Winter Birches by the Rideau River

"Winter Birches by the Rideau River" (oil on birch panel 5x7 in.)
On the morning of 26 December 2019, the old snow covering the softening ice on the Rideau twinkles brightly between the young Maples along the river edge, while the older Paper Birches show all their different tones and colours of white, and I'm fascinated by this contrast. Our earlier explorations of these woods along the river revealed a diversity of the 'spring ephemeral' wildflower species which are so missing in so many of eastern Ontario's plantation or second-growth woods.

I was inspired to paint something foresty for my birthday, by our friend Bev Wigney, who, as part of the struggle to preserve mature forests in Nova Scotia from clear cutting, had called Boxing Day 'Take Back the Forest Day.' - encouraging everyone to document some aspect of a local forest. Bev's group had gone out to the little peninsula between Corbett and Dalhousie lakes, about 10 kilometres south of Bridgetown, which they had saved from clear-cutting by pointing out to the province that nesting Birds were protected from disturbance by the Migratory Birds Convention Act.

As I lay down tree trunks over my violet-grey underpainting I listen for sounds through the open car window. My mind's ear, waiting for bird sound, picks up the squeak of a tree but it's not the "peep" of a foraging Chickadee. The woods are as silent as the ice-bound river beyond. 

The older forest behind me had originally been a provincial tree nursery, but when the Harris government decided to get out of trees in 1997, the newly amalgamated municipality of North Grenville took over the forest station as a not-for-profit. The web page of the Ferguson Tree Nursery says about itself: "The nursery grows native and proven non-invasive naturalized trees and woody shrubs hardy for the south-central and eastern Ontario climate as well as the south western Quebec climate."


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