Sunday, December 30, 2012

First Step of Lyn Falls in Winter (oil on canvas 8 x 16 in.) Sold

26 December finds me 61 years old, and sitting beside the first step of Lyn Falls to start this year's "birthday painting." Lyn Falls drops in several steps down the nearly vertical edge of the granite escarpment, the edge of the Lyn valley, northwest of Brockville, Ontario.

Calm as a farm pond at the top, Golden Creek's black water reflects rocks and snow, approaching the falls on either side of an old Ash tree. Slipping past rocks and beneath their thin collars of ice, the freezing water sculpts wax-like mini-falls in its lacy drop over the first step and then rushes, churning below my snowy perch on the second ledge, to its next fall, and then straight like a misty scarf into the plunge pool 5 metres below. A Hemlock leans from the vertical rock wall which turns the creek to the west, threading among snow-covered boulders out of sight among the trees.

Golden Creek originates about 10 km NNW of Brockville and flows southward for about 15 km through wetland habitats, over limestone bedrock, and for 1.5 km, after it falls here, through the Lyn Valley, before joining Lyn Creek. There are as yet no Zebra Mussels in either Lyn or Golden Creeks, and below the falls there's a rich mussel fauna, including the endangered Ligumia nasuta a slim, elegantly angled clam with a honey-brown outer skin (periostracum) and a pale purplish pearly interior. I painted the lower creek on 18 Sept 2011 as Fred "tossed the quadrat" for mussels. Neither stream has a rich mussel
fauna above their falls: we haven't found any mussels in Lyn Creek, and only the Common Floater, Pyganodon grandis above the falls here in Golden Creek. We imagine that perhaps no fish, at least no fish bearing the glochidia larvae of mussels, have surmounted these falls since they emptied into the salt water of the Champlain Sea, and try to imagine what that scene might have been like, some thousands of years ago.

Today began with pearly colours on new snow under a clear sky, but a heavy ceiling of dull grey clouds moved in for the afternoon and now I find myself divining colours from a scene that at first glance looks to be all in black and white. I paint faster when I'm being watched, and Fred stands by me, as the botanists in the party scramble down the steep slopes. We discussthe colour that the underpainting should be, and to soften the greyness of the scene, I mix a greyish lilac for the underpainting. This will support, rather than contrast with, the snow, and allow the subtler colours to speak. I sit on the second ledge on the east side, insulated by a closed-cell foam cushion and with my legs wrapped in a wooly blanket.

After its industrialization in the 19th Century, the Lyn Valley is now wild and diverse, and Owen Clarkin and Clay Shearer, botanical tree-lovers, clamber down beside the falls, avidly discussing all that they see. You can see their report to the NatureList.

In the summer of 2008 I painted an old Apple tree just across the upper falls from where I sit today, and I look forward to exploring this wonderful spot again and again, farther down the falls and in all seasons.



Dear patrons and supporters,

This painting is for sale by auction to support our work on the 30 Years Later project, as we revisit places we studied over the past three decades. If you would like to purchase it, please send your bid to me   Bidding is open for one week from posting date, ending on 6 January at 9:34 pm eastern daylight time. The starting price is $375.   

Aleta Karstad

3 comments:

  1. A previous visit to this site on International Biodiversity Day of 2009...

    "...Meanwhile, Nick Gardiner, the reporter who'd written the notice for the Recorder & Times, came by to the [Lyn Valley Road] bridge, and saw only our one car, but not us, who were under the bridge. He returned to Brockville, and phoned a "where might they be" to Aleta who said that we might next be going to the Lyn Falls on Golden Creek, to see what Unionid mussels and Crayfish were above these falls.

    "And so it proved to be. Since part of what I was doing was introducing Judy [Courteau] to the wonders of Lyn (a very substantial list, as anyone who's been there can attest), and since Lyn Falls is high on that list, we'd decided to stop in to see what the Falls were doing, and if we could find Unionid mussels and native Crayfish above the falls. And we did: Orconectes virilis and O. propinquus, our two common native Crayfish in the furcations of the stream above where it plunges over the 6m falls, and a fair number of Pyganodon grandis shells, and one living individual to bolster the idea that this was the only Unionid above the falls. We didn't turn any rocks in the stream at the foot of the falls, so we don't know if the invasive Orconectes rusticus have reached there yet.

