Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Sensuous Touch of Wind and Sky

Sorraia stallions in the snow at Ravenseyrie

Let REAL life seduce you...
Embrace the sensuous touch
of wind and sky.  --L. Gerard

Come with me today, won't you?  I want to show you some scenes from the past few days here at the Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve on Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada.

Sunday was turbulent, with a good "snow and blow" - the first robust winter storm we've had so far this season.  When those bitter winds howl over the East Bluff, and especially if they are accompanied by heavy snowfall, the "wild" horses of Ravenseyrie seek out the forested areas and woodland copses that provide shelter from the elements.

Depending on which direction the storm is blowing in from determines which sector of the preserve the horses will take refuge in.  Since they are limited to just 360 acres and winters are long affairs here on the island we provide mixed grass hay twice daily.  The horses know that Kevin and I will be bringing out toboggan loads of "dried summertime" to supplement their daily foraging and they keep watch as they wait for us to cross through the open wind and enter into their more subdued wooded copse.  Kevin and I call those treks with the toboggans, "mushing".  Kev says, "Today we mush to the north copse!"  And with him breaking trail, this old gal can enjoy the labour of it.

Both morning and late day feedings of hay were mushed to this favourite windbreak on that stormy Sunday.  Funny thing about the island...often the weather we are having up on the bluff in Gore Bay is different than what the more central and southerly realms like Tehkummah (where we keep our Sorraia mares on the Twinravens range) receive.  Mark let me know that they were not being "walloped" by the storm down there at Twinravens as we were.  Ain't that something?   

Kevin Droski delivers hay to the wild horses of Ravenseyrie

Sorraia stallion, Altamiro

These next photos are from yesterday morning.  Another "snow and blow" had moved in just after the Ravenseyrie bachelors had finished their morning feeding, which we were able to lay out for them nearer the house.  Off they went, bent into the wind, heading for the forest and some shelter from the elements.  And likely the mares down there in Tehkummah were dining on the large round bales I left for them in their forest shelter, as Mark let me know Twinravens was not spared this time and were getting in on the "snow and blow", too. 

A tight foursome of Sorraias heading for shelter

Last to head for the forest are Zeus (a domestic Thoroughbred gelding) and
young Sorraia stallion, Destemido 

Now this morning.  It was -24ºC when we went out to feed the bachelors.  That's the chilliest we've been so far this winter.  But...oh bliss! wind.!  Not even a puff of a breeze!  A pristine morning, and the frosty fellas were waiting near the house.  The colours were emerging so engagingly, I decided to hang out with the bachelors and wait for the sun to work some magic.

Looking north, waiting for the sun to enhance the colours

Sunrise at Ravenseyrie

Your author, laying in the snow, enjoying the horses and the big sky

Altamiro has an interesting drip line of frozen moisture

The Lone Spruce waits for the sun's touch, too.

Colours are getting stronger

Is Altamiro watching the sun's emergence, just as the Spruce and I are?

Legado (aka "The Pistol") watches me watching him

The sun has to climb above these clouds before it casts is glow on the horses

Ravens are flying over...I wish they would come closer!

And the glow begins to reach the horses, just a wee bit

The slant of winter sunlight...still subtle, but ever magical

That was all I got out of that first crest of sunlight as more clouds obscured it again.  It was time to go to the house and warm my feet by the fire.  And wouldn't you know, once I was back inside...the sun broke through the clouds again and gave me the better contrast of light I had been hoping for.  Just look at the colours!  How spectacular that sky drama would have looked with me aiming my camera lens at a Sorraia while I was laying in the snow.  It still looks spectacular from my open door, even so.

Lake effect clouds over the North Channel

Lake effect clouds over the North Channel push deeper over the bluff
I could have stayed poised with my camera all day long, taking photos of the sun and clouds waltzing so seductively...but I have a business to run...and I had to get meself down the bluff to open the gallery.

Once down there...I was rewarded with this view off the balcony outside my studio.  Now you get to see those lake effect clouds over the North Channel before they push up the bluff.  And up on that bluff...wild horses roam.  Isn't life wonderful?

Lake effect clouds over the North Channel, pushing up the East Bluff,
as freeze up begins in the winter of 2015/16
Gore Bay, Ontario

 "The human body is not a closed or static object, but an open, unfinished entity utterly entwined with the soils, waters, and winds that move through it--a wild creature whose life is contingent upon multiple other lives that surround it, and the shifting flows that surge through it."  -David Abram

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Blanding's Turtle / She in the Moonlight

"She in the Moonlight"
Original Watercolour by Lynne Gerard

"Why haven't you used your gift certificate in the gallery yet?", I inquired.  "It has been a year or more by now, hasn't it?"

"I'm saving it for just the right thing", she replied.

"What might that be?  Can you give me any hints?", I asked.

After a thoughtful pause, she said, "A Blanding's any medium - whether a rock painting, ink wash sketch, or watercolour.  Whatever happens to inspire you."

And who could not be inspired by a face such as this?:

Blanding's Turtle
photo: Ontley McNauth via Wikimedia Commons

I should not have been surprised at her suggestion - I remember her telling me she has been passionate about herpetology since a very young age.  Knowing, also, of the peculiar plight the Blanding's Turtle has been experiencing these past several years on Manitoulin Island, I might have guessed the image of this endangered turtle was something she was hoping to show up in my work one day.

Blanding's Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii)
photo: Andrew C. via Wikimedia Commons

The Blanding's Turtles that inhabit Manitoulin Island, specifically those that dwell in the Misery Bay Provincial Park have suffered unexplained casualties.  Several articles have been written about these strange deaths, for example here and here and here. (clicking on the word "here" will take you to the articles)

I had taken some photos of a female Blanding's Turtle that had been attempting to make herself a place to lay eggs on the shoulder of Scotland Road, just to the east of our driveway.  But, unfortunately I took those on my iPad and they no longer are there.  I thought I had taken others with my regular camera, but after consulting my iPhoto library, all I could find were those of a good looking Snapper Turtle that had been cooling itself in a puddle in our driveway:

What an inspiring profile!

