Wednesday, May 31, 2006

yellow hawkweed

From a distance I thought these were long stemmed dandelions growing in a field at the edge of the forest. Not so. I'd never noticed these before.
"At one time, it was believed that the hawkweeds improved peoples' eyesight. Hawks, whose survival depended on good eyesight, are said to have visited the hawkweeds to drink their juice to strengthen their eyesight. Because these plant are hard to remove once established, farmers called them Devil's Paintbrush or Devil's Weed" - Andy's Northern Ontario Wildflowers.

Backus Conservation Area

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Art and morality

Can you guess which leader of a major world power in the 20th century considered himself an artist first, politician second. Who had a vast knowledge of art, music and architecture - who surrounded himself with novelists, musicians and playwrights. Who spent vast quantities of public money on cultural endeavors - galleries, opera houses, etc. Who had perhaps the greatest art collection in history? Adolf Hitler.
Fascinating material from a book by Frederic Spotts - Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics.
There is no connection between appreciation of the arts and morality.
Is there a connection between creating art and morality?
I've read a number of biographies of musicians whose music I admire - and have been almost universally disappointed in their ethics. Bob Dylan was one person though who I actually liked more after reading his bio.
Need more?
Guess which world reknowned painter ground lit cigarette butts into women's faces. Pablo Picasso.
Art may be a way of knowing and growing but there is no guarantee its patrons or creators possess humane ethics.

Bark, Backus Woods

Monday, May 29, 2006

Backus Woods

At over 1200 acres Backus Woods is the largest exisiting area of Carolinian flora in Canada. The land was originally managed by John Backhouse who built mills here in 1798 and protected the headwaters in
order to ensure a good water flow.
Numerous old trees still exist - black gum, tulip, sycamore, sassafras, hickory, chestnut, etc. - some 400 years old.
As well as the forests, grasslands and wetlands themselves you can
visit numerous vintage buildings and in fact get a glimpse of most aspects of pioneer life at the adjoining Backus Heritage Site.

Mousquito repellent is a necessity right now unless you're planning on sprinting.

After a hot day in the woods you can take advantage of the beach at Turkey Point a few minutes away.

Backus Heritage Conservation Area

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Backus Woods Chestnut tree

American Sweet Chestnut

"Formerly abundant in the carolinian forest zone of eastern North America, this once-stately species often reached 100ft (30m). Unfortunately it fell victim to a fungus from Asia in 1904 called Chestnut Blight. Within 40 years it was nearly wiped out. Today, suckers continue to grow from survivling roots of former trees but within a short time they are killed back by the blight. Amazingly this indiviual has survived beyond the sapling size." - from an interpretive plaque beside this tree.

Backus Woods, Ontario

Saturday, May 27, 2006


The Eramosa River falls several feet over a series small falls/rapids in Everton. There is a pond and somewhat maintained trail. Limited parking.
The terrain is very similar to Rockwood Conservation Area on a much smaller scale - lots of potholes, trees, cliffs, swampy area.
"A minimum 16.2 m (53 foot) thickness of Eramosa dolostone is well exposed along the Eramosa River at Everton."

Everton, Ontario

Friday, May 26, 2006

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The value of art is in the doing not the viewing

For the last few centuries, as religion has faded in importance among educated people, science and art has ascended. The benefits of science are more obvious - but art?
Art has been perceived as being a valuable resource to improve the quality of life and to impart moral values once the province of religion - hence the subsidies given to galleries, orchestras, etc.
People will argue ad nauseum about which art/artists should receive these funds - that is, what is good valuable art - is it Dead European White Men or world beat or what the majority say is good or what the educated crtitics say or...
For me, although I enjoy all forms of art (OK well maybe not too much TV or gansta rap), art's real value lies in its making. I find my life is more improved by doing art rather than viewing it. Playing music with friends is the goal not the means towards a further goal. It has taught me how to listen, how to relate to others. Making photographs has taught me how to see and encouraged my interest in learning more about people and nature.
Art is a way of knowing, a way of living, a process not a project.
Although it makes me happy that others appreciate my creations I don't do it because I think that will make me happy or because I think they will be better for having seen or heard it. I do it because it is my way of improving myself and my connections with others.
Where is this going?
I believe we need to encourage all people to do more art. More doing, not viewing.
When resouces are limited I would favour putting them into teaching children how to do art rather than pay for a trip to a gallery.

