm, of course.

While I appreciate the psychedelic attributes of the number, the spirit of 420 is not just about getting high. I have so many stories about remarkable wildlife sightings being connected to my dad/the mystical 420/something greater.

My plan for this post was to elaborate on these stories, but I have run out of time and brain power. Instead, I decided to search for the number 420 in all of the number-based image file names I have taken since 2014, just to see what comes up. Out of 20,000+ files, 39 images had 420 in the file name, many of which were previously unedited/un-posted. The following image are my 11 favorite:

420 Black bear cubs – Photographed in Banff in 2017

420 Red Crossbill –photographed in Kananaskis in 2018.

420 Beaver – photographed in Calgary in 2015.

420 River Otter – photographed in Saskatchewan in 2018.

420 Grizzly Cub – photographed in Kananaskis in 2018.

420 Marmots – photographed in Kananaskis in 2017.

420 Northern Pygmy Owl – photographed in Kananaskis in 2019.

420 Rufus Hummingbird – photographed in Kananaskis in 2019.

420 Common Nighthawk – photographed in Southern AB in 2020

420 Northern Saw-whet Owl – photographed in Lethbridge in 2019

420 Moose family – photographed in Kananaskis in 2019.

A seemingly random selection of animals, but maybe not? They all have a certain number in common and that definitely means something.

Please enjoy 420 today, and, as always, continue loving life and everything wild :)

Top 10 of 2021: Celebrating the Goodness of Now

Top 10 of 2021: Celebrating the Goodness of Now

Flashback to 1985 … 

A 10 year old Kerri and her 12 year old sister, Tina, are hunched over their gettoblaster, anxiously waiting for ‘The Goonies R Good Enough’ (by Cyndi Lauper) to play on the radio. Tina’s fingers hover over both the play/record buttons, preparing to snap them down simultaneously, precisely after the DJ stops talking, but before the song begins.

Capturing a clean recording of our favourite song, on a cassette tape, from live radio! There was no bigger accomplishment for someone of my generation.

Flashforward to 2022 …

As the recently turned 47 year old Kerri (my birthday is today), I wonder what it would be like to talk to that girl, to let her know – 37 years down the road, there would be another version of herself, sitting in her own home, a mere kilometre away, with access to the entire world of media  all songs, all movies, all videos – at her fingertips.

I could not only listen the ‘The Goonies ‘R Good Enough‘ right now, I could watch the movie it is based on, OR – virtually any other movie I have ever enjoyed or dreamed of seeing.

AND, let’s say I was worried the plot line of The Goonies might not be as engaging for my 47 year old self as it was for my 10 year old self, I could wander on down to the local Cannabis Store (!!???) and find something to enhance the experience.

AND, let’s say I wanted a Slurpee and various gummies from 7-11, to further enhance the experience, I could order both in seconds, and they would arrive on my doorstep in minutes.

There are so many more ANDS! If feel like my 10 year old self would find it difficult, if not impossible, to comprehend how ‘easy’ and ‘accessible’ everything seems to be these days.

More on this below, but for now – it is my birthday today, and I am celebrating the beginning of my 47th year by publishing a display of my top ten wildlife encounters of 2021. Following the format of last year’s post, I’ve decided to allow the images to speak for themselves.

Pssst.. I’m curious if any of these animals speak to you in some way?  If so, I would love to hear your thoughts – please comment below. 

#10

Juvenile Sora

Frank Lake – July 2021

#9

American Coot

Emerald Lake – March 2021

#8

Alberta Birds of Prey

SE Alberta – August 2021

Golden Eagle

Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk

Juvenile Ferruginous Hawk

#7

Calliope Hummingbird

Weasealhead, Calgary – May 2021

#6

Wet Grizzly Bear

Kananaskis – June 2021

#5

Long-tailed Weasel

Lethbridge – April 2021

#4

Northern Saw-whet Owl

Calgary – March 2021

#3 

Wolf

Kananaskis – June 2021

#2

Grizzly Bear 142 and Cub

Banff – May 2021

#1

Great Grey Owl Family

Alberta Foothills – May 2021

Celebrating the Goodness of Now

Our world today terrifies me at times, particularly when it comes to technology-based automation and the digital evolution of communications/media. Our dependence on digital tools, and access to seemingly unlimited virtual experiences, makes me wonder:

Are we getting lazy? Are we becoming disconnected from reality? Are meaningful, face to face relationships a thing of the past?

Not to mention the extreme toxicity and divisiveness which seem to dominate social media and online discourse in general.

Then I remember…

There is so much power in this multi-dimensional, interconnected, beautifully complex medium of the world wide web.

The digital landscape is so much more than propaganda, mindless entertainment, toxic discourse and disconnection.

So. Much. More.

KerriMartinPhotography.com – is another aspect of today that I feel would shock my 10 year old self. For close to nine years, I have been examining the nuances of my encounters with wild animals in the form of this gallery-based website and blog.

