1 May finds me sitting close to the base of a huge Red Oak, painting Dutchman's Breeches as it blooms among moss and fallen branches on a low rocky bluff by the side of the one-lane track named Fishing Lake Road, north of Battersea in eastern Ontario's Frontenac Arch. It is a hot and sunny spring day, and we stopped here to investigate the "Hartrick Tract", a property recently purchased by the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
Last night we followed the North Shore Drive and the one-lane Fishing Lake Road 13.6 km along the north shore of Lougborough Lake, along the right-of-way for twin high-tension Hydrolines, past the NCC's Loughborough Wilderness, and to a final camping spot in granite-knoll Sumac/Juniper scrubland. This morning, Fred loaded the boundaries of the NCC tracts onto his GPS, so we could see where we'd driven past our destinations in the dark, and we headed back down the Fishing Lake Road.
At the eastern boundary of the NCC Hartrick Tract, the road parallels a granite-knoll/ledge young Sugar Maple woods, with a few clumps of "Wild Leeks" Allium tricoccum (Ramps), and the ground is scattered with the white of Dicentra cucullaria (Dutchman's Breeches). Delicate pink flowers of Spring Beauty reveal themselves to those who look carefully.
Fred identified this magnificent Red Oak on the basis of its flat acorn caps and the hairless buds on fallen leafy branches - a single old pasture tree over a metre in diameter, with nothing of remotely this size anywhere around, standing majestically among young Sugar Maples. Its thick coat of corky, wrinkled grey bark is interrupted by two vertical strips of exposed, rotting wood.
South of here the land drops down to a great depth - the flat above the Oak is grassy, but treed below on the scarplet slope. None of the trees are leafed out yet, so the only shade is in thin strips from tree trunks. There is no breeze here, and the sun is hot on my dark clothing as I paint the cool mossy shadows at the base of the Oak. The local Gray Treefrogs call back and forth every now and then from somewhere high in the branches of the Maples, announcing their emergence from hibernation and warming up their voices before going down to the ponds to mate.
Dear patrons and supporters,
The originals of the Frontenac Arch series including this painting will be shown at a special exhibition at Grace Hall, Sydenham, Ontario, opening on 1 February 2014 and closing on 29 April. Everyone is invited to the public reception and "talk by the artist" on 22 February.