    "I'd seen salamandery rocks below the falls, and had slid down, turned one ideal rock that exposed a Two-lined Salamander (Eurycea bislinata; the first I've found along Golden Creek) and another that exposed a Wood Frog, and had climbed back up, but Judy, keen on the wonders of Lyn, had insisted on climbing down and photographing them, so we were at the foot of the falls when Nick Gardiner arrived, having followed Aleta's directions, and called out my name above the roar of the falls.

    "We climbed back up the rockface and then told Nick this and that about Garlic Mustard, Crayfish, Lyn & Golden Creeks, ourselves, biodiversity, life, the Universe, and everything, and were photographed with and without Crayfish, and promised to send him a photo of a not-wilted Garlic Mustard plant."

    the whole NatureList account of that day's outing is at http://groups.google.com/group/naturelist/msg/697b834c3970f44a

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  2. ...and, oops, part of a big spill from a breached liquid manure lagoon reaches the creek above here.

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  3. here's a revised text for this painting, prepared for its inclusion in the first issue of the Ontario Rivers Alliance newsletter : 26 December 2012 found Aleta sitting beside Golden Creek at the first step of Lyn Falls, which drops in several steps down the nearly vertical edge of the granite escarpment, the edge of the Lyn valley, northwest of Brockville, Ontario.

    Calm as a farm pond at the top, Golden Creek's black water reflects rocks and snow, approaching the falls on either side of an old Ash tree. Slipping past rocks and beneath their thin collars of ice, the freezing water sculpts wax-like mini-falls in its lacy drop over the first step and then rushes, churning down the second ledge, to its next fall, and then straight like a misty scarf into the plunge pool 5 metres below. A Hemlock leans from the vertical rock wall which turns the creek to the west, threading among snow-covered boulders out of sight among the trees.

    Below here Golden Creek runs through the meadows and woods of the grown-over industrial sites of the Lyn Valley, before joining Lyn Creek, which drops over similar falls in the old mill village of Lyn, and then joining Jones Creek to empty into the Zebra-Mussel-infested St Lawrence.
    Above the falls we haven't found any mussels in Lyn Creek, and only the Common Floater, Pyganodon grandis, above the falls here in Golden Creek. We imagine that perhaps no fish, at least no fish bearing the glochidia larvae of mussels, have surmounted these falls since they emptied into the salt water of the Champlain Sea, and try to imagine what that scene might have been like, some thousands of years ago.
    When we started to encourage naturalists to learn about their the native Unionid mussels, we advertised that :“There's no better way to spend a summer than wading or canoeing creeks, rivers, and lakes to document hidden nodes of unionoid abundance. You have to go to very specific sites, and each stretch of stream or lakeshore may have a different mix of species, depending on substrate, water flow and hardness, phytoplankton, movements of host fish, and bottom disturbance or interruptions of flow over the past few decades.”
    The discovery of the endangered Ligumia nasuta (a slim, elegantly angled clam with a honey-brown outer skin and a pale purplish pearly interior) in muddy reaches of Lyn and Golden creeks has been the highlight of our programme of poking into every nook and corner. Before Zebra Mussels were introduced from Europe in 1986, L. nasuta lived in protected areas of lakes and backwaters of slow rivers, but the population here, and those in lakes of the Frontenac Axis were not known at that time. This formerly abundant species declined through the 1990's under the onslaught of suffocating Zebra Mussels, to the point where there was only one place in southwestern Ontario where living individuals were known to survive in Canada. when we found it downstream of the falls in 2005.
    There are as yet no Zebra Mussels in either Lyn or Golden Creeks, and a healthy population of Ligumia nasuta lives among a rich mussel fauna below the falls. We finally got a canoe into lowest Jones Creek in November of 2013, and found shells of Zebra Mussels well upstream through the estuary-like lowest estuary, but we've still got to explore the lower reaches of the creeks, where they flow through roadless woods and marshes between Hwy 2 and the 401.
    Lyn and Golden creeks dramatically exhibit a whole range of riverine features: wilderness, industrial history, biogeographic barriers, invasive & “at risk” species. An influx of Cattle manure from a burst holding pond swept over the falls here on 12 February 2013, apparently without damage to the fauna.

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What do you think of this painting, and what do you know about the subject that I have painted?