I love being able to look back at my photos and read my stories, relishing in the rhythm of nature and the interconnectedness of life. This digital entity is the primary means in which I have been able to practice and share my art.

My experiences observing, photographing and being in the presence of wild animals have transformed how I view the world. I understand the power of aligning with the energy and essence of animals.

Overwhelming appreciation for the goodness of now, in all forms – digital, physical and everything in between – is the basis of my newest artistic endeavour.   

A new web entity will emerge in the coming months, and will eventually culminate into a ‘real life’ deck of Animal Wisdom Cards.

Click below to be notified of the launch of:

ANIMAL WISDOM CARDS

Explore the rich layers of your psyche through the essence and energy of wild animals.

I believe there is an abundance of creative and connective potential online, but engaging with our natural world has never been more important.

Featuring a marriage of my photos and insights, these cards will encourage a deeper connection, highlighting the mystical qualities and unique characteristics of a variety of wild animals.

I can’t wait to get into more specifics in future blog posts – if you are currently not subscribed, please sign up using the form below.

And stay tuned for official news about the creation and launch of my Animal Wisdom Cards.

Until next time, continue loving life an everything wild. :)

P.S. – did any of the above photos speak to you in some way? If so, please comment below.

Close encounters of the bear kind = manifestation of my wildest dreams (Part 3 of 3)

Close encounters of the bear kind = manifestation of my wildest dreams (Part 3 of 3)

It was the closest I have ever been to death…

In February of 2008, almost 14 years ago, I came down with a severe case of pneumonia.

I spent a week in semi-delirium from lack of oxygen, alone in my apartment. I had no appetite, no energy – I was out of breath with every movement.

I had friends and family checking on me, but I did not realize how sick I was – reduced oxygen does strange things to your brain. I was not thinking clearly.

A few days in, I had the wherewithal to realize I needed to see a doctor. So I went to a walk-in clinic, only to be told I had a bad cold and sent home with prescription cough syrup.

The cough syrup did not help. One evening, I felt a painful jarring in my lungs after a particularly bad cough attack, like something inside of me broke.

 I was terrified.

I knew I needed to go to the hospital, but I was afraid. Instead, I called a close friend who ordered me to: ‘Call 911 right now; I’ll be right over.’

Thankfully, my friend was with me when the ambulance came and took me to the hospital.

I needed to be admitted, but due to hospital overcrowding, I had to spend the first night in the emergency room.

The ER was chaotic – I was surrounded by wave after wave of trauma, fear, anger and even violence.

At one point, a large, inebriated man had to be put in restraints in the bed beside me because he was literally trying to attack the nurses.

I was relieved to finally be admitted to a regular ward the next day, where I spent five days receiving lung therapy and an onslaught of antibiotics.

My parents traveled to Calgary from Lethbridge to be with me. My dad had to return to Lethbridge after a day or so, but my mom stayed in my apartment so she could visit me and take care of my cats.

On the morning of day five, a doctor declared me better and ready to go home. I had been off the oxygen for a day or so and my blood oxygen level was back to normal.

I was convinced I could go back to my apartment in Calgary, recover for a few days, then get back to normal life.  Luckily, my mom insisted I come home with her to Lethbridge.

It turned out, I was not ready to go home – despite a normal blood oxygen level, I still had a raging infection in my lungs.

I ended up in the Lethbridge hospital mere days after I arrived home.

Several days of antibiotics and oxygen did nothing to ease the pressure building in my lungs – the infection was causing a fluid build up in the lining of my chest cavity, making breath difficult, painful, and at times, a Herculean effort.

I needed a chest tube in order to drain the litre and a half of fluid. After a couple of days, the pain eased, the infection subsided and my breathing returned to normal. 

It took months to fully recover, and to this day, I still feel a twinge of pain due to scar tissue build up at the location of the chest tube.

Soul Recognition

During the ordeal, I had two distinct moments of what I now think of as soul recognition.

One was during the first night spent in the emergency ward in Calgary. A rare calm moment among the chaos allowed me to close my eyes and attempt to rest.

While sleep eluded me, I was able to relax after a time. My fear dissipated and I was suddenly overcome with an overwhelming sense of calm. I heard a voice say: ‘Kerri, let go and let us take care of you.’ 

I knew the ‘us’ was not only the doctors and nurses at the hospital, but my guardian angels, a reminder from my soul that I am never really alone

The second instance of soul recognition came a week or so later, when I was at home in Lethbridge, sitting in my dad’s recliner (a coveted spot) in the basement of the house I grew up in. 

Having been transported down South with me, my two cats – Flurrie and Thor – were laying at the foot of the recliner. 

Their comforting presence, the presence of my mom and dad, the familiar surroundings and knowing I was physically being taken care of allowed for a prolonged sigh of relief. 

