My recollection of August in Ontario is of a landscape weary of the summer’s heat and sun, but desperate to hold on rather than giving in to the autumn that is just around the corner. I remember the seed heads of ochre grass bobbing against my thighs as they launched grasshoppers whose wings flashed briefly before being lost amongst the stalks further down the path. The brooks and creeks, exhausted from the exuberance of spring and no longer able to keep up appearances slowed to a drowsy trickle, barely enough for one last swim. I recall some trees giving up and going straight to their fall colours before Thanksgiving was a remote consideration.
I moved away from Ontario when Kodak was still blissfully unaware that they had invented their own undoing. Nobody, least of all an impoverished student like me, would have thought of expending film on random photos of the countryside. The delicate and expensive SLR was brought out only if there was a worthy subject to photograph.
The result is that I have some photos of details, but few of the spaces between those details, where realism resides. There is a real danger in basing my modelling on memories alone. Living as I do in a temperate rain forest, my natural tendency is toward exuberantly lush scenery. Alternatively, I might overcompensate with unwarranted desertification.
So it was with keen anticipation and a ready camera that we crossed Renfrew county four times (no stuffed animal left behind) in this summer’s cross-Canada road trip. I was on the lookout for specific scenes that I would like to include, and also to renew my sense of the place.
This August’s Ontario was much greener than I expected. Moreover, the verges were awash with clover, Queen Anne’s lace, chicory (?), purple loosestrife (a recent invader), milkweed, yellow avens (?), and above all, goldenrod. The overall effect, though was of green fringed with yellow and sometimes white. Sumac flowers were spent and brown, but the leaves had not begun to turn yet. The woods were a healthy mixture of conifers and deciduous trees.
One day, we will get to scenery on Pembroke, and the fleeting images shot out the car window on this summer’s trip will be invaluable.