• Cindy Zampa


Legacy of 'Nature First'

'Nature First' is a legacy project. It's a grassroots, not-for-profit society with the goal of conserving natural habitats within the boundaries of the developing city of Airdrie, Alberta. The "boss" they are working for has been identified as an eight-year-old child living in the area 40 years from now. Working for future generations, and a boss who has yet to be born, is one of the best definitions of a legacy, as I see it.

This organization shares the concern I have about disappearing wildlife due to habitat loss. It also reflects my values and priorities when it comes to planning for future development. I took out a membership, which offers a small, but important, way I can take positive action, but I also wanted to do more, in my own way. To assist with their fundraising efforts, I created a diptych painting for the purpose of auctioning it at the inaugural gala.

Below is a picture of the painting called "Flight School 101 - Lessons Learned On The Road", along with the story about its creation that I shared at the gala, on April 5, 2019.

I am a city girl. I grew up in various places, but they were all cities.

I’m not embarrassed by that fact. Neither am I especially proud that I am a city girl. I’m merely telling you this as a preface to the story I am about to share, because it might help explain some of the mistakes I’ve made.

This painting was inspired on a beautiful day in August a couple of years ago. I was driving just outside of Airdrie, along a back road. Where exactly? I don’t know, because I’d gotten lost. I thought it would be fun to take a different route, see new scenery. Somehow, I got turned around and found myself on a gravel road that disappeared into the horizon. (City-girl mistake #1.)

I noticed some movement on the road ahead of me, and as I drew closer, realized it was a bird, It was flapping its wings but going nowhere. Kind of like me.

I slowed down, thinking it would eventually take off as the car got closer, but it didn’t. I pulled over and came to a full stop about 30 feet away from it, but it just stared at me, daring me to go around it. It was a large bird, maybe a hawk? It was certainly not a baby. (City-girl mistake #2.)

I thought, “Poor thing, it must be injured.” I grabbed my jacket, got out of the car, and slowly walked toward it to investigate. It watched me intensely, sitting very still as I approached. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do once I reached it, especially since the bird seemed to grow in size exponentially with every step I took. (City-girl mistakes # 3, 4 and 5.)

I got to within 10 feet of it when it abruptly, yet gracefully and confidently, opened its wings and flew to a nearby fencepost. I was startled, but glad to see it wasn’t hurt. We gazed at each other in silence for a few minutes. I admired its beauty! It turned this way and that on the post, so I could see it from all angles. It seemed to be in no rush to fly away, so I returned to the car to get my phone. I began taking pictures and edged closer, very slowly. After about a minute, it flew to the next fence post. I stepped a bit closer. (City girl mistakes # 6 and 7.)

It flapped its wings and flew up to the telephone wire on the other side of the road. I took that to mean my presence was no longer amusing, and I was about to turn back to the car. One last picture, with the zoom on….

My heart was racing so fast that I had to hold my breath to get as still as possible and steady myself for the zoomed in shot.



I felt a gust of air rush past my cheek and my hair flew into my eyes. I was dive-bombed by another hawk, that I did not even know was there. (City girl mistake #8.)

The dive bomber landed on the closest fence post and turned around, glaring at me. It happened so suddenly, that I was paralyzed in place. Finally, I gasped in a deep breath of air, as I’d forgotten I was still holding my breath from taking the last picture. Another hawk appeared in my peripheral view and flew in a wide arc around me before settling on a fence post further down the road.

This city girl quickly retreated to the safety of her car, on wobbly legs, shaking with adrenaline.

I sat there on that isolated road for many minutes, gathering the few wits I had left in me. From my car, I looked around, and realized there were quite a few birds on the telephone wires behind me. They were leap-frogging one another to get closer to the spectacle below them. None of them flew away, in fact they seemed to be flying closer, surrounding my car. I had visions of them following me, taunting me in my dreams, for disturbing their peace.

Later, I learned that the bird on the road was probably a fledgling red-tailed hawk who had become tired from its flying lessons. I was likely dive bombed by one of its parents, who were probably watching me the entire time, from afar. Red-tailed and Swainson's hawks are commonly sighted along rural roadways. They like the wide-open spaces for flight training their young. Hawks are known to be aggressive protectors of their young and of their territory. With their keen eyesight, and ability to soar to incredible heights, they have a unique awareness of their surroundings. They can focus on a very wide perspective, and when needed, can shift their focus to be laser locked on a tiny object.

This encounter with nature taught me a few lessons that day. My wish for us is that we can be like the hawk:

  • City girl had tunnel vision and failed to notice what was around her, so my hope is that we have the awareness of the hawk and consider the bigger picture without getting too wrapped up in the smaller details until we have to.

  • Hawks are also known for their strength and courage. My hope for us is that we have the courage and strength to fiercely protect what is threatened.

  • Hawks are known to be keen observers. They assess their area before making any rash decisions, as every action bears a consequence.

  • Hawks are excellent leaders/teachers, acting decisively and taking initiative when needed.

I was so grateful to the hawks for letting me experience their gentle fierceness - can't think of another way to describe it - they had patience with me up to a point but set their boundaries with me in such a firm and spectacular way, leap-frogging one another to protect their space.

It is my desire to see Nature First reach its fullest potential in raising awareness and leading the way to conserve, protect, and care for our environment in order to allow future generations to have thrilling encounters with nature. That is my purpose in painting this picture and offering it up for auction.

'Flight School 101 - Lessons Learned On The Road'

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