Tuesday, 19 September 2017

MEMORIES WRITTEN



Common Loons        Tyson Lake        Pencil Drawing

Memories written,
but never read,
are only words
    that 
                    fade 
                                        away.



We recently spent a few days up in Algonquin Provincial Park. We’ve been going up there at all times of the year for several decades. In summer it’s more to meet with friends, and and catch up on events that have occurred in each others lives. Lately, it’s been more about learning about health issues as we seem to all be sailing off into some voyage of unknown consequence, called old age. In the early fall, or autumn, whatever you prefer to call it, we go up to the park to enjoy a bit of quiet, and to watch the leaves change colour. After Labour Day, with the children having returned to school, the park is a bit quieter, more the place of solitude that we’ve come to enjoy. Although, with Canada’s changing demographics, the park seems now to be frequented with many persons from away, and the various hiking trail parking areas, even at this time of the year, seem busier than in years past. Sometimes we go up to the park just before the first snow, late October, sometimes in November. It’s that time of the year when Nature seems to pause, and take a deep breathe, before the arrival of winter. It’s cold that’s true, and the leaves are off the deciduous trees, but at the same time it’s peaceful and very quiet. Out on the lakes we sometimes see and hear Common Loons that have chosen to linger, reluctant it seems to give up this place of quiet solitude, before heading south to their wintering grounds.



Common Loon     Photograph by Sandra Somers

Years gone by Sandra and I did a lot of paddling on northern lakes enjoying countless encounters with Common Loons. Sandra was quite into photography at that time, and exhibited professionally.  We'd encounter a loon, and paddling quietly, watching them dive and anticipating where they would surface, we managed to get quite close enabling Sandra to get some very good photographs. On one occasion, as I recall, a loon surface so close to the canoe that we had to back up in order for Sandra to focus her camera. 

The Common Loon was the subject of some of my work during the years that I exhibited my wildlife paintings and etchings. Memories of wonderful moments experiencing Canada's natural heritage.

Common Loon  Etching & Aquatint



Still Waters - Common Loon    Coloured Etching & Aquatint


The etching Still Waters came about as the result of an evening paddle on a northern Ontario lake. It was one of those evenings when the setting sun caused a dramatic reflection on perfectly still water. While paddling a Common Loon surfaced directly in front of our canoe. Years later I wrote a poem describing the experience.

STILL WATERS

On a northern lake,
the twilight’s quiet is broken
by the haunting cry
of a Common loon.

Our canoe floats,
between sky and water
in the twilight’s reflection.

Paddling silently,
we drift,
anticipating.

The loon surfaces at our bow,
aware,
undisturbed.
Its reflection
fills the ripples of its forward motion.

It dips its head,
dives,
and disappears
into the dark,
deep,
still waters.

                                                         EAS.


Common Loon - Disturbed   Etching & Aquatint



Common Loons    Pen & Ink Drawing



Still Waters - Common Loon   Etching & Aquatint  



On one occasion very early in the morning, before  the rising sun had dismissed the morning mist, while paddling down Whitefish Lake in Algonquin a Common Loon flew across the bow of our canoe. I made a quick sketch and later made an acrylic painting.

Common Loon - Whitefish lake, Algonquin       Acrylic Painting



Sunday, 3 September 2017

WHERE HAVE ALL THE SWALLOWS GONE?

Where Have All The Swallows Gone?

It’s early September, but there are already signs of autumn aplenty, cool mornings, the odd tree that has changed colour, geese migrating, and sightings of confusing fall warblers as they begin to migrate south to their wintering grounds.

Used to be at this time of the year we’d head out to the nearby marsh to view migrating swallows. Come the evening twilight the limbs of the dead trees out on the marsh would be laden with thousands of different migrating species of swallows. It was an incredible sight. The mass of swallows would grow for several days, then when the weather was favourable, the swallows would migrate enmass. One evening their would be thousand of swallows clinging to every available branch, and the next morning they would be gone save one, or two, who no doubt were dozing when the order was given, and found themselves left behind. 

