This fall, everyone said the same thing: “I’ve never seen such vivid colours!”
Some claimed that we had more colour here in southern Ontario than folks had further up north. They theorized that it was caused by a spell of dry weather. It certainly wasn’t frost. Frost was almost non-existent. The temperature barely ever dipped to more than one measly degree below zero.
While painting Frolicsome Filly, I didn’t have to drive very far for reference material. In fact, one maple viewed from our side kitchen window cranked up its glow on a daily basis!
I photographed other maples during our walks with Sparkle.
Hopefully, some of these exciting hues made it onto the canvas.
The breathtaking dazzle of this year’s autumn glory can only be hinted at on the canvas of Frolicsome Filly!
Back in 1947, something life-changing happened in Grade Three.
A very blonde-haired girl began attending our two-room school in Hickson, having emigrated from Holland. At recess, she would juggle several balls at a time against the rug brick wall! I liked her.
To help us learn about our classmate’s recently war-ravaged country, our teacher began social study lessons on Holland. I FELL IN LOVE with its windmills, red balls of Edam cheese, wooden shoes, and the lacy white-winged bonnets ladies wore whenever they donned the official Dutch costume. And Holland grew and exported tulips, tulips of all kinds! Every year, in gratitude for the Canadian soldiers who helped free their country during the Second World War, Holland sends an abundance of tulips to Ottawa.
Years later, married and with three children, my husband Lloyd and I served on the Island of Bonaire with the Christian station of Trans World Radio from 1973-1984. Bonaire is a Dutch island in the southern Caribbean. I don’t believe we ever bought a red ball of cheese, but we often purchased a wheel of soft, young Gouda.
At that time, education on Bonaire went up to the equivalent of our Grade Eleven which meant that graduating TWR staff children returned to the home country of their parents to further their schooling. The staff went all out to make each graduation memorable. For two of the girls, the theme for the celebration was “Tulip Time in Holland.” For a backdrop, 1one man on staff made a facsimile of a windmill. It was so large that its blades almost touched the ceiling as they swept around and around in the huge Activity Building.
His 2wife’s committee, which I was part of, made over 100 crepe-paper tulips. Some were placed along the banks of a paper river which flowed under a 3wooden rainbow bridge. Several groups of tulips bloomed behind a short picket fence. We still laugh whenever we remember the comical rendering of the skit, 4Tiptoe Through the Tulips.
Snazzy costumes were made for the 5waiters (younger staff children) who served a delicious Dutch menu at the banquet. They were often heard to say, Eet smakelijk! (Enjoy your meal!)
Such incredible send-offs for the graduates helped to somewhat ease the pain of the upcoming separations. There would be no quick, inexpensive connections with family back on the island. Email or What’s App had not yet been invented. Airmail took two weeks. Phone calls were beyond the missionary stipend.
A sister island, Aruba, dismantled an authentic windmill in Holland and reassembled it, turning it into Ye Olde Molen Restaurant.
I included a photo of this beautiful windmill on page 227 of my book “Little Dutch Isle” (available on Amazon).
Today, 12 tall, commercial, three-bladed windmills on Bonaire’s north-east coast near the Town of Rincon supply one-third of the island’s power.
Along with other treasured Delft pieces, a small replica of a windmill sits on the windowsill of one of ourbathrooms.
You will often see me wearing tiny Dutch-shoe earrings with a windmill painted on their toe and two slightly larger Dutch shoes on a necklace.
This spring, Lloyd and I refinished a windmill that adorns a flowerbed in our backyard. We marvelled at its meticulous construction. Obviously, its creator was truly a lover of windmills.
When we walk our little dog, Sparkle, we often go to admire a large windmill in the heritage section of Upper Doon in Kitchener.
My Grade Three teacher had no idea how affected this little pig-tailed girl would be when she shared Holland with me and my classmates.
