October 8 finds me standing on a mowed lawn in Plantagenet, enjoying the puzzle pieces of the sunlit South Nation River as they peek between dark sinuous trunks of the Manitoba Maples that dominate the downstream third of this island park. The large leaves of Wood Nettle are turning yellow in the tangled, shady woods that slope down toward the river.
Fred is walking the river bank looking for clams, of course. Down there the cobble-clay banks of river-edge rushes have their roots in a substrate that is throughly mixed up with Zebra Mussel shells even though "Zebras" have only been here for a decade. He saw lots of old clam shells eroding out of the matrix of fragmented Zebra Mussel shells, showing what things had been like before the arrival of the scourge: Elliptios and Lampsilis, of course, one Alasmidonta undulata, and also many of the big-river winged species Leptodea fragilis & Potamilus alatus. These incredibly beautiful mussels were all the way down through the South Nation, and nobody knew they were there. There are only four collections of mussels from the South Nation when Fred began to study clams in 1995, and they didn't include any of the spectacular species.
As I paint, standing at my easel at the edge of the woods, a muttering roar sounds from above like a lawnmower moving across the sky. I looked up, and passing overhead was a broad yellow paragliding sail - a curved row of wind-filled nylon tubes, carrying a large propeller, caged like a giant household fan to push it through the air. The seated pilot is a dark silhouette in front of the propeller with arms raised to the cords that steer his craft. It is a perfect day for flying whatever you've got - warm, calm and lovely!