Friday, August 19, 2016

Candlestick Cove.

   


 In the stillness of a summer moonlit night, shadows define bright branches and sandstone beach rocks. The black sea sighs and mutters and leaves flicker with the passing of a fugitive breath of air.
In winter these islands show a cold and sometimes forbidding face but then we know where we stand. Here now, all is illusion that dances before our eyes, magic and spells.
A branch snaps and drifts to the ground. What was that? All our instincts say run but we are frozen on enchanted ground. Candlestick Cove.

I made this image using printer's ink rolled out on glass and then drawn into with reference to my sketch of Candlestick Cove at Nose Point, Saltspring island. I took a mono-print from the wet ink surface and then adjusted and modified it using a felt tip pen, ink washes and fine lines of white watercolour paint.

I was thinking about the many faces the Gulf Islands present to us, about the long history of First Nations among the islands, the short period of settler occupation and about my own spooky experiences while anchored in dark coves.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Green Man.




The vegetable garden and orchard are showing how hours of labour can pay off as everything comes to fruition. We picked the plums today, the corn is ripe and ready for the freezer and Heather already has jars and jars of pickles and fruit. The food-dryer has been at full throttle for weeks and the freezers are chock a block. We get a lot of satisfaction from this yearly occupation and all the rest of the year we will be eating pumpkin and squash plus all those preserved vegetables and fruit. And this makes a large difference to our monthly food bill - and we eat so well.




Now could we not simply buy all this from the grocery market and save the hours of work? Sure, but there is a satisfaction in this growing business that is difficult to quantify. While I may joke about Heather being mugged and pulled under the leaves in the Zucchini patch, I know that behind the humour is an awareness that the garden is our contact with the life force of nature – the mystery itself, clad in green leaves.

Seeds, soil, water, sunlight and voila!










Thursday, August 11, 2016

Exploring the coastline regional parks near Nanoose, BC






It's windy today and not really safe for the canoe on open waters so Adam and I drive along the rocky coast and visit small community parks. We have stopped at the Parksville tourist bureau and picked up some maps to go along with Adam's mother's advice. Our daughter works in the regional park planning office so her suggestions lead us to explore beautiful and interesting places, some still in the process of development. This part of the coast has filled up with many folks from cities and they have more varied expectations of their environment from the regular more industrial users of the land. Small regional parks like these are being developed and happily populated by families, joggers, walkers, scuba divers and, in our case, grandparents and their summer relatives. And what a great experience it is to explore the rocky headlands and beaches, backed by arbutus and fir clad slopes and dry summer grasses.



Adam tries fishing from some low tide rocks but somehow the possibility that he might actually snag a large fish on his homemade rod limits his fishing time this morning and we drive on to new parks. We take a timer selfie on a headland and this is so interesting that he determines to have a camera and small tripod too. All these activities and experiences.... you never know when one of them might stick with him into later years.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Adventure at Spyder Lake.





We drive down a gravel road and there is Spyder Lake*, just brimming full of fish for Adam, the obsessed fisherboy. He has made his own rod and reel and has a large artificial worm on his hook and immediately starts fishing among the minnows at the water's edge beside the yet to be launched canoe. At six coming on seven he is an inventive boy, probably pretty much like me at that age ( and continuing) .



 We slide the canoe in and head out on this calm, overcast early morning among a maze of small, gravelly, pine-clan islands. “Can I go ashore here to fish”? “Could you stop the canoe so the lure will sink?”and on and on..... So I decide to put aside my own wish to paddle around and look at things and let Adam satiate himself fishing. It takes some time, and while he fishes unsuccessfully from an island I have time to look around more carefully and get a feeling for the subtleties of this landscape. It feels very much like an eastern Canadian lake, something Tom Thompson-like, and when a pair of loons pause from fishing to call across the bay that seals it.




At long last Adam declares he is “Done fishing!”and I am free to paddle around with the boy plying his new paddle in the bow. An eagle screams from the top of a tree. Bass jump, but never into the canoe. Later Adam's dad will tell us that this eagle has learned to swoop down over fishermen's shoulders and steal their fish just as they are about to lift them into the boat.

Imagine getting a brush from an eagle's wing as your lunch flies away! Worth it!