Glenn Sink and Dan Canfield
Left to right: John McDonald, Daniel McDonald, Rene Hogan, Sammy Montoya, Carol Lowell, Scott Hess, Carlos Montoya, Pam Hogan, Tommy Lowell
We drove to the Grand River Lookout located in the Homer Watson Woods at the dead-end of Wilson Avenue, Kitchener, some 10 minutes from our home.
Meandering through the woods, Lloyd’s curiosity was aroused by a hollow at the base of two conjoined trees. We went over and observed a hole in the bottom of the hollow.
In a moment or two, now some 15 feet further along, Lloyd cried:
“Look over there! A chipmunk just popped out of that hole!”
She stood still for the longest while—uncharacteristic, as you know, of these tiny high-tailers.
You have probably seen the chipmunk in the middle panel of my triptych painting titled Woodland Wildflowers as well as the original portrait of a chipmunk titledPicnic in the Pines.
A beloved chipmunk is the main character in my bedtime story available on Amazon in both English and French entitled Mrs. Twigadoonor Mme Twigadoon.
Lloyd and I marvelled at the opportunity we had just experienced of photographing a non-moving chipmunk! As we continued on, coming upon a snowy-white trillium or a cluster of trilliums sparkling up the woodlands, the sense of delight was absolutely uplifting!
Yellow violets were also plentiful in the Homer Watson woods!
As one climbs the short knoll to Lookout, you actually walk through the chipmunk’s pantry . . . . . acorns plunked here and there along the pathways. No wonder. After all, hadn’t we just found a chipmunk’s abode?
Have you ever sat down and tried to create a distinctive signature for yourself, one with some flare, some pizzaz? I don’t mean the kinky, straight-lined scrawl some professionals develop, but something artful, free-flowing, downright beautiful to behold!
Walking our dog, Sparkle, in the woods this week, I came upon this gorgeous signature:
When I took a recent oil painting into Frames by Verne, a local art gallery in Kitchener, for sale, the owner quickly scanned it for my signature before accepting it. The signature I have used over the years on the canvases is done in print style and placed where it won’t detract from the subject. It’s downright boring. See if you agree.
On a near perfect day around the end of May, we headed toward Holiday Beach near New Hamburg where once upon a time we had a trailer. Mrs. Twigadoon (a chipmunk) set up housekeeping beneath the stone ledge on our lot which bordered a flowered meadow rimmed by a big woods.
On our drive, I wanted to spend some time around bluebird houses we had seen bordering pastureland and try to photograph the gorgeous birds. My husband insisted that he had taken the right road, but this is the lone bluebird house we saw. . . and this is its imposter!
It was exciting to see a few beehives along the way and a herd of black angus cows grazing.
At the far corner of the pasture was a red cow which had recently given birth and was intently watching her calf licking itself.
Lloyd pulled some fragrant wild phlox for me from a ditch. Hopefully, it wouldn’t mind being transplanted into our citified garden.
Now, where were we? Lloyd checked the map on his Smart phone, and in just 5 minutes, we were driving up the shady laneway of Holiday Beach.
The neatly kept campgrounds had expanded a great deal since our stay in the late 90s and there were scarcely any natural areas left; no valleys covered in last year’s goldenrod, no. We remembered that we drove up an incline before turning left toward our trailer situated at the edge of a meadow.
It seemed our trailer would have been located about here with a view of the silver lake.
No, our trailer wasn’t at the end of this row either.
We did locate a small patch of woods, emphasis on ‘small.’
Ah, there was the willow tree at the far end of the lake! That’s the willow Mrs. Twigadoon had raced toward, trying to beat Grandma and Grandpa McDeedle there. They loved to sit on the bench beneath the old tree. Mrs. Twigadoon hid in a hollow of the willow, intent on doing some serious eavesdropping
Of course, we were disappointed that we could not locate the meadow or Mrs. Twigadoon’s home beneath the stone ledge. But you can find it on Amazon in the pages of Mrs. Twigadoon . . . or . . . Mme Twigadoon.
You can also find the words and music of a delightful lullaby which our children and granddaughter often drifted off to sleep with.
My husband leaned out from the small platform between coaches to photograph the Rocky Mountaineer gliding around the bend beside Shuswap Lake, British Columbia.
