The Rain Becomes You

The-Water-GathererA damselfly that tells fortunes…?


Hold-on-TightI think this might be a small weevil(?) of some sort, managing to hang on to the underside of a leaf with the weight of all that water.




The-Little-ForagerWe have had a fair share of grey and rain around here. The earth is well watered, and you could disappear in the tall green grasses. It is easy to gripe about the greyness of it all, but when the sun returns you are reminded that each drop is a transient gem.

© Karen McRae, 2013

What Water Does

“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.”
― Loren Eiseley

MosaicSeedhead_LollipopAbove and below: Seedheads covered in ice from freezing rain – the patterns develop as the ice starts to melt away and break up into smaller pieces.


FrostFeathersFrost flowers develop when it is very cold and the air is quite moist. The ones pictured here formed on thin ice at the edge of the river near open water, on a night when the temperature dipped to -25C.
FrostLeafAbove: A tiny branch with phantom ‘leaves’ on a cold winter morning.
Below: A small frost formation on a window. WindowFrostFormations2

CandleIce4The Ottawa River shifting through the seasons.

Rapids1I sometimes find it difficult to shift my visual thinking/creativity away from the winter landscape in the spring. For me it holds a bit of magic like no other season. The key to these transformations is water. From raindrops to snowflakes, to ice and frost, is there anything with more imagination than water?

The landscape is mostly shades of brown now with small bits of green trying to emerge through the damp earth. The river has lost its ice. Most of the photographs here have been posted on these pages before, some even from the previous winter, so I guess this is a bit of a recap (or an ice cap), but together they attempt to illustrate, and to let go of, the season that has just passed.

Also, on Monday April 22nd it will be Earth Day! In 2013 the focus is on climate change and how it is impacting people, creatures and environments the world over. You can learn more (and participate) by going to the Earth Day website. It is our collective voices and actions that make changes.

What are your plans for Earth Day?



© Karen McRae, 2013

World Water Day

ADropontheEarth3Today is World Water Day.

World Water Day is held annually on 22 March as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.” This quote is from the UNESCO website.

If you have had a chance to see much of this blog you would notice that is 93 percent water and 7 percent dehydrated (I haven’t actually done the math for this but you get the idea).
I suppose it is redundant to say that water is fundamental to existence but… But it is. And there are a thousand reasons why I think about this.

We are all integrally connected – to the earth – to water.

2013 is the International Year of Water Cooperation.

Cooperation. There is always room for more of that, isn’t there? In the spirit of cooperation and World Water Day I’d like to share what I think is an inspiring, alarming and important book – about water. About us.

Ocean of Life by Callum Roberts. If you get a chance to read this, please let me know.

Because this little drop of freshwater here; it might fall into the little creek at my feet, meander out to one river and then to a bigger river, and find its way to the sea. It might end up at your feet.

© Karen McRae, 2013

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

Vestiges: Flora

Collected from among the flotsam and jetsam washed up along the shoreline. There are surprising things that gather after the frayed edges of winter wear off but these things belong there. Of course I’ve taken them out of context because I like the surprises I get when I look at things in that way. In a sense I compare these little studies to doing sketches between paintings, really looking.
I love the diversity. The roots systems. The texture and character. The delicate veins that weave things together. The same things that weave us together.

All images © Karen McRae

Current Events

In the same way the wind carves out the snowdrifts the current is carving away at the belly of the river ice. I wonder how it would look turned upside down. Would it be etched full of channels and rippled ridges or glassy and smooth? I imagine running my hand over the cold surface. Connecting with the texture. Perhaps I need to pick up my paintbrush. Do something more tactile.

This seems to be my visual response to reading the news today. Thinking quietly “out loud”. That feeling of helplessness like a small current of energy vibrating inside that you’re not sure what to do with.
My initial response is to throw some beauty to the wind and hope it lands on someone who needs it…a thin lifeline.

All images © Karen McRae