Friday, February 26, 2010

Strawberries in the Snow

Illustration by Charles Folkard for
The Three Dwarfs in the Wood, Grim's Fairy Tales.

Growing up with books like this, how could I not want to take up my brush and paint? That very world of snow and magic was right outside our door in Montreal: the deep woods and heavily laden trees, the glittering outlined branches and the long lines of shadows across the snow. Except for the strawberries, the dwarves and the maiden in her paper dress (for the dwarves' little house would not have looked out of place in our nearby St. Genevieve, Quebec) this was just how the maple woods appeared in those long winters. Incredible complex snow gardens bloomed along the lower edges of the window panes too, and like Kay and Gerda in Hans Anderson's Snow Queen, as children we used to press heated coins into the frost to make peepholes to look through.

A walk down the 16-mile Creek ravine on a recent sunny day took us by familiar sites made new with ice formations. An earlier freeze and thaw have turned the flood plain into a tumbled checker-board with slanting table-top sized slabs of ice, and delicate plates of patterned ice are reforming along the banks.

This one was as hard as parquet flooring,
while ice ledges with patterns like broderie-anglais were as brittle as thin glass
(so we stick together on these walks).
Turning to designs made by human hands, the Three Bears appeared close to home
and Queen Victoria, petite and poised, is right outside the door.I can do better - tomorrow I'll improve the shape and add a companion snow dog or two.
It is snowing outside (and snowing heavily as I type this, a good packable snowman-weight snow that will, tomorrow, make the neighbourhood ring with the sound of shovels on driveways) and inside, in progress on my worktable, is a summery fairy scene. But it isn't incongruous, for in both delicacy and transformative power the falling snow and bells of Elfland go hand in hand.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Valentine

Good morrow! 'Tis St. Valentine's Day
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your valentine!
Wm Shakespeare, Hamlet