It’s different today, few swallows nest in the marsh area, just a few Tree Swallows where at one time there were, in addition to Tree Swallows, a good number of Barn and Bank Swallows and Purple Martins. In fact, it’s been a couple of years since I’ve even seen a Bank, or Barn Swallow. Unfortunately, it’s not just at the marsh that we visit, but all over Ontario the swallow numbers are down dramatically, as much as 65% by some estimates. I’m not surprised, what with urban development seemingly out of control, much of the swallow habitat is disappearing.

It’s sad what we’re doing, however, most persons are not aware wrapped up in their complicated lives, struggling to survive in our screwed up world. I can only hope that the swallows will make a comeback. In the meantime, I can say that once upon a time there were Barn Swallows aplenty, a marvel to behold as they skimmed the surface of ponds and marshes feeding on flying insects, and that I was once privileged to witness their comings and goings.


Pencil study of adult Barn Swallow

Pencil study of immature Barn Swallow



Mixed media - pencil and watercolour     Barn Swallows  1984


Barn Swallows   Watercolour Painting

Friday, 1 September 2017

ALGONQUIN PROVINCIAL PARK - The Hills Have Gotten Higher - Post Glacial Rebound

Have you ever heard of “Post Glacial Rebound”. Well, this old guy, that I know very well, experienced it first hand when he recently vacationed in Algonquin Provincial Park. 

You see, he’d been going up to the park for some 40 years, or more, and during this time had hiked most every trail. However, growing old(er), with failing legs the search for a trail neither difficult, nor easy, something in between, was becoming more and more difficult to find. This one day a young couple with two teenage daughters had been on to him to suggest a trail for the family to hike together. He’d thought for a few minutes then came up with the Highlands Hiking Trail. Now, if you were to hike the entire trail you’re into an overnight, two day, somewhat arduous hike, but if you hiked from the parking area just off Highway 60, and travel  to the bridge over the Madawaska River and return on the same trail, then it would involve only an afternoon, perhaps, no more than 3-4 hours. He hadn’t hiked the trail for several years, but remembered that despite a couple of hilly parts the trail was not difficult, passed by a lookout onto Mew Lake, and ended at a pleasant picnic ares with a small waterfall. Yes, as he was remembering he recalled pleasant moments picnicking and soaking one’s tired feet in the cool water of the river before heading on up to Provoking Lake. Good times, very good times, once upon a time. So, without hesitation he recommended the trail to the young couple with the two teenage daughters.

The next day coming upon the young couple he enquired about their hiking experience. Turned out that they had hiked the trail for no more than a half hour, and had given up believing that the trail was too arduous. The old guy was taken aback, and could only shake his head and think that the young couple and their teenage daughters were  sadly out of shape.

To prove this point the following day he and his wife decided to hike the Highlands Hiking Trail into the Madawaska River. It was a beautiful day, sunny, not too hot, and not too cold. A perfect day actually, and made even more perfect by the fact that his leg and feet were aching only minimally. Over the years the wearing of improperly fitting foot ware had permanently damaged his legs, and feet. It was the times. Off the shelve shoes and boots were not of the best quality forcing one to fight through the discomfort and painful calluses. Now, he was suffering with scarcely a good day to be had. Best, he thought, to take advantage of this good day and challenge the trail.

From the parking lot there was a slight rise onto the trail proper, then a flat stretch and another gradual rise leading to a “hill”. “Funny", he thought, "I don’t remember this hill". They climbed the hill, went down the other side and were greeted by another steeper meandering hill made difficult by exposed tree roots forcing one to sidestep, and almost climb up over the depressions made by years of foot traffic. One hill seemed to lead to another hill. He began to believe that he’d gotten the various trails mixed up in his head, and at the top of one of the hills he even had thoughts of turning around and heading back. Both he and his wife were puffing, and they weren’t even halfway to the Madawaska River. They rested for a few minutes then decided that they’d continue on, at least to the lookout over Mew Lake. Fifteen minutes later, after climbing the seemingly longest hill that they’d ever climbed, they reached the outlook. They rested, enjoyed the view, and thought to continue on. Afterall, going back woud be all downhill, wouldn’t it? They continued on, down from the outlook to a relatively flat area then on a bit and around a corner, and came face to face with another steep hill. They both looked at each other, and without saying anything turned around, and headed back to the trailhead. Many pauses later to inspect mushrooms and plant growth along the way found them back at the trailhead, legs barely moving and ready to be elevated. 






