Thursday, July 25, 2013

Mabel's Favourite Pond (oil on canvas, 5 x 7 in.) Sold

5 July finds me in a grove of old White Cedar, discovering what must be Mabel Fitzrandolph's favorite pond, in land she had donated to the Nature Conservancy of Canada. We had driven in on Gooseberry Road, east of Musquash, New Brunswick, in search of this pond earlier in the day, but first we found a soggy spot with Sundews and tadpoles, screened from the road by a tangle of young Fir and Birches.  Real ponds are rare in places with rugged topography and few Beavers. Then we went farther along the road to hike down to the Hepburn Basin at low tide. On our return along Gooseberry Road late in the afternoon, carefully straddling the van's wheels over rocks and avoiding ruts, creeping down slopes and scrambling up them, we stopped at the Cedars which I'd noticed on our way in.

There is not much White Cedar hereabouts, and this grove of mature wet-loving trees may indicate the  pond we'd hoped to find. We weren't out of the van and into the woods for very long before we were drawn by a splash of evening sun
on the treetops - the other side of an opening - and there was the pond. The approach to it was magical - a soft, undulating forest floor with moss-pelted logs like a living room, columned instead of walled, with stringy-barked Cedars of all ages, as well as a tall Red Spruce and several good-sized Fir. This 'livingroom floor" gently sloped toward a mossy seepage into the pond. On one side of the trickle reared a cavernous moss-latticed root wad, and on the other sprawled a horizontal Cedar trunk 30 cm in diameter and three metres long from its base to where it curved upward, resuming tree-shape. When we later mentioned this remarkable tree to one of Mabel's daughters, we were told that it was called the "Elephant Tree" and that we were not the first to sit on it.

I took photo "portraits" of the largest trees while Fred and Owen measured their girths. Fred saw  Green Frog tadpoles in the water of the pond, and the adults were calling from all around the pond. Owen tried to get close to a very large male who was calling from the shore right near us.

The seepage was my best window into the pond, so I crept close, balancing on branches that had fallen across it, to take some pictures of the pond's black surface, darkly mirroring the rhythms and textures of the forest and spangled by the yellow-flowered Bull Lilies. The sun was sinking, its guilding creeping up off the tips of the Cedars. There was to time to do a painting and the road out was rough, so I satisfied myself with photos at various zooms and exposures, and we left, concerned about negotiating the road out in the dusk.

At home in Ontario, I have just finished the painting, not an easy task though small.  In my photos the living trees are all so green, and the dead trees so gray. I darkened some "indian red" with ultramarine blue for the underpainting, to provide the kind of depth and differentiation I saw when I was there.  I don't just copy photos..... although charmed by the treetops' evening glow, I decided to leave off the treetops and minimize the sky in order to focus on darker complexities in forest and pond.

Dear patrons and supporters,

This is one of a series of paintings of the Musquash Estuary Natural Area, where we explored forest, marshes and shores protected by the Nature Conservancy of Canada. The price for this paintingis $275. If you would like to purchase it, please contact me.


  1. I love the way you've captured the light, though, Aleta. Such a lovely contrast with the dark of the pond.

  2. A lovely site. In addition to the mature and large Thuja occidentalis we found a few mature Red Spruce and a sprinkling of Black Spruce and Tamarack.

    The splendour of the mature conifers aside, the highlight for me was to find a single specimen of the shrubby species Mountain Maple (Acer spicatum) beside the road near its closest approach to the pond; this was the only place I found the species during my stay at Musquash.

    One of the mysteries to us from this trip was the apparent absence of many native woody plant species from the Musquash Area, perhaps victims of repeated logging or the great fire of 1903. Mountain Maple is furthermore generally considered a "weed" by foresters, as are many other woody plant species, and would not have been encouraged in a historically managed forest.

    To me, finding this lone small tree gives hope that natural re-establishment of some of the ecologically valuable "missing species" of Musquash may be beginning in the now-protected Musquash Estuary area.


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