It was August of 2011. Our first trip
out West was in celebration of our 50th wedding anniversary.
After visiting flower-bedecked Victoria
on Vancouver Island and the unbelievable Butchart Gardens, we ferried back to
the mainland to board the Rocky Mountaineer Train in Vancouver.
Looking it up later on, I found that
the lake in this painting, Shuswap, is situated near Salmon Arm. Made up of
long bodies of water, it is shaped like an addled letter H, and is one of the
most popular recreational destinations in south-central BC.
Something we did not realize was that
Canada has desert regions. As we journeyed through barren
areas and sagebrush towards Kamloops for an overnight, we were astonished to
see irrigation systems spraying out water in order to grow hay!
Aboard the Rocky Mountaineer once
again, the mountain scenery we were rolling by—and sometimes tunnelling
through—could only be described as SPECTACULAR!
Lake Louise was as lovely as the photos
we had seen.
Banff, nestled at the foot of mountains, had a cowboy feeling. Bronze manhole covers were works of art with handsome caribou engraved realistically on them.
Believe it or not, the only large wildlife I saw while going through the mountains was a black bear painted on a road sign! After arriving home and chatting with someone at the St. Jacobs Market, he said that we could have seen all kinds of mountain sheep—the reason I wanted to go through the Rockies in the first place—if we had taken the route to Jasper. Ve git too soon oldt and too late schmart.
The timing of our walks with Sparkle is governed by the temperature and wind. The woodland’s hospitality ‘chair’ is a bit too cold to make use of today.
Our recently retired son, John, is spending six months on the island he grew up on, Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands. At the moment, he is in Curacao, a guest aboard a catamaran owned by John and Marilyn Dale, Christians from Florida whom he met at church on Bonaire. His lifelong dream of sailing has come true! Prior to setting sail, John gave them a tour of Bonaire and also some PADI scuba diving courses.
Catamaran Lagoon-42 built in France in 2019
John and Marilyn Dale head across the pontoon bridge into Punda, Curacao
John enjoying the tourist gig!
In the meantime, I am working on a 30×24” oil painting of the Rocky Mountaineer Train as it rounds a curve beside Shuswap Lake in B.C. Stay tuned.
Sparkle’s curiosity amazes and amuses us. When something new arrives, say, on the countertop, she sits and looks up towards it, pops up and down, until you take it and let her sniff it. A sniff is all she wants.
There is something Sparkle wants you to sniff out. Hopefully, before Valentine’s Day, you will find a new painting put up titled–Around the Bend. My husband and I were aboard the Rocky Mountaineer train in 2011 as it rounded a bend by beautiful Shuswap Lake, Alberta.
1957. That day changed my entire life—Lloyd (now my husband) asked me out for a
November 17, 2018, changed both of our lives—the day our son, John, drove us halfway around Lake Ontario to bring a puppy home—a toy breed— a spunky, lovable Papillon/Dachshund/Jack Russell terrier.
She lives up to her name, Sparkle, and serves as the official mascot for Mcdonald Art.
Preparing for her arrival, together with our good neighbour, Mike, we had an aging fence replaced. More fencing followed to keep her out of the rhubarb patch (harmful for doggie palates) and a gate was installed in the cedar-arch entry to the back yard.
The cedar hedging that wraps around the front yard had to be puppy-proofed as well. A short fence was installed around the inside perimeter and a gated arch installed at the beginning of the cobblestone sidewalk. Now the front yard is totally enclosed. We can open the front door whenever she rings an on-the-floor doorbell.
Sometimes she rings the doorbell for other necessities like . . . . time to play tug-of-war or catch. Ah, yes.
We had a few
hair-raising episodes when she escaped out of the kitchen door and tore around
the neighbour like a greyhound, barely touching the ground! Thankfully, some
younger neighbours helped us coral the unrepentant Sparkle.
When we take
a brief siesta after lunch on our La-z-boy sofa with its push-outs on either
end, Lloyd scoops her up in his arms. Sparkle takes a siesta, too, between our
legs—sometimes switching from one to the other.
