Canadian National Animal
Canada’s national mammal, the North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) is prepared for the job.
Dressed up in a slick fur coat, this furry creature is amply armed for a night out after a day of damming up the local slough or felling wetland poplars. Anywhere in Canada that has water from sea to sea to sea and all of the wetlands in between are beaver chomping grounds. With a lot of territory to cover under diverse conditions it needs more than a thick skin to represent nationally.
You may not know our soft coated mascot beyond the destructive nature of the North American Beaver:
They have Eurasian relatives and introduced South American ones.
Their kids, called “kits” hang around for two years picking up survival tips from their sage parents. They mate for life. Everyone likes a steady soul.
They can be destructive with tree kills but they supplement with cattails and other water vegetation necessary for wetlands.
Dams are predator protection. Who are they trying to keep away from? Wolves, bears and coyotes primarily.
What self respecting national mammal doesn’t like the publicity of world fame. The world’s largest beaver dam is in Wood Buffalo National Park. It is twice the width of Hoover Dam.
They were nearly extirpated during the fur trade era. It seems it was not just the beaver who liked their cozy fur to cuddle up in. Before that they lived form the arctic to Mexico.
They are smart architects. Dam building requires planning and unique adaptations such as paddles.
Beaver trade is intricately woven into the history and colonization of North America. So as this Canada 150 anniversary rolls along, be sure to salute our national mammal, busying itself in the wetlands and streams and the occasionally park, steadfast and progressive, forging into the future together. We are a better nation because of it.
Occasionally beaver flex their power (see wedding article below).
For more on Canadian wildlife and the North American Beaver, see also:
Photographer Haven Havana, Cuba Wins
Hanging out in Havana, Cuba is getting easier every year.
Rustic, historic, charming and crumbling, Havana is a city of contrast. Take architecture, ranging from every era since Columbus landed over 500 years ago. Streets marching out European colonial, Art Deco and mid-Century modern, deteriorating gracefully as locals eke out a living in a world caught in the past. And then, there is transportation for every speed from horse pulled buggies to “American cars” and variations in between. Vestiges of the flight of owners who did not agree with leftist rhetoric of the mid century coup. And the people, except for the odd hustlers who usually take the first “no” as a definitive answer, Cubans are “mind your business” and “make do” kind of people.
And here lies the contrast. When Cubans have access to colour they apply it with a heavy brush…youth meandering down the Prado (a wide boulevard built in the late 18th C) in sexy, current, bright attire- chatting vigorously, they dress as well as they can. Where paint is desperately lacking in the architecture vivid colour is applied liberally in the recycled cars, the street costume/attire and the street art. And the rest have been making do as best they can. Cubans are the ultimate recyclers. Most travellers expect interesting sites, activities that miles of sandy beaches will satisfy, friendly people, good food (well, 3 out of four isn’t bad). Cuba offers what a lot of developing countries offer but they don’t have …, well, almost all, the cuisine is sketchy. Havana deserves more than a daytrip for those willing to slip down a few side streets, take in live Cuban music at the Café Paris.
The traveler to Havana has something to learn resourceful.
For more on Havana and Cuba, see also:
The Power of One
Alone In Madrid
High and dry and chilly. That is Madrid.
If it is people watching you are after you can find local crowds in the markets (Mercado de San Miguel, Mercado de la Pas) and tourists in the squares (Plaza de Espana, Plaza Santa Ana, Plaza de Paja). Wander the market or try to find a seat and take in the worldwide observational pastime of people watching. Noting body language, relationship interactions, facial expressions, curious attire, in the moment documentation while you sip on a latte or Madeira. But if you do not want an audience you can easily find singles in the corners and the crevices of this plateau city. After working the historic centre, museums and requisite landmarks, widen your scope into the side streets where subtle human stories reside. Loners refine their craft, hone their schedules, and some hardscrabble existence.
What do the flea market vendors thrive on, camaraderie among other collectors or the solitude of watching passersby? Would they rather you stop and chat or do they hope you pass them by, uninterrupted? Would the antique collector be happier if truly alone with their hard sought goods? Do they cry inside when parting with a long sought collectible?
Madrid may chillier than its Mediterranean sea level coastal cousins, Valencia and Barcelonia, but not in people watching, whether it is crowds or singles. Keep your wraps handy and your eyes open.
For more on the power of one and Spain, see also:
Military Parade, Alone in the Armenia Independence Day Crowd
A parade is one of those public settings you can usually safely blend into. Hidden, unnoticed, concealed. Lose yourself to wander in the mildly disorganized mass. Anonymous, undirected meandering in a celebratory crowd preoccupied with a holiday in the brilliant September sunshine.
Even a military parade invites camouflage. Never mind that you will be in closer proximity to weapons of major destruction than your sensibilities allow comfort. Some of the world’s most foreboding military hardware is prancing down the street to the tuba tunes in the band. In Armenia the military parade is supposed to be the main event of the independence day celebrations, although, surprisingly, most people in Yerevan do not know in the days before the actual event whether the metal and gunpowder show will be on. It is trite to say that war and conflict has directly affected every Armenian, today and in the past century. It is their history and their life. The jovial buoyancy of the crowd is incompatible with the potential destroyers on display but they have learned to live with it. Most Armenians enjoy a day off work even if the ticket is civilian inspection of defence armour. Azul blue, cloudless skies glaze over the conflict of modern warfare celebration. Just as long as the missiles do not meander from the parade route, blending should be a matter of movement and observation.
This annual Armenian party is mainly about assuring the people that there is a military force ready to defend their interest. But before, during and after the formality of the hardware parade, the primary event to outsiders is always the people watching. Army is the attire of choice for costumes. Face painting flags on youthful cheeks ready to salute. Families modeling full military participation. Men with military medals jingling on their breasts.
Any of life’s little surprises can walk into the scene and you are armed with the required tools.
Time to observe and the power of anonymity.
For more on parades and festivals in other parts of the world, see also: