Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Algonquin Park... A Land of Ghosts... and the Beaver

Log Dam and Chute allowed passage of logs between place where two bodies of water narrowed and met. These lessened or prevented dangerous log jams.

Rivermen who died or were drowned... were given riverside burials by their fellow mates... often marked along rapid driven rivers such as the Opeongo, the Petawawa, the Madawaska by humble crosses and their hob nailed boots nailed to a nearby tree. Today... many of these crosses have melted and mouldered into the moss and lichen... leaving no visual record of the tragedy of yesteryear.

Our Canadian Symbol... The Beaver... Tail and all!!!

Woodland "Found" Sculpture

The Law of Perseverence.....

Inquisitive Gray Jay... or pesky, thieving "Whiskey Jack" as he is known.

A young winter-ravaged bull moose... less his rack.

Whittlin'.... beaver style!

A silent snow-capped beaver lodge.

The beaver dam..... a natural work of pure engineering.

I felt it only fitting to follow up my last blog post with a pictorial overview of my trip and my visit to the Logging Museum Exhibit prior to my demo. Algonquin is much more than a place to "Me". Along with the St Lawrence River... these special locations are natural sites of tranquility and peace... refuges from the din of humanity... true edifices... cathedrals in their own right in which to worship and commune with our Creator.

These wild spaces retain the ambiance of a natural beauty... and shards from a time when settlement and encroachment had not yet disturbed the Natural Order of Creation. To find oneself alone with this pristine landscape... save the presence of its wild creatures humbles one and clearly defines one's place and importance in the world we are blessed to live in.

I always come away from these experiences... enriched and infused with renewed excitement to paint. As well... I come back to my everyday existence less jaded and less critical of my own circumstances. In simple words... I return grateful to have been given my life and the freedom that I have enjoyed... to live my life with the fullest degree of freedom of choice and opportunity.

I hope that my sharing of these Algonquin Moments... that you too might be encouraged to seek out wild places in your own region and to infuse them into your own work. Perhaps together... our united images... thoughts and work will inspire others to visit and support the maintenance of these wild and sacred spaces for future generations to enjoy. Tolkien says it best through Gandalf in Return of the King (Lord of the Rings-Book 3):

"The rule of no realm is mine. But all worthy things are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail on my task if anything that passes through this night can still grow fairer and bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I too am a steward. Did you not know?"

Each of us does indeed bear the responsibility to carry forward stewardship of this beautiful planet and each of us can contribute a meaningful single voice... that together and in unison can form a choir to be heard and coalesce a feeling that can change the current squandering and disregard for our common home.

My life ... my paintings and my words are my contribution to this cause. And yours... Are you not a steward too?

In closing... I will share a poem/word thought that I composed on that morning visit to the Logging Museum site... when the world was quiet... and seemingly mine alone.

In Memoriam (To the Logger, River Man)

Death was all around you

In a land that we can scarcely know,

You lived... and died in quiet places

Where we will never go.

You toiled and struggled

Through frigid nights... plugged through till early dawn,

You kept your path... no matter what,

Where others couldn't carry on.

I think of you this morning

As I sketch... and try to picture "Then",

My mind drifts back to those long lost days

When men were really men.

Though Time and Progress have moved along

Your legacy endures,

For as long as fir and rock exist

My respect and gratitude... are yours.

Good Painting to ALL!!


  1. These two posts are just so wonderful, Bruce. I know Algonquin is a Native American word and we have an Algonquin in Illinois. I suspect this tribe was throughout both our lands. Your photos are gorgeous, your paintings beautiful as always. I agree with your words on stewardship of our beautiful lands. I just despise ticks. We just pulled one off of our younger Bloodhound's ear. Shiver...

  2. Good Rainy April Morning Sherry!.... Good to hear from you... as always! Snowed here ...off 'n on all day yesterday... none on the ground though!

    Thank you for your sharing your own feelings and ideas here. The Algonkian Nation was widespread... being a Woodland Tribe... and most of the interior was just that... woodlands right to the edge of the Great Lakes and St Lawrence River.Rivers and lakes were the highways into the interior.

    Stewardship is everyone's responsibility. It's our only hope. Corporate groups will never accept any role in that... unless there is $$$ to be made.

    Those quickly migrating little pests really "tick" a lot of folk off... everywhere it seems! HA HA!!

    A belated Happy Easter... and Happy Spring!

    Good Painting and Writing!
    Warmest regards,

  3. Good evening Bruce, these varied photos give a good sense of the atmosphere of the Park. The history also comes across in your words and poetry.

    Your photos remind me of some of the large areas of forestry that we have here. The difference is that they are plantations and usually have a managed feel to them. I'm tempted, though, to see if I can find some wilder areas to get some of that Canadian experience!

