Out Walking

#Two poplars

With all good intentions, this morning, I decided I needed to get some physical activity and I should go walking. About two o’clock this afternoon, after much procrastination,  I actually got my walking shoes on, put my driver’s licence in my pocket along with a drawing pen and pocket-sized sketch book. I added my credit card, just in case, like mad-money that my mother used to carry.

She told me that the expression meant: if you went on a date, you always carried mad-money so that if you got angry with your date or things didn’t work out, you could take a cab home.

I was on my own, so that wasn’t going to happen, but what if I had car trouble? Or if I stopped in at the farm to buy bedding plants?

I arrived in the parking lot just when CBC was playing one of Haydn’s sonatas and rather than cut it short, I turned off the motor, left the music going and drew the two willow trees just at the entrance to the walking paths. They are graceful and particularly interesting in their relation of positive shape to negative. I’ve photographed them often, but there is no better way of getting to know an object than to analyze it through a drawing; and so I did.


The willow bark is rippled in crusty bark with dark runnels of shadow. From the trunk and from each branch, thin suckers or water-shoot branches come out spike-ily and then each has small elongated leaves. It ends up as a lacy effect.  I didn’t draw the leaves – I was looking for the tree’s skeletal form.

When I finished Haydn and that willow notation, I proceeded  eastwards along the Alouette dike, past the pond,  in through the small trail wending its way to the riverside. There were few people about, so I whistled aloud the themes that had stuck in my head from the Haydn piano-work I had just listened to. There are bears in the area and last year, when they were hungry, there was some trouble between the meeting of ursines and humankind. If they know you are coming, they generally stay out of the way.

Eglantine, the wild rose, were just starting to bloom. The pink blooms crested the bushes – but only a few where the sun shone longest. Later this week, the bushes will be full of blooms arching over the thorny rose canes.

A bit further on, four truncated trunks stood like short, sharpened pencil stubs sticking out of the ground.  I heard the other day that the beaver had been removed from this natural park area to another. Having severed the poplars at their standing tooth level and felling the trees was considered a health hazard to humans who might be recreationally walking by during the beaver’s logging operation and dam building exercise.

Offering little protection from their incisive teeth, little blue plastic netting purports to defend the new spruce and cedar trees that have been planted randomly around the marsh to restore this area to it’s original ecological habitat. But perhaps the beaver and the deer who also threaten the new implants, are put off by the taste. It seems to have worked. There are new saplings coming, hardy enough now to withstand the deer… and if the beaver is gone, they may survive.

The Alouette River is running high. It must be carrying the melt from higher mountains because most of the snow is long gone from the surrounding hills and local mountains. I spent a while watching it race by in its fullness, a brown water insistently pushing towards the Pitt, then the Fraser  and then the sea. I turned back, returning as I had come; spending a little time beside the second small pond where I could get up close to the lily pads.

I reflected that one task of an artist, one I espouse myself, is to bring beauty to the attention of viewers.  I will never experience clouds in the same way again, after enjoying the paintings of Constable and Turner. Monet has changed the way I look at lily ponds.

The lily ponds were a clever subject for Monet. It’s a classic lesson in perspective in nature without any reference to hard angles, cubes, rectanglar buildings or railway tracks. The pads are bigger closer to the viewer and smaller as they go back. The intense colour is close and more specific in hue while those farther away become purer in hue and lighter. The water, on the other hand, is a reflection of the sky or the surrounding foliage. What is farthest away is nearest to the viewer, and the rules reverse. It’s an intellectual riddle in paint. Perhaps that’s why people are fascinated by Monet’s waterlilies so much.

Once back on the main dike path, I headed out to Neames Road. I touch the barrier there and then come back. It’s about a kilometer each way.

Half way along, there were two eagles not so high in the sky. It took me a minute to determine whether they were eagles or hawks, but they came so close that I could see the white “bald” head. One was much smaller than the other – male and female? or parent and it’s young? The larger bird was more adept at soaring and turning. Then there was a third bird, much smaller. They seemed to have zoned in on it and were diving after it, turning, swooping, chasing and the the third bird seemed always ahead.

I stopped for a  moment to pat the head of a very wet golden-haired bird-dog that had been swimming in the river, and when I looked up again, there was nary a bird to be seen. As if in a dream, the birds had just vanished.

At the end of the path where it meets the road, I touched the barrier as if in a race, proof that I had done my stint, and turned for the car and home. The landscape always looks  very different on the return journey, seeing it from a different perspective.

A hundred steps into the return journey, I stopped again. Two Great Blue herons were below in the marsh grasses,  very close to the path. They walked in stately steps, their necks like rubber lifting, advancing, retracting, reminding me of politicians on stage orating, gesturing, portly and important. But the birds became nervous. First one and then the other spread their great wings and hopped out of range then lifted like small float planes and relocated to the blueberry fields half a kilometer away.

When I got to the bench closest to the parking lot, I sat and brought out my sketch book once more. There were three tall poplars that stood looking like two and I drew them; and then I tried to capture the powerful sweep of the sky crowning the  Golden Ears and the coastal mountains behind them.

#golden ears

That finished,  I packed up, drove away,  stopped at the plant place to look, and then headed for home


One Response to “Out Walking”

  1. swatch Says:

    Hi K – I love these sketches – very pleasant – I will read the note later – S

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