While driving back to the resort the old guy thought to himself that  yes, it was true that they were older, that they had bad legs and tired hearts, but there must be some other reason for the trail to seem so much harder than they’d experience years before. Then, it dawned on him, 12,000 years ago there was a mile high glacier sitiing on this area. With the glaciers receding a great weight was taken off the area and the land would rise. "Post Glacial Rebound”, that’s what it was called. No doubt during the years between their last hiking the trail the land had risen, and the hills had gotten higher. “Yes”, he thought to himself, “That was it, it had nothing to do with growing old(er).”

Getting serious for a moment, Post Glacial Rebound had nothing to do with the old guy’s problem. He’s loathe to admit it, but he is getting old(er). Oh, it’s true, over the years the hills on the trail have, during his lifetime, gotten a bit higher, but only by a few millimetres. 

Changing the subject, and the key word here is change, Algonquin, the Earth for that matter, has undergone tremendous change since the last Ice Age, and the change is still going on. In part it’s a natural phenomenon, or cycle, that the Earth goes through, from an Ice Age to a period where the Earth heats up dramatically before heading back into another Ice Age.  It’s referred to as Global Warming, and unfortunately the acceleration of this natural phenomenon is probably due to human activities. Yes, it’s true, I admit it, humans have had a hand in ramping up Global Warming, but like Post Glacial Rebound, only by a tiny bit. Unfortunately, this little bit seems to have sped up the process. How did we do it? If we turn back time a few thousand years the cause becomes quite obvious. It has to do with the  first seed being planted and our moved away from being hunter gathers, and becoming farmers. The result was an ever increasing human population, the needs of of which resulted in an never ending need for more and more energy, resulting in the production of excess CO2 causing the acceleration of global warming. Unfortunately, as no one is prepared to reduce the ever increasing world population, we have a real dilemna. Some believe that we should change our source of power from non renewable sources such as coal and oil, to renewable sources such as wind and solar energy, and that this will stop global warming. Wishful thinking, I believe. It’s sort of like throwing a glass of water on a roaring campfire, there’s a sizzle, a bit of steam, and the campfire roars back to life. The scary part about global warming is that the intelligentsia is plotting to leave planet Earth for Mars, the moon, or anywhere possible to avoid what’s happening on Earth. It’s as if they know something that we don’t. Change will occur, of that there’s no doubt. Like dominos falling, there’s no way to stop this natural phenomenon. Hopefully, we can learn to adapt, and, eventually, come to grips with reality enabling humans to survive on planet Earth for another few thousand years.

As for the old guy, well he’s finally admitted that he’s old, and that it’s time to slow down a bit.  However, for now he intends to continue to challenge the trails, and make the odd sketch here and there, all the while enjoying the solitude that is Algonquin Provincial Park.

Algonquin - View From The Corridor   P&I Sketch 2017

Norther Landscape  P&I Sketch  2017




Sunday, 9 July 2017

My Book Projects


These past few months I've spent more time writing than sketching and painting. I've had several writing projects on the go, a new art book, and a book of my poetry and essays. 

Thus far the art book project, My Painting Places: Algonquin Provincial Park,  is partially completed. As it turned out, I have so much material that I'll have to divide it up into several parts. Part I has been published, and is available for preview and sale on Blurb.ca. It's available in print, and as a far less expensive PDF download. Part I begins out side the park at Oxtongue Lake, where we've stayed over the years during our exploration of the park, and travels into the park as far as Canisbay Lake. Part II, presently being put together, begins where Part I left off and travels as far as Lake Opeongo, and should be available  late autumn of this year, or sometime next winter.


