Tuesday, September 9, 2014

St Lawrence Boulders (oil on canvas 8 x 8 in.) Sold

1 September 2014 finds me perched among licheny boulders looking over the marshy shore of the St Lawrence River, 17 kilometres southwest of Quebec City.  At the end of Rue Moisan, west of Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures, Quebec, there is a path that goes down to the right of the fire hydrant and through an Ash and Maple woods with scattered Butternuts, and along the edge of a field beside a wall of tree-grown stones and crowded with invasive Goutweed and Comfrey - to the end of the wall where there is a little green and white sign nailed to a tree, saying something in French about hunting. There the St Lawrence River is revealed through a low opening in the trees.  We sogg over wet scirpus stem drift and clamber over boulders to the edge of the marsh. There beside us is the most inviting pile of companionable boulders that I have ever seen! Softened by patterns of rain-moistened lichens, the pile seems to be viewing the broad aspect of marsh and river and I climb up on one to view it too.

Yellow composites peek from the marsh grasses just beyond my boulder pile, and purple asters bloom farther out beside a raft of bushes. The streaks of darker green tell me where Scirpus grows. I love the plants of the tidal marsh. Fred is out there exploring while I am perched among my boulders, painting.

There are white gulls on rocks far off at the waters edge, overseen by one whose great black back I can see from all the way across the flats. A Great Blue Heron coasts in to stand in the tall grasses near them. A white sailboat skims the distant river, and nearer by, the black silhouette of a small boat with fisher people standing in it. Farther out a motionless dredger or driller lurks. I wonder what it is doing....  My painting spot is 300 metres upstream of the proposed crossing of the St. Lawrence River of the Energy East Pipeline.

Few species if any are specially adapted for the tidal freshwater environment of the St. Lawrence here, so what we see is a surprising mixture of plants that otherwise live in different habitats, such as Grass of Parnassus which we know from limestone barrens on the Bruce Penninsula, Caltha palustris from forested swamps, and Boneset from open riverbanks. There are few invasive aliens in the marsh here, and we notice that the few plants of Purple Loosestrife here are well bitten up by Garelucella beetles, introduced from Europe to control them.

Behind me in the Maples and Willows, a flock of Goldfinches persistently urge "cheaper" in whistly voices, and it's getting later. I can see Fred making his way across the flats toward me, and when he gets close I can hear the loud squelching of his shoes. It's past our agreed leaving time and I still haven't got the sky in. I paint it in fresh and free, and then realize that the colours of the river now require adjusting.  Water and sky must be done together, and I'm glad I'm able to stay long enough to accomplish that. Finishing boulders can wait till later.

When Fred arrives I collect for him several of the small dark Succineid snails that are sleeping on the shaded sides of my boulders. They probably graze at night and in the rain on algae and lichens.  He shares his notes with me as follows:

"The trees along the shore are Acer cf fremanii, Fraxinus (Ash), and Salix cf fragilis (Crack Willow) There's a camo-covered boat cached among the coarse Bullrush drift behind the first lines of boulders. Sanguisorba canadensis (Canadian Burnet) and Eupatorium maculatum (Spotted Joe Pye Weed) along the shore. 

"I picked up drifted shells along the wooded/bouldery/marshy shore of the fleuve as the tide slowly fell. until I came to the mouth of a rocky brown & clay-water brook. A Bald Eagle with white head & tail, few by heading east, then also a Great Blue Heron. Then I waded across the 5 m wide brook to a sand beach which seems to have been used as a campsite, and found a couple of Crayfish remnants . Then I went out to a sandy point among boulders where I encountered the first Phragmites australis SUBSPECIES:americanus (Native Reed). - one stand in elegant purple bloom, with smooth red stems, at the base of a line of boulders - the only Phragmites seen along this shore. I gathered handsfulls of drift glinting with the shells of the marsh snails and headed back..."

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