Turkeys Crossing

"Turkeys Crossing" by Aleta Karstad
    oil on birch 4 x 4 in.  $112
26 December 2016 finds me parked on the bridge in Bishops Mills, sitting in the passenger seat to paint the creek as it comes down past the place where the dam and mill were built in the 1840's.

A snow-covered fallen tree in the middle-distance makes me think of a dinosaur, and then two pairs of Wild Turkeys (real, modern, feathered dinosaurs!) come down to the open water, drink briefly, and then each spreads its broad, blunt wings to fly into the trees on the other side.

I'm happily painting away, enjoying my annual birthday tradition en plein air -
smoothing the soft, melting creek ice in the foreground, rolling the window up a little more as the forecasted freezing rain begins to spatter my palette - and glancing up, there's a snow plow, its huge shovel filling the bridge from one railing to the other, right in front of me!

This is how far I'd gotten when I hurriedly set aside my little 'wet paint' square of gessoed birch and my palette, and ran around the vehicle to regain the driver's seat, to back off the bridge. The plow driver did not look amused. I left the scene at that point, as the rain was really becoming a problem.

At home on the dining room table, I worked a little more on the near trees, painted the tracks where a Mink had bounced along the ice edge, signed it - and then we went out to share a dinner of domestic Turkey and all the trimmings with our neighbours.

The North Grenville Historical Society has used my previous painting of this site of the Bishops Mills milldam as their poster for a meeting on 11 January "to start a new project in the new year focussed on the history of the environment in our area and human interaction with it. 

[Fred and I] have been studying and keeping records of subtle and not-so-subtle changes happening in the woods and waterways that surround us for the past 40 years. Species in decline, others expanding their territory, even staging a comeback from near oblivion:  all have been carefully noted in [our] observations and field notes."

We hope, with the aid of a Trillium Grant, to launch this environmental history by digitizing the hand-written years of of field notes, and to preserve the originals in the North Grenville Archives and the Canadian Museum of Nature, while making the digitized data and images available for scholarly and community use, while putting out weekly newspaper essays on change or stability of particular species and places.

The Society welcomes records, documentation, recollections of environmental change, and ideas of sources & sites to look at as we & they venture into this new approach to local history.


  1. The point where you leave the painting and the bridge is really good. That hurried but accomplished look is the essence of an enjoyable painting.

  2. ...and, of course, the Trillium grant didn't come through, even though a delegation from the Historical Society had gone to a workshop on how to fill out a Trillium application.


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