Evergreen Inside Bark, Guelph Radial Trail

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Silver Creek Waterfall

A nice little waterfall along the Bruce Trail in the Silver Creek Conservation Area.

Silver Creek C.A.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Eastern Redbud

Redbud, Cercis canadensis.
"Though it's botanical name may suggest otherwise, the Redbud has never been common in Canada. In fact, its inclusion in native plant lists is due to only one tree (now gone) found on Pelee Island in 1892." - from the interpretive plaque beside this tree.

The Arboretum, University of Guelph

Monday, May 22, 2006

white violet

This is the first one of these I've seen so I'm guessing that it's an oxymoronic white violet. A delicate and beautiful little flower - the only one we saw as we walked along the Bruce Trail through the Silver Creek Conservation Area. We saw a couple of trees here that were easily over a 100 or 150 years old - more than six feet in diameter. Quite rare for this area, unfortunately.

Silver Creek Conservation Area

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Up until a few generations ago community life was fairly stable for most people. You were born, raised, married, had your own family and died in the same village or county as your parents and grandparents. This has vanished from the industrialized world today - it's rare you meet anyone who has grown up in the place they live - or anyone whose parents or siblings live nearby. The lonely crowd is a cliche.
Urban design revolving around automobiles exacerbates this erosion of community life which is why I have always chosen to live downtown - where I can walk or ride my bike to as many social activities as possible.
Our family moved several times while I was growing up - we were always leaving friends behind. I wanted my children to know the pleasures of stability and the joys of community. I feel lucky that this has come to be.
Where's this all going?
Last night a couple dozen neighbours got together for a pot luck dinner. While the older crowd chatted the younger ones were occupied with blowing and chasing huge bubbles.
This pic is of our hosts' home reflected in one of the bubbles - for me it represents both the stability and the fragility of community.


Saturday, May 20, 2006

Anwen's funky hats

My daugther Anwen crochets funky hats, baby boots - and also makes incredible dolls.
She made this one today and modelled it with Magali in tow.


Friday, May 19, 2006

lily of the valley

This a European strain of lily of the valley - quite distinct from the wild lily of the valley.
Around here the earth is quite loquacious now - as flowers stream out like run on sentences.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

tree in a leaf

Not sure what plant this came from but the leaf was about 300mm long (that's a big foot). I should perhaps ask Amiee or Sue - it was near their place.
This may have something to do with ontogenesis and phylogenesis. Or not.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

knot eye

A spooky park - I've heard of several people getting lost here - or rather just "turned around" - they did eventually come out - one was in the local paper a while back - the guy had to use his cell phone to call for help - and it's really not a huge park, just somewhat disorienting.

Preservation Park

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

dandelion time

It's dandelion time now.

Near Mildmay, Ontario

Monday, May 15, 2006

apple blossoms

Now growing wild these apple trees tell a story of earlier, now abandoned, homesteads pioneered on marginal lands. Marginal now perhaps, but when they were settled they could very well have been the end of the rainbow for those pushed off the edge of their homeland.

Limehouse Conservation Area

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Lilac Time

A fall song:

Dreams of Bees

Oh the sun is angled low
and the trees are changing clothes
and the grass stopped whispering
it's laying mute now - till the spring

memories of lilac time
so faded now - don't feel like mine
the summer sounds of the laughing breeze
are drifting through the dreams of bees

weaving fields of Queen Anne's lace
are sceptres brown now - with a turned down face
and the wind and the stars
so cold and clear - heaven's voice and chandelier

pretty bird has flown away
now that summer time is over
leaving you and me to stay
counting on a no leaf clover

memories of lilac time
so faded now - don't feel like mine
summer sounds of the laughing breeze
are drifting through the dreams of bees

Saugeen River Trail, Walkerton

Saturday, May 13, 2006


Coltsfoot gone to seed.

