I saw a deer this morning, as I was riding out to what is fast becoming my favourite spot for sketching in nature. Sleek, graceful and strong, she had paused in a field on the west side of the Niagara Parkway, a bit north of the Halfway House.
I should explain about the Parkway. The name may make you think it’s a roaring, multilane expressway, but it’s not. It is just two lanes. It dips and curves as it follows the terrain along the bench above the river from Niagara-on-the-Lake down past Queenston to Niagara Falls. The speed limit is 60km/hr, (about 35mph) all the way. So not a big threat to the deer, and not a nuisance either to cyclists and joggers using the pathway, which in many places has to run close alongside.
But I digress. I saw the deer because I was really early, and I was going to make a sketch of the blue flags that I noticed growing by the stream when I was painting the Purple-flowered Raspberry a couple of days ago.. I was pleased to see that the flags were still in bloom when I arrived at the little hollow. I pulled my bike off the path into the long grass, shrugged off my knapsack and started to get set up. This was not easy. The best viewpoint of the flowers was from a steep part of the stream bank, choked by long grass and the early shoots of goldenrod, and backed by a large wild rose bush. I had trouble finding a spot for my camp stool, finally stabilizing it against a walnut sapling, but there was no level place whatsoever to put the small collapsible table that I had made to put my brushes and paints on.
So I was really glad that my wife and I had gone shopping yesterday. One of the items we had got was a beach mat – you know, the ones woven of grass, six feet long by three wide? But this was no ordinary beach mat. It was jointed lengthwise into three one foot panels which fold together before you roll it up. The resulting package is just a foot long by seven inches wide and three thick, and it goes in my painter’s knapsack. I had brought it with me today. Instead of using my table then, I partially unrolled the mat on the long grass, which gave me a clean more or less flat surface to put all my bits and pieces on where they wouldn’t get lost. Brilliant.
The little notch in which the stream runs was a riot of mixed vegetation, so this sketch is another of those jungly impressions. It took me about two hours. You can see some photos of the scene on my Flickr site.
I was so glad to have brought the beach mat. It would have been very difficult to arrange my equipment without it. You know, I never realized before that there might be a luxury line in beach mats; but this one really is the cat’s whiskers. It was designed by Olsen, Europe, the ladies wear manufacturer. It has very pretty piping in blue, purple and black around the sides and along the joints, and folds up to look like a purse of this same material. It has convenient carrying handles too. Considering that my wife got an Olsen outfit included in the deal, ( one of those promotion things), I think the beach mat was a real steal at four hundred and some dollars.