* Spyder lake is north of Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island.















Monday, August 8, 2016

Small scale canoe adventure on the lower Englishman River

    



There is a thunderstorm lurking somewhere on the horizon but my grandson and I are itching to get going on the first adventure day of the week's activities.

We drive through light rain to the Englishman River and slide the Chestnut canoe down the bank into shallow water. Six year old Adam slithers after it, puts one foot inside and the canoe slips sideways from under him. He corrects just in time and soon we are off down the shallow summer-time river. The rain comes down in torrents.



Soon we come to the first rocky set of rapids, land to check them out and decide to lead the empty canoe down the edge. Adam takes the stern line and together we drag it through to calmer water. Almost immediately we come upon another chute and after scouting this one I decide that we can shoot it. We gather speed and rush downhill only to get hung up on shallows at the bottom. My elderly wood and canvas canoe creaks, leans to one side and Adam says anxiously ”Are we going to sink Granddaddy?” But no, I calmly step into the water, slide us into deeper water and we are off again, steering through narrow passages between rocks and soon we are into the calmer waters of the estuary.



Adam strokes away up in the bow with his new paddle that I have carved to fit him and we enter the strange world of high gravel bars that we wend our way through, still sliding down hill on a low and falling tide. Then the sea, some small breaking waves we bounce through around the point and finally we work together to haul the canoe on pieces of driftwood to the high tide line near a taking out place.







The storm had drifted off to sea, things are brightening up and it is now time to walk back along trail to get the car left at the dropping off place. We find wild blackberry vines and stop several times to gorge ourselves, learn to discriminate dark red from really ripe by taste test, and eventually the car is there ahead and we drive back to the beach. We load the canoe first and then eat our lunch companionably like intrepid voyageurs. Our short journey was exciting but nearly all of it was in shallow water - an adventure cut to size for a small boy and an elderly canoe.








Wednesday, July 27, 2016

From word to image.




In the purity of the morning, I understand how much more there is to the world than meets the eye, I see that the world fails to dissolve into myth and dream only because one wills it not to. Now I begin to understand the meaning of that vision, Now I see the truth of it.”
'The perfection of the Morning' Sharon Butala

First published in 1994, I found this paperback at home and decided to re-read it. In the years that it sat on our bookshelf my own life experiences have brought me closer to understanding these final words of a thoughtful book. Sharon writes of things that we all at least vaguely intuit but she finds the words to express them - the role of the writer and of the arts in general. So easy to read, and, I would think, so challenging to express in words.

She writes of her life on a ranch near Eastend, Saskatchewan, a dry, wide open landscape, and of her struggles to grasp its true reality. A reality that for her is wider and deeper than its surface appearance of rocks and grasses.

The paintings I include were a co-operative effort between myself and two of my grandchildren ( 7and 4) and which were surely influenced by my reading of 'The Perfection of the Morning'. When they asked if I would 'teach them watercolours' I decided that I would do just that rather than take the easy way and simply let them mess around. It was tricky to guide their brush strokes and other technical matters but satisfying for all concerned. In a visual medium we were learning to conjure up a landscape that Sharon had written about so sensitively.


Courage


Courage”. he said, and pointed towards the land,
This mounting wave will roll us shoreward soon”.
'The Lotus Eaters' Tennyson

My bamboo brush was loaded with what I had thought to be dark blue, but a broad sweep across the white paper told even my colour challenged eyes that this was really a wine colour. OK, I thought and used the remaining twist of the brush's hairs to draw in an island. A few more dabs of colour, a distant galley and I had stumbled into a page from Homer and his 'wine dark sea'. Ulysses, on his torturous way home from Troy has been storm blown beyond the known bounds of the world and while his crew cowers in fear and trembling he sights land by morning's light, tells them to have courage, there is land to leeward. That of the Lotus Eaters, it turns out and the beginning of a new adventure.


I remember telling Homer's story to an acquaintance some years ago who like the crew was in despair with no obvious passage through her life's travails. Sometimes we all need to turn to face into the future and say to ourselves 'courage', because no matter how faintly it shows itself there is something new on the horizon. No matter how dire things may seem this is not the end but a new dawn, a new beginning.