What a penetrating gaze!

What a spectacular turtle!

Well, seeing those images I took of the visiting Snapper, I've definitely got to make a painting of that turtle in the near future!  But, I digress...

Back to this particular tale of the Blanding's Turtle.

Working from a myriad of images in books and online resources, I finally came up with a pose for my Blanding's Turtle, which I envisioned with a simple backdrop of the beach and lake.  I did a charcoal sketch to see if what I had in mind would make a decent enough composition:

Charcoal study of Blanding's Turtle
I did indeed think that would make a nice painting, but as it was the middle of tourist season at that time and the gallery was too busy for me to feel confident getting into a watercolour painting, I put the project aside until just two weeks ago.

Since November I had been thinking I should get on with making a watercolour of the turtle, but found myself painting some other subjects first and cutting mats for some of my prints to restock the print bin in the gallery.

Hand-Calligraphed verse and fine art print by Lynne Gerard

While lettering the mat for one of my fine art prints that has a fabulous moonlight theme to it, I got the idea in my head that our Blanding's Turtle would look equally fabulous in moonglow.  Instantly inspired, I quickly worked up a small watercolour sketch of the Blanding's turtle, and included a moon  (and evocative moonlight) over the water:

Small watercolour study of a Blanding's Turtle

This use of the magical effect of nocturne light was also inspired by one of Mark Seabrook's  paintings (who I wrote about in the Journal of Ravenseyrie earlier this month).  Mark gave me a painting he did of his cat, Percy, because I was captivated by the colours and how it reminded me of our own cat, The Black Pearl.  I have framed it and have it sitting now on an easel in my studio, precisely because of how otherworldly the colours are:

Our feline friend, The Black Pearl, admiring a painting by
Mark Seabrook

I thought some of the chartreuse green colour would make for good contrast and effect in my painting, too, and would work well overall with the other greens and blues.

detail of moonlit greens

detail of the watercolour, "She in the Moonlight"

When I showed my husband the painting, he referred to the turtle as a "she".  I had been thinking of it as a male, but Kevin said he definitely had a good feeling of a female when he viewed it.  Without seeing her underbelly or knowing the length of her shell, we cannot really say if she is really a she or a he, but I'm trusting Kevin's instinct.  And so the title I settled upon became "She in the Moonlight".

Finished watercolour and calligraphy by Lynne Gerard
overall dimensions 22" x 26" 

"In the cool hush of eveningtide, moonglow speaks directly to the heart."  -L. Gerard

And will this painting speak directly to "her" heart, she who requested seeing this particular turtle show up in my work?  I will know soon, as I am sending her a link to this blog entry to notify her I have finally painted a Blanding's Turtle.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Sorraia Horses in the Côa Valley

Sorraia mare and foal
Côa River Valley, Portugal
photo: Facebook / Rewilding Western Iberia

Good news for the Sorraia horses in Portugal!  A new conservation initiative is underway in the Côa River Valley in North Eastern Portugal.

Côa Valley region
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Two pregnant mares originally from the Vale de Zebro preserve gave birth to two healthy foals this past October according to a photo announcement posted to the Rewilding Western Iberia Facebook "Timeline Photos" page

Hardy Oelke, a well know conservationist of Sorraia and Sorraia Mustang horses informed me back in January that an acquaintance of his from northeastern Portugal had purchased a Sorraia colt from one of the past gathers of the Vale de Zebro offspring and was due to acquire two Vale de Zebro mares.  Hardy relayed there has been some funding obtained to establish a small preserve for them.  Overflowing with excitement, I wrote the gentleman who is putting together this new Sorraia preserve and asked for an interview so that I might report the good news here in my blog in greater detail, but my letter did not receive a reply.  

After finding the wonderful (but too brief!) mention on the public Facebook page for Rewilding Western Iberia about those mares giving birth at their new location, I wrote again, using the contact information provided at the Rewilding Western Iberia website.  That query also has received no response.  Hardy has spoken with the gentleman again, however, and has given me the green light for sharing a bit more about the new preserve.

Two Sorraia mares with foals and a Sorraia stallion in the Côa Valley, Portugal
photo:  Facebook / Rewilding Western Iberia

Sorraia mare and foal in the Côa Valley, Portugal
photo:  Facebook / Rewilding Western Europe

This new Portuguese preservation effort for the Sorraia horses is presently set up on approximately 150 acres in the Côa River Valley, with the river running through it, and trees and is near the vicinity where prehistoric rock art has been found.  This sounds lovely and quite fitting!

Another Sorraia mare is destined to join this new group...this mare coming from the Wisentgehege zoological park in Springe, Germany where our own Sorraia stallion, Altamiro came from.

The Sorraia stallion, Altamiro, foundation sire of the Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve

This is a promising opportunity for the Sorraia horses to gain further recognition from those organizations involved with "rewilding" initiatives in Europe and Great Britain - and maybe one day inspire similar projects here in North America.  The efforts of our Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve are limited without greater participation from other private landowners or organizations, specifically those with large tracts of suitable wilderness habitats.  When others here in Canada and the United States see fit to open up landscapes for "rewilding" and stocking them with Sorraias and Sorraia Mustangs, these types of horses are sure to remain iconically inspirational for future generations.  It is a dream I hold that I do believe will one day manifest itself.

I will continue to try to learn more about the new preservation efforts for the Sorraias in Portugal and report back as information is gathered.