Her soft bed
is carried up each evening and placed in the hall outside our bedroom door so
she can be near us.
Sparkle is serious about earning her keep. She wants you to know that each day, she dutifully manages to take her mistress and master out for a walk on different trails in south Kitchener and in the Homer Watson Woods which our home backs onto. While she is busy sniffing everything in sight, I’m busy snapping photos. Thank God for November 17!
Yesterday afternoon when I let Sparkle out of the front door, she bounded toward a chair beneath the tree. Up fluttered a fledgeling robin! With a great deal of flapping, he skimmed above the rose bed before his engine conked out and he crash-landed in the cedar hedge.
In a trice, his handsome mother and father appeared, loudly voicing their concern from atop the shepherd’s crook that holds the bird feeders.
Where was junior?
Oh, there he is just outside the rose bed.
Mother Robin flew down and gave him an energy bar of some kind.
Testing out the wonders of being independent, he hopped about the lawn, almost hidden in the tall grass
“Now, where was I before that barking blast of white came charging toward me?”
“Ah, yes. I was checking out the McDonalds’ new chaise.“
“I think this whole episode started when my parents tried to introduce me and my siblings to the birdbaths at McDonalds’. Our beaks were agape in this wicked heatwave and we were all for it. But stay back! My father is a splash-o-maniac . . . and I want to be just like him!“
Spring has felt more like winter this year, but the calendar insists that June will be here in just six more days. Father Wren arrived a few weeks ago, and the good news is that Cedar Hollow is ringing with joyful rhapsodies—nothing in the minor key, no way.
Cedar Hollow is offering three possible nurseries, two of which are spanking new. The venerable old Cedar Shake Cottage on the right has been spruced up with a new front entrance.
Unlike previous years, so far, there are no twigs sticking out of any of the houses. Maybe he is going green—using fewer materials this time around. Less is more.
I wonder if Mrs. Wren will like this nifty model, the Black Diamond? Clean lines.
But I’m rather fond of all of the greenery near the old Cedar Shake Cottage.
I’d better get back to prepping the nurseries, but I’m just not sure whether I should search for an entirely different bassinette for the gourd house. It’s got me stumped!
It seems that I can’t turn around these days without the camera clicking.
I hate to tell you, but my outdoor potty training has been delayed, and it’s rather embarrassing at my age—almost six months—to have to use a puppy pad.
The problem is, I overheard my folks talking about what they found out this morning when they asked Google to list the names of plants that would be poisonous to me. Rhubarb leaves is one of them. I don’t want to be rushed to the vet to have my stomach pumped out. And besides, you all know how I hate riding in the car. It makes me gag!
I saw my folks outside this morning with a measuring tape, figuring how much fencing they need to keep me out of the rhubarb and asparagus patch. As soon the fence is up, my doghouse will go outside, of course. They seemed to enjoy putting a treat up on the roof and watching me climb the stairs to get it.
You can see from the picture that I’m no longer wearing that stupid looking funnel. It certainly was no Easter bonnet! It scraped along the tile floor whenever I tried to pick up something or stretch out for a couple of winks. Worst of all, it interfered when I needed my paw to hold down a bone. Now, I’m not bragging, but I guess they were pretty proud of me because I didn’t complain about that old plastic thing. Just between you and me, though, it bothered my master to see it on my head.
It’s really too bad that they have to build more fence. Before they chose me for their very own and drove halfway around Lake Ontario to get me, they built fencing and a gate, dug post holes, mixed cement—imagine—just to keep me safe in the backyard!
When Mrs. McD comes downstairs in the morning, she picks me up and carries me to the living room to pull the drapes open and see what the new day looks like. This afternoon, the dove and yellow goldfinch arrived at Cedar Hollow from the south lands!
My folks love it that my breed size is “toy.” And they really love it that I’m small enough to sit on their lap and keep them company when they have a snooze on the sofa. BTW, I’m a Papillon/Dachshund/Jack Russell mix.