Limehouse Conservation Area

Friday, May 12, 2006

Chipping Sparrow

This is the time of year for lots of migrating birds to pass through.
The Arboretum has a viewing platform and bird feeders set up to entice both birds and photographers. This chipping sparrow was one of several species passing through. White crown sparrows are plentiful now as well.


Thursday, May 11, 2006

Jack in the Pulpit

Be careful not to eat these - they're poisonous.
"Jack-in-the-pulpit; also known as Wild turnip, arum, three-leaved arum, dragon-turnip, brown dragon, devil's-ear, marsh turnip, swamp turnip, meadow turnip, priest's-pintle, lords-and-ladies, Indian Turnip, Bog onion."

The Arboretum, Guelph

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

unknown mushroom or ?

Walking off trail at the Rockwood Conservation Area I noticed these odd looking little deflated bags - they were about a couple of centimeters wide and growing on a decaying tree stump.
If anyone knows what they are I'd appreciate you letting me know - I've tried the net and asked around without success.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Ostrich Fern

The fiddle head fern is perhaps more properly known as the ostrich fern.

The Arboretum, Guelph

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Lost Gosling Returns Home

Walking around a small pond I noticed two Canada Geese and their brood cruising slowly and rubber necking the whole time. I wondered what was up but not being a goose mind reader paid little attention and went round the pond to look at a beaver lodge. While checking out the lodge I startled this young gosling who was lounging on the bank. He high tailed out across the water where his parents were calling him - he received a dressing down from both parents as he cowered before them.

The Arboretum, Guelph

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Fiddle Head Fern

Most of the ferns along the Speed River are unfurled and bright green now. Hope you got enough for your soup or quiche earlier.

Speed River, Guelph

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Solomon's Seal

Solomon's Seal is just starting to come out now - this particular plant is part of the Japanese Garden at The Arboretum.
"The name refers to marks on the rhizomes (underground stems) which resemble seals used on legal documents."

The Arboretum, Guelph

Friday, May 05, 2006

Trillium Time

Carpets of trilliums are reflecting white, pink and red across the forest floors now. This beauty was at the Arboretum. Another spot to find thousands of these fresh faces is The Limehouse Conservation Area.
"Indian women [in North America] claimed that boiled trillium root could arouse a man's love."—Text from "Wildflowers Across America," April 1988, National Geographic magazine

The Arboretum, Guelph

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Billy Who Has Nine Toes

I'd like to thank everyone who visits the site. It's a great opportunity for me to share - I appreciate all the comments - thank you Lorna, Madeleine, mld, Sandy, Jen, Mick, Aimee, Sue, C, Ian, Alec, Rory, Susan, Melanie, Melissa, Raymond, Anonymous and the many others who stop by.

So here's a toe tappping little number sent out especially for you:

The Billy Who Has Nine Toes

Listen here

Read the lyrics here

Ten Toed Magali in Guelph

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Photography Tips - What's the Story?

Our brains are always making up stories - taking in 'the facts' from the senses and assembling them into a plausible scenario, or rather, several plausible scenarios - then our more conscious mind evaluates them.
When looking at a photograph we may start to create stories in our minds about a plausible meaning - especially with less abstact photos.
If people are the subject of the image we imagine their life.

This photo was taken in Elora just a few hundred feet and a few minutes apart from an earlier photo of three young women along the Grand River. See it here.
A completely different story - and their proximity is another story being played out across the world.

There are many ways a photo can engage a viwer - one is to include elements which arouse the interest of the story making machinery. And just like songs, poems and other works of fiction can work on several levels metaphorically: a photo can be read in many ways.

It's one more consideration when reviewing your work - what's the story?


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

turtles and dogwood

The Arboretum, The University of Guelph

Monday, May 01, 2006

Turkey Vulture

+ Turkey vultures do NOT eat live animals. They will not hurt your pets or children.

+ A group of vultures is called a "Venue". Vultures circling in the air are a "Kettle".

get more at The Turkey Vulture Society