A River of Thought

For the majority of my childhood, I grew up beside a river. It was part of my backyard, really. As essential as the ground beside it. I remember the day I discovered it had been used as a dumping ground of sorts.  I started finding things.

Old medicine bottles, broken glass, shards of faded pottery.

I remember asking my mother about it, she said, yes, people used to put their garbage in the river. I remember being stunned. Of course, years ago there was no garbage pick up. People burned their garbage or buried it on their land. Or in their rivers.
But what struck me is that these people were my grandparents. I knew these people.

I was thinking about this today, about how it connects in a way that I hadn’t realized before to my interest in understanding the landfill. And my longstanding love of the rivers, lakes and oceans.  If you want to read the introduction about my ongoing landfill project you can find it here.

Another thing that struck me. The river is still a dumping ground. It is cast with thoughtlessness. You won’t see it here, but I can tell you about it. I can tell you about the hundreds of plastic bottles that wash up every spring, the half-shredded plastic bags, the old tin cans and beer bottles. The Styrofoam. I can tell you about the bags of garbage that I’ve picked up when walking the shore.

A winter river, breaking open

Back to the landfill.  You don’t see garbage there. It is taken care of. It is a full landfill.

How could the landfill be cleaner than the river?

Grasses along a landfill pond

I recently spent another morning there. You might be surprised to know that there is a certified wildlife habitat within the boundaries. There are hundreds of birds and many deer.

You also might be surprised to know that because this landfill is closed and another one has not yet opened, we send 70 percent of our city garbage (industrial and business) out of the area.

In fact, we ship some of our garbage to Michigan.

Canada’s capital city sends garbage to the USA.

Reflections on the Landfill Pond

But I’m still wondering about the river. I’m wondering why it’s still a dumping ground? As a caretaker of the earth, I’ll be working this weekend.

All images © Karen McRae

Always Wear Your Rubber Boots

There are days where you head out to try to work on a specific idea, and then there are days where that doesn’t happen at all, and you have to just follow your intuition.
And when something in the back of your mind tells you to bring along your rubber boots, you listen. Because you never know what might call you into the water. What might be waiting there for you to come along.
And although, whoever might be waiting there, regards you with suspicion; they may make allowances for your curiosity. Probably just this once.






An early season, slow-moving snapping turtle, sunning himself almost unflinchingly, while I gently talked his ear off. I think we bonded.
I have had other encounters with snapping turtles that were quite different, you can see another post here.

I am extremely grateful to WordPress for selecting drawandshoot.me for their blog post: 8 Gorgeous Nature blogs for Earth Day  Wow! I’m honoured. Thank you.

All images © Karen McRae

A Soft Place to Land: Part One

I’ve been thinking about the textures of spring. The things you slowly come to notice. Like the way the air sort of rushes through you instead of around you. The yellow-greens that hover at the tips of the trees like a dancing mist. The velvet carpets that slowly roll out under your feet. Some of them solid. Some of them shifting. How your senses heighten and make everything more absolute. But with this, a softness.
The temperate softening of the landscape. There is a beautiful energy to the spring; a measured growth and a bursting freshness.









All images © Karen McRae

Shell Games

There are several different kinds of mussel shells in the river each with their own subtleties  that I find intriguing. (okay, I don’t get bored easily…) As the outer layers of the shells are abraded away over the seasons it’s as though tiny luminous landscapes develop on the surfaces. This is what catches my eye.

A bit of trickery: I’ve photographed some of these shells on a mirror while reflecting a white surface onto the mirror at the same time.









All images © Karen McRae

Ready for Release

I had a chance to visit with the wrapped trees today. I thought they might be released from their winter trappings, but no. Surely, it must be well past time. The little trees are trying to fight their way out with the aid of the prevailing winds. They are ready to feel the sun and the rain on their restrained boughs. There are bits of green popping out.

I brought a little sun-shower with me but it’s not enough. The earth is cracked and dry.


Some of them are looking rather defeated. Who will come and start the unraveling?









*All these trees are as I have found them, along the highway and wrapped for the harsh winter. I have been documenting them through the seasons and you can find the whole series here.
All images © Karen McRae