Book Coverhttp://www.blurb.com/b/8036717-my-painting-places-algonquin-provincial-park-part

For those of you who may be interested, my book of poetry and essays tentatively titled, 
The Fly On The Wall, should be ready for publication sometime in the next month, or so. 








Thursday, 16 March 2017

THE HUMAN RACE


I'm what you'd say, mildly interested, in this space exploration thing, but not from the standpoint of mankind actually undertaking such a leap. Frankly, I don't think that it's necessary to send people to the moon, or to Mars, nor does it make any sense to establish actually colonies. As far as terraforming Mars, or altering, or enhancing, its magnetic shield to make it more habitable, I believe that this is totally insane. Why? What do we hope to prove?

There are some that believe that by establishing a permanent colony on Mars we can preserve humanity's memory in the event that we are successful in wiping our existence off the face of the Earth by some means, or another, or in the event that the Earth might be struck by a meteor of a size that would cause a mass extinction event. No one seems to realize, however, that the moon and Mars could easily suffer similar fates. In fact the fate of a Mars colony is questionable at best. Without an enhanced magnetic shield Mars will continue to lose what oxygen it has trapped, and will be as vulnerable as Earth to being struck by a meteor of extinction size. Also, what happens if terraforming fails, and Mars is dependent upon being resupplied from Earth, and Earth's inhabitants are wiped out. Obviously it's goodbye any evidence that humans existed.

This idea that by establishing a permanent colony on Mars is a means of saving humanity in the event that Earth is rendered uninhabitable is in itself wishful thinking, as it has come to light that in order to survive on Mars, or in space, longterm, it will necessitate in physical, and chemical alterations to our species. Whereas, apparently, it has taken a million years for humanity to take the shape and form present today, on Mars humanity would undergo a transformation into another species within 6,000 years. So much for saving humanity.

There's another thing to consider should humans discover life be it a virus, or bacteria, on Mars, can we let Mars explorers return to Earth? The risk that they would be contaminated, in my opinion, would be too great. I know, it's all science fiction, but then a little over a hundred years ago atomic power, and space travel, was just science fiction.

We're on the cusp of developing artificial intelligence to a level far superior to a humans ability. Employing A.I. to carry out the exploration of Mars, and beyond, and to complete tasks deemed essential to the success of our survival will be far less expensive than fullfiling the childhood dreams of a few billionaires, and the brilliant minds of a younger generation that has been taken in with the thought that they are part of something immensely important to humanity.

I'm a bit of a naturalist. I'm fascinated by nature, and its many amazing creatures. Some of you may be very religious and believe that when you die you go to a better place, a place some call heaven. I have a difficult time grasping this concept believing that we've already found paradise. Paradise is here, it's all around us. Stop for a moment, and look around. Why are we in such a rush to leave this paradise for something harsh, and unrealistic? It really doesn't make sense, and I believe that if those in a rush to leave could take a moment away from their competitive nature, and think of their children, and future generations, they too might come to understand that saving this paradise is far more important than the realization of a child's fantasy.

I'm finding these days that I do more writing than sketching and painting. My sketching and painting of late has been done to help with the completion of a book project. As I grow older I find that everything seems to take longer to complete. Still I'm carrying on, part of my parent's decision, and the chance of my being, and becoming a part of the Human Race:-


Many years ago I joined the human race,
a race to where,
no one knows.

Yet,
regardless of race, 
physical ability, 
or religious beliefs,
everyone must join the race.

At the start confusion reigns.
The race,
already underway,
is filled with competitors
stretched 
as far as the eye can see.

At first I raced with children,
their parents cheered them on.
But, as the race continued, 
and the participants 
grew older, 
the cheering crowd 
grew thinner.
Family members mostly,
as far as I could see.

The years,
they passed so quickly.
The race continued on.
The finish line, 
no where in sight.

And as I ran I noticed
the cheering crowd 
grow thinner.

And then, 
one day,
the finish line came into sight.

I looked about,
and was shocked to see
that there were few onlookers,
no cheers,
just silence,
and just me.