    They have recently tried re-introducing beavers in Scotland, by the way.

    All the best,

  4. Hi Bruce, had you visited this place on a warm sunny day and taken photos I wonder if the feeling would have been different. I look at these grey cold photos which seem bleak with the atmosphere of perhaps a passing snow shower, that green of the forests very muted in the cold air and then the story of the life that dwelt there once. It feels chilly and sad that lonesome grave, I can see a name craved out yet cannot make out the name. It reminds me of a grave I saw once on the Isle of Hoy I think it was, or one of the Orkney Islands. A young woman was buried on marshlands her white plastic headstone(unsinkable and placed there by the tourist board) stood out harshly against the bleak and barren landscape, it was on the tourist map! I think since my visit there in 1998 they have now moved her to a better place. She is from the past and her crime had been to fall in love with a visiting fisherman, when he didn't marry her she drowned herself in shame, her and her unborn child were laid to rest on the marshlands away from the Kirk as in the old days those who took their own life were not buried in church grave yards. I don't know why seeing the grave of the tree logging man made me think of her. I haven't thought of her since my visit there. I guess it is just that lonesome place away from it all. Thank you for your thoughtful post, you certainly know how to move a person to think about all those things that are away from us all, yet lie just beneath the surface.

  5. Nature in all its beauty and hardship. We can learn so much about survival just by looking at your photos. Thank you for sharing.

    All the best to you,

  6. Loved your ode to the long ago logger, Bruce.
    My mind/imagination often slips back to times long gone. I feel a spiritual thread runs through time back to and beyond when Indians survived in such harmony with nature. A sense of loss and sadness.
    Thanks for the outstanding photos!

  7. Good evening Keith!... Thanks for dropping by and for sharing some aspects of your Scottish forest and fauna management!

    We are so very lucky here in Canada to still have vast tracts of untouched forests ... which are so dense that they isolate and protect lakes and rivers.

    When one crosses the Province of Ontario from east to west... you travel steadily at 80 kilometers per hour for almost three successive days with both sides of the highway presenting either coniferous trees... or lakes. It is more vast and untouched than one could ever imagine!

    The beaver here have made such a tremendous comeback since their near demise during the early 17th and 18th century European pressure and fur trading. So much so, that they are almost considered a nuisance and cause great damage with their continuous compulsion to build dams and to fell trees indiscriminantly.

    Algonquin Park officials hire trappers to remove them and blow up their dams. Despite these "nuisances"... I still love to watch them and always enjoy their "dammed" craft! HA HA!!!

    Thanks for your compliments... and good luck in your mission to find Scottish stands!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  8. Hi there Caroline!... Thanks for sharing your thoughts re: the content of my post and photos! Thank you too for sharing your ghost story... very intriguing and very touching at the same time!

    I'm sure that all of us live in areas where such tragic historic events have unfolded and it is wonderful to share them I think!

    The grave marker shown in my post is a replica of an actual marker on the Petawawa River. It bears the name of a French Canadian riverman, 27 year old Emile Huard who drowned in the rapids. David has found a few of these markers along the rapid sections of the Madawaska River that is near Whitney.

    I love the Park most when it is veiled in mist and snow. While its beauty and stunning... tumultuous colur in the fall is breath-taking it is exactly the feeling that you describe that I most enjoy. Just a preference.

    Thanks for dropping in and sharing your own story! I much enjoyed our conversation.

    Good Painting,
    Warmest regards,

  9. Hi there Joan!... Glad that you enjoyed the post and photos!

    It is interesting to follow in the footsteps of those who came before us. It creates a healthy respect for one's own life... heritage and blessings. As well... it makes one aware of the always present fickled state and fragility of life.

    Good painting!
    Warmest regards,

  10. Hi there Dean!... Thanks for dropping by and for your encouraging remarks about the poem/ode!

    It really is important to examine the history in our own separate areas that we live in... and often take for granted. It adds a sense of one belonging to history and the past... that it's not just in textbooks. It's living! It's wonderful to share our histories as well... It's broadening!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  11. I have always wanted to visit Algonquin Park...never had the chance but your photos are a great substitute for actually being there. Out here on Vancouver Island there are inland areas that have no roads to them and vast wild places for nature to thrive. I pray that doesn't change. I belong to a few environmental groups and consider stewardship of the planet the top priority...without a healthy eco system everything else is meaningless and I wish "big business" interests would realize this.

  12. Hi there Karen!... Long may these areas like Algonquin Park and the Interior be free of roads... an untouched realm for Nature to continue to rule... a place where wild creatures may continue to live without fear... a place where corporate power has no influence or dominion!

    Thanks for visiting... for sharing your thoughts about stewardship... and for actively working on behalf of this necessary priority>

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,