24" x 30"
Southern Ontario, Canada
I never tire of painting White Birch trees, especially when they are at the shore of a lake where the many colors reflected in their white bark are echoed in the water. The Red Maples that are further back from the shore are another favorite of mine. I have had many opportunities to write about these trees in stories about my paintings, but this is the first time I have had a chance to mention two of their less dramatic neighbors that also inhabit the shoreline.
Sweet Gale (Myrica gale) just made it into the painting at the shoreline, on the right. In many eastern lakes it dominates the lake shore. In this composition it served to keep the viewer’s eye from following the ancient log right out of the painting. It also serves a useful purpose to its neighbors. Because Sweet Gale possesses nitrogen fixing bacteria on its roots, it provides valuable nitrogen to the soil. It also provides a refreshing treat on a hot summer day. Pinch a few of its leaves, crush them between your fingers and breathe in the spicy-sweet fragrance. You can see why the first nations used to make tea from them and spice meats with them.
Another little plant that grew in a fortunate place, at least for my painting, is called “Pipewort” (Eriocaulon aquaticum). Its little white flower heads look like buttons held above the water on straight stalks. These little stalks keep the eye from following the water right to my canoe and off the painting.
The Birches and Maples live throughout northeastern North America. Sweet Gale is prolific in wet places from the Alaska to Newfoundland, south to Oregon, Minnesota and North Carolina in the east. Pipewort is supposed to range from Newfoundland down to Delaware, but I swear I saw it in Florida’s Big Cypress Preserve.