Vision blurring, 
I continue racing, 
to where ..... 

I do not know.


EAS

For those of you interested in sketches and paintings, instead of my ramblings, here are a few sketches and paintings recently completed and being considered for a new book:-



Pattersons Bay Island                  Pen & Ink Study



Oxtongue Lake       Watercolour painting   2017



Pattersons Bay Island   Oxtongue Lake          Watercolour Painting 2017











Monday, 13 March 2017

EXPLORING THE WEST 1999 (Part Three)

It was a long drive, a total of 3,100 km, to get to Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, but it was well worth the effort. The park is quite unique, lots of wildlife and incredible scenery. We had many sightings of bears, fortunately Black bears as opposed to Grizzlies. I say fortunate as, by the time that we arrived we had become a bit paranoid about Grizzlies, having read that a couple of weeks before our arrival a poor chap living in Pincher Creek had the misfortune of having an encounter with a female grizzly, with cubs. He survived, but had suffered severe life threatening, disfiguring, injuries.

Actually, we weren't the only ones a bit paranoid. While there we went on a loosely organized hike up into the mountains to an alpine lake. I say loosely, as it involved our taking a boat ride to the trailhead on the opposite side of the lake, then together with seventeen other hikers, we were pointed to the trail and warned to be back for the return trip at 5:30 pm, and left to fend for ourselves. Many wore bells, and had whistles, to warn bears on the trail ahead of our coming. Unfortunately, bells and whistles don't really work to alert bears. Both bells and whistles could have the opposite effect. The bears prey on marmots that whistle warnings, and bells are simply a noise that should be investigated. The best way to warn bears of your presence, so that they're not surprised and can get off the trail before you arrive, is to simply talk, or sing. For the first few miles of the hike Sandy and I talked and sang songs (badly), then like many married couples who have been married for 30 years, we ran out of things to talk about, and simply walked in silence with the odd call to possibly alert a bear of our presence. Happily, it seems to have worked as we survived the hike, and arrived back at the trailhead before 5:30 pm for the return boat ride.

I can't help but stress the importance of sketching, and making notes. Looking at my sketches, and reading my notes made 18 years ago, memories, wonderful memories, come flooding back. I remember the strong, almost gale force, winds sweeping down the lake,  an encounter with a coyote while hiking a trail that led across a mountain meadow, but most of all the quiet and solitude enjoyed while hiking in the mountains.

By the time we arrived in Waterton Lakes I was getting over the fear of sketching landscape in the presence of others. It's a real problem for beginners, the idea that someone might come along and look over your shoulder, and make a disparaging remark. Once you get used to the idea that a sketch is simply a sketch, important yes, but not really an exhibition piece of art, you become comfortable sketching just about anywhere.

















































As my notes mention, after leaving Waterton Lakes National Park we travelled to Grasslands, then a Provincial Park, now a National Park. Grasslands proved to be a most wonderful experience. Sandy and I are ardent bird watchers and Grasslands and its surrounding area is a birder's paradise. We observed an incredible number of species including Prairie Falcon and Burrowing Owls. We stayed at The Convent, a marvellous property run by incredible hosts, once a Convent and Catholic school it was saved days before it was to be torn down, and turned into a Bed & Breakfast. From there we travelled home stopping briefly at Lake Superior Provincial Park to make a few sketches.
 A marvellous trip, and a wonderful experience.






Grasslands National Park          Watercolour Field Sketch

An amusing incident while doing these sketches of Grasslands. We were driving a Dodge van at the time. It was scorching hot, and to get out of the strong sunlight I sought shelter in the open side door of the van. I'm short sighted so I wear glasses while sketching. While sketching I found that I was experiencing some difficulty focus with my right eye. Thinking I was going blind, but wanting to complete my sketches I continued painting. It was only after finishing and packing up that I discovered that one of the lens in my glasses had fallen out. It's perhaps needless to say that I was much relieved to learn that there was nothing wrong with my eyesight.


Grasslands National Park    Watercolour Field Sketch