Autumn and Winter have been at their usual annual cagey game playing. Autumn ... always reluctant to abdicate to winter has to date craftily toyed with Winter's chill. There were days when Winter's ermine mantle seemed in place permanently and all small creeks... bays and swails seemed finally glassed completely over. All the world seemed resigned to the fact that winter's long , cold reign had finally arrived. However... waterfowl such as large local mallard flocks and Canada Geese continued to casually linger and feed nonchalantly... longer than usual along the entire shoreline of the River. It comforted me to continue to believe that perhaps these late "golden" days might continue deeper into December.
However... this morning that all changed. On our way along The Thousand Island Parkway which runs eastward along the St Lawrence River, we came across vast and undulating skeins of Canadas... as far as the eye could see... one mass of hundreds of birds after another.... all high above the earth... all intent in migrating, likely non-stop to their wintering grounds to states in the Gulf area of the US. What an awe- spectacle it is to bear witness to this annual phenomenon! It never fails to well a mixture of feelings blending nostalgia... awe and even sorrow within "Me." And always... the question arises within me. How do they know... en masse... simultaneously... that it is their time to go? They in fact ... are "Pulling in Winter."
I have such feelings of reverence and respect for the manner in which geese live out their lives and rear their young. They live each day so in tune with each other... and their environment. Watching small goslings suddenly, in a matter of days become all but indistinguishable from their parents... except for their drab and downy coats. All of this growth is achieved on a diet of grasses which they consume either on land (on your lawn)... or in the water, feeding voraciously on duck weed and sedge grasses. Within a month they are making their first attempts to exercise wings that are mere attachments... for they have never before flown.
Over the late months of August and early September, after the adult moulting period has passed and major flight feathers have been replaced... the families begin short flight forays until finally... in late September all return to feeding voraciously to build up body fat to sustain their long and arduous journey south. It is at this time that the tumultuous and excited bugling begins amongst groups. It is this constant bugling behaviour which offers an auditory assurance to "first timers" as they assume a place in their squadron... high above the earth... and for hours at a time. They must plead at times for rest... but are continually scolded to carry on with the elder flock members. This is the life and karma... for Canada Geese and other migratory waterfowl. Only a few brave the winters here... hoping that the weather and half-harvested corn and grain fields and water will be open long enough to allow them to winter over.
Such is also the case for human life and activity here in The Thousand Islands. The "summer folk" are long gone... returned to their southern or city winter homes... until June or July next season. The River has all but ceased to carry boating traffic... save tradesmen who are finishing up building projects throughout the Islands. But strangely... and coincidentally (perhaps)... the hard core members of these trade groups brought ashore their tools of their trade and berthed their scows and work boats in anticipation of freeze up. As one respected member of this group shared with me on my walk this evening: "My last run down River was this morning. There were earlier years when I pushed through till there was heavy ice. But those days only brought about broken gear and equipment... so those days are long and gone!"
Yesterday... we helped our newly found friends... who we both adore, Peter Frost and his lovely partner and mate, Kelsey Boesch from Pine Island load their gear from their boat... in readiness for their long seventeen and a half hour hour non-stop "migration"... first to Kelsey's family in Minnesota. There they will part company for a brief period... while Kelsey celebrates a long-awaited Christmas with her family. Peter will journey on to Colorado... where he will share time and Christmas with his family in their Pristine straw bale home... 7000 feet above sea level. Kelsey and her family will likely join the Frosts for a part of that Christmas celebration. Does that sound like... "high" adventure ... or what???
After sharing time and hot java... and watching a slide show chronicling their two month work project and isolated retreat on Pine Island we sadly bade them farewell. Both Deb and I have come to really enjoy their company. Their sense of adventure and their unbelievable respect for the planet they live in tune and share stewardship for... immediately draws one to them and demands a respect and admiration for their work ethic... their courage to live freely and their sense of humanity! We will miss you both greatly ... Pete and Kelsey. Deb and I wish you a safe journey... fair winds... high adventures... and a safe return... "Home"... to Pine Island. We'll be a-waitin' for the return of the Geese and the Pine Islanders... next Spring or Summer!
We will certainly enjoy a constant reminder of you both daily... and the memories of Fall 2012. Pine Island looms ever before us during our morning "coffee with the birds and islands" morning ritual... and usually lit by magnificent sunrises! "Let there be Light!" and ... Let the day begin!
Merry Christmas to you both... and your Families from The Paint Box Gang!
Here are three of my favourite paintings which really capture this annual "bitter-sweet Autumn moment as fully as by brushes allow. Enjoy!
"Lady-in-Waiting" was a full sheet watercolour (22x30 inches) painted and sold in 1985. It was printed in a limited edition of 350 prints and 50 artist proofs which are now all but sold out... or given as charitable donations to worthy causes. A few copies remain available. The subject speaks of the departure of friends... and being left behind. Or perhaps... about envy. "the grass always appears greener on the other side of the fence." Maybe the warm comfort and safety of one's own place in life is by far a safer and more fulfilling reality.
This large 3 foot x 9 foot painting was my first adventure into painting larger scale paintings... triptychs ... three panel paintings. It was a huge leap in faith to take on this project... but it was something within "Me"... that demanding being said... in paint!
The title "Time to Go" speaks of the response, or need of this pair of Canada Geese to follow their migratory instincts... to become airborn and join the skeins present in the deep background in each panel who are already underway. My daughter Lisa purchased this painting and it currently hangs in her beautiful Kerry Point Road... just five minutes away from Rockport. How strange the Universe's workings! I would never have guessed that this evening... I would be residing back Home... just minutes away from our family cottage! The circle has come fully around!
"Pulling in Winter" this 12x24 inch oil on canvas oews its title to a line from a poem. The setting is Point Traverse Lighthouse in nearby Prince Edward County on the shores of Lake Ontario. Here... the Canadas are fighting the headwinds to escape the stormy winter weather coming in quickly behind them. How do they know??? Still a question... unanswered after all the years of watching and admiring!
The Universe... and God certainly do work... hand-in hand... and in truly mysterious ways! I never question this reality. I quite simply... choose to believe!
And "We"... are deeply blessed!!
Good Painting to ALL !!!