Davi, our special guest from Brazil, is very good at taking me out for a walk around the block, and he protects me from picking up cigarette butts or other stuff I shouldn’t. The problem is, I have to be on a leash. As soon as the rhubarb patch is safely off limits, I’ll be able to stretch my legs and run like a deer in the backyard! I can’t wait!
Working in the flowerbeds at the side of our house, the sunny solitude of Cedar Hollow was broken by the noise of a buzz saw. Alas! Two men were on an aerial platform cutting down the beloved white birch tree behind the neighbour’s house across from us.
The nursery the white birch held for baby squirrels would have been abandoned weeks earlier, but what fun it had been when we occasionally saw the black squirrel ascend or descend from its leafy abode!
The beautiful design of the birch’s bare branches was sometimes lit up by the morning sun. Frost, too, added its touch of charm to every twig.
Will we miss this elegant tree? You bet!
Here is the modified skyline now viewed from Cedar Hollow.
Spring seemed to delay its arrival in southern Ontario this year. However, it only took a few warm days before the buds on the magnolia tree down the crescent began to swell, and soon treated us to a magnificent display of its fragile beauty!
John and I took pictures from different angles.
This shot is similar to a branch of magnolias in Waterloo that I saw some years back and attempted to capture its loveliness in watercolour.
Here is one of the patches of trilliums in our garden that you saw in their bud stage in the previous blog.
As lovely as these are, there is nothing like seeing them blooming in their natural habitat. After a roast chicken dinner together, John set out with us to carry on a Mother’s Day tradition, one I had enjoyed as a child. Into the woods we headed, the Homer Watson woods, entering from a pull-off on Old Mill Drive, a few minutes from our home.
Before us, reigned the white queen of the woodlands, trilliums—our provincial floral emblem!
One never tires of beholding their pristine beauty―but―such beauty can actually be hung on a wall:
Last fall, I divided a clump of trilliums that was spreading toward the asparagus and started a fresh patch. Four days ago, I checked the spot where they had been planted. Bare ground. Perhaps they didn’t survive the transplant.
The last day of April, the temperature struggled up to 18 degrees. May decided to make her arrival something to celebrate and cranked up the heat to 27!
Checking the same garden patch today, the trilliums had not only poked through, but were in bud! How is this possible? Two weeks ago, our region was shivering under a 4-5” hard blanket of white stuff—bestowed during a 3-day ice storm of freezing rain, ice pellets, snow, what have you!
The day following that storm, when we were rounding a corner, driving into Cambridge, a frightening loud sound screamed overhead! The load of rock-hard snow on top of the car slid off and careened to the ground! Thankfully, there was no vehicle to our right.
And now, here in a quiet corner of the garden, a welcome white miracle is happening—a 4-day pop-up wonder!
Sure, you have―whenever the heavenly dome is clear blue and there’s not a cloud in sight. And this can happen any time of year.
On the first warm day of April, the 23rd, there were still large mounds of snow lining the streets of Kitchener, left over from a prolonged ice-and-everything-white siege that beset us the weekend before. But on this day, the temperature soared to 22 degrees, causing us to shed our sweaters when sitting on the back deck.
Driving to Waterloo, I was amazed to see a white and blue Scottish tartan high above us―woven from two vertical jet trails and three horizontal ones. Spectacular!
Checking on the icy conditions during the three-day ice storm, Lloyd saw a robin leave our front step and scurry along the sleet-covered cobblestones. I scurried, too, camera in hand, to photograph his footprints through the front window.
Not long afterwards, Lloyd spied the robin back on the porch. In a small patch of grass that had been uprooted by a skunk or some other critter, exposing black soil at the edge of the porch―Robin Redbreast was busy pecking away at his ‘dinner plate!’ The birdfeeder nearby didn’t offer the right menu, thank you very much.
Snow-dusted, plump Robin Redbreast paused for a moment . . . before heading down the path. I have a hunch, don’t you, that he won’t forget the tiny café at Cedar Hollow.