This is the second post in a series which is focussed on my upcoming art show entitled “Taking Flight”.
My first memory of birds comes from the night sounds I heard as a young child at our family cottage near Christie Lake. In those days, we heard the whippoorwills at night. We seldom hear whippoorwills anymore but recently one spring at the cottage, I heard them again and a flood of memories and sensations returned with their soft “whippoorwill, whippoorwill”. We still hear crows in the very early morning at the lake, and many other places, including here at the farm. I love crows. A few years ago when I learned that crows distinguish between the people who live near them (meaning that they can tell the difference between my husband and I), I tried to observe the crows more closely and see if I could discern differences between them. I have had no success yet, and so continue, enjoying the opportunity to observe the crows who raise a brood of young on the farm much more closely.
I think I remember the first time I woke at night to hear the loons singing. As I recall, I wasn’t scared at all. In fact, something deep within me thrilled to that call. It felt ancient, and oddly, it felt familiar. Had I seen a loon before I heard the loon’s song? Probably, but in my memory, sound came first. From an early age, I felt a deep bond with loons, as so many of us do. A huge childhood thrill for me was taking all my friends to the Museum in Ottawa to watch the NFB film The Loon’s Necklace for my 10th birthday.
When I was a teenager, working in Northern Ontario, I got to know loons even better. As a Junior Ranger at McConnell Lake near North Bay where there were 24 nesting pairs of loons, I got in big trouble one day for leaving our morning calisthenics to watch the loons dance on the lake. There was one loon I felt a special bond with – when I called, that loon would swim very close. Loons figured prominently in the art I created at that time. I never forgot the loon I saw swim under the canoe. I wondered if I could somehow express how I felt about seeing that loon under the water. I recently pulled out a stack of art created when I was a teen, and note the similarities between this watercolour (in browns below) and what I created decades later using collage and watercolour (Deep Diver). How I see it now : that piece has been inside me for a long time and was waiting for the right time to come out!
Deep Diver” is the first in a series entitled “Creatures I swim with”. When at Christie Lake, my favourite thing is to rise early, make a cup of coffee and head down to the beach for my morning swim. I sit quietly sipping coffee, taking in the feel of the day. The small bay I swim in is populated by loons, grebes, mergansers, turtles, otters, muskrat, the occasional water snake, turkey vultures and osprey, dragonflies, minnows…. the list could go on and on. I feel grateful to share the water with these creatures and to learn something about their daily routes and habits. So far, I have completed 3 pieces (Loon, Turtle and WaterSnake) in something like 4 years… a slow process indeed. It seems fitting that the loon is the first of these creatures. Loons are not the greatest fliers…in fact, sometimes they get marooned on lakes in the fall because they need a long runway and the ice has hemmed them in. But their diving and swimming is incredible…a kind of flight in a dreamy underwater world of deep greens and blues, of mystery. Like the loons, I love to dive deep in the waters.