 I was at home – I was able to breathe again…

Back to the Black Bear

As described in part one and part two of this three-part blog post, last year, on October 1, 2020, I encountered three black bears in a small BC town – two in an alley during the day, and one (the Big One) after dark.

I described my encounter with the Big One as one of the most profound experiences of my life.

Those are strong words, I realize, for an experience that lasted 10 seconds.

I have been fortunate to have had some extraordinary experiences observing and photographing black bears, some of which have been highlighted throughout this post.

It might seem odd to count a mere 10 second encounter amoung them.

However, when I met the Big One on the street that night, maybe I was closer to death than I realized?

Perhaps if I did not have the wherewithal to take a wide berth, placing the vehicle between us, I would have dipped just enough into his territory to trigger an attack?

Maybe this was the second-closest I had ever been to death?

Despite being accustomed to an urban setting, my surprising presence could have evoked the bear’s defensive instincts.

While there are rare predatory attacks, black bear attacks on humans typically result from surprise encounters – humans inadvertently get too close (like I did); bears defend their territory.

Despite the fact that I considered myself somewhat educated in bear safety, I did the exact opposite of what I was ‘supposed’ to do.

I did not run, but I walked very quickly. I should have stopped, got my bear spray ready (which I had, but was not carrying at the time) and backed away slowly.

This is what I had learned to do, should I ever encounter a bear in the wild.

But I was not in ‘the wild’ and there was no thought involved – instinct was guiding my actions, not intellect.

I suffered little more than a mild adrenaline spike and an increased heart-rate for mere seconds before I was safely back in my room.

There was no lingering fear, no thoughts of ‘what if’, no trauma whatsoever – just the realization, after looking at my dream journal and remembering my dreams, that:

“These remarkably beautiful animals have always been with me in some form, whether in my reality, imagination or dreams, subtlety urging me to embrace my innate courage, adaptive knowing and DESTINY.” – Kerri Martin, Part One

DESTINY = Trust Yourself

My experience with black bears, highlighted by the close encounters of Oct 1, 2020, have proven that I can trust myself.

When intellect and reason fails, soul-based instinct kicks in, allowing for appropiate action and an understanding that everything is unfolding perfectly as it should.

This space leaves no room for regret, judgment or fear.

While my experience with pneumonia 14 years ago pales in comparison to what so many victims of Covid 19 have suffered, I understand what it is like to lose my breath.

I sense that most, if not all, humans know what it is like to lose our breath – if not physically, then emotionally, spiritually, energetically.

The state of our world can be terrifyingly suffocating right now.

Not only have we been knocked down by a global pandemic, there is overwhelming divisiveness entrenched in the fabric of our society.

We see it on the news, on social media, everywhere – bad people doing bad things, selfishly elevating their own needs above the needs of humanity.

It seems hopeless, BUT…

My ‘near-death’ experiences, both with the black bears on Oct 1, 2020 and the pneumonia in 2008, have proven to me that there are other dimensions to our world.

Fourteen years ago, perhaps I needed a prolonged health crisis as kind of an inner ‘kick in the pants’ to force me to look inward and remember

Today, the presence of animals in my life serves the exact same purpose, but in a much less traumatic, much more enjoyable, manner.

I am so grateful for the multitude of animal messengers who show up in my dreams and reality, like black bears.

It is all in the Cards

The desire for a prolonged sigh of relief, as experienced while recovering from my illness in my dad’s recliner 14 year ago, is what drove me to move back home a few months ago – from Calgary to Lethbridge.

Not only am I surrounded by close family and friends, I feel the presence of my dad, who passed away over four years ago. 

I am back home and I find myself reflecting on my story, as told in the form of this blog – myriads of animal stories digitally imprinted into the world wide web. 

My experience with the Big One is just one of countless profound experiences I have had with wildlife over the past decade or so. 

The beauty of photography for me is – I have visual evidence of thousands of encounters with wild animals who I know, with absolute certainty, to be messengers from beyond

My dreams have revealed this truth – I have had so many dreams about bears, not to mention weasels, owls, wolves, coyotes, bobcats, lynx, frogs, toads, grouse, falcons, ravens – the list goes on. 

Every time I am in the presence of a wild animal, it is literally like a ‘dream come true,’ OR – manifestation of my wildest dreams – they visit me in my dreams

In whatever form they appear – reality, dreams, imagination, images, art – the appearance of wild animals are like beacons from our soul, inviting us to embody the divine characteristics necessary to live in a more present, grounded and holistic way. 

In the spirit of honouring these magical beings, I am excited to announce a new endeavour:

Animal Wisdom Cards

An invitation to explore the rich layers of your psyche through the essence and energy of wild animals. 

Please sign up for my blog using the form on the top right (or scroll below if you are on a phone) if you would like to be notified of news and information on my new card deck. AND stay up to date with future blog posts. 

If you have stuck this one out til the end, thank you for taking this journey with me.

Until next time, continue loving life an everything wild :)