I suppose I’m not that different sometimes from the elusive wildlife of Muskoka. If I could live farther into the woods and near water, I would, but I’d still have to venture into town for supplies, and of course, to connect with people from time to time. Well, I say sometimes, because I probably don’t get enough time to myself to create. Every week day, I come home from the busyness of full-time work and find it difficult to wind down and create art or write. The best I can do is get my gardening gloves on and tend to my gardens surrounding my house, and then relax and take in the peace and harmony of the perennials, the butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and other birds. When winter sets in, however, I have only the bay window that looks out back.
When we moved to Bracebridge a couple of years ago, we chose a home within the city limits that offered the best of both worlds, country within the city. We had enough of 40′ wide city lots, but we enjoyed the benefits of municipal water and sewers, versus ending up with poor well water and septic issues. We were just basing this on past experience, our own or others we knew. But we really didn’t know what to expect in this new area to which we were moving, as we didn’t know anyone except my husband’s sister and her family, but they live on lakefront property. Within Bracebridge, some homes are equipped with natural gas heating as well, so that was another draw toward the home we purchased. We figured on fixing up this home and eventually finding a rural property. We didn’t expect to grow to like this place so much.
When I am home on the weekends, I spend a lot of time in our backyard. As mentioned, my gardens surround the house, but there is a garden in the back that goes 16 feet up a hillside and it spans over 50 feet wide. This garden just looks better all the time as the new plants become established. Beyond it is forest, and beyond that is the yard of a home on the cul-de-sac behind us, but we can’t see it in the summertime when the woods have filled out. Our yard is private enough that we don’t see our neighbours beside us when we are in the back.
In the past year, we have had many sightings of other wildlife, more unexpected visitors than we thought were possible within the city, but our home is very much on the outer edge of Bracebridge. Several times, we have seen black bears come through, last October especially, but we also saw one this past July in front of our garage. These sightings inspired me to create a few paintings for the Muskoka Arts & Crafts’ Spring Members’ Show earlier this year, two of which are below.
Each piece is 36″ x 36″. As usual, I try to create something very different from what I see other artists are doing. I enjoy being innovative and exploring with mediums. These were made with acrylic paint and acrylic fluid and gel mediums. I used a matte gel to build up the fur and I shaped it with sculpting tools to give the fur texture. Most people want to touch the fur when they see the paintings. Viewers notice the curiosity in the eyes of the fox pup and the anxiousness of the bear cub, as they look out from the canvas. The mother fox and bear are confident and aware, seeming to ignore the human viewer, but ready at a moment’s notice to call their young and protect them.
When we see these fantastic creatures on our property, or the evidence of their passing, we respect them and keep our distance. I’ve missed getting photos of them, for obvious reasons, as they are gone before I can get my camera (except the deer and the wild turkeys). We don’t leave out any garbage or compost for them to encourage them at all, but in the wintertime we can’t stop the foxes from checking for mice in our window wells, not that we’ve had any mice get in our house, but maybe they are keeping the population down.
If we do ever have the urge to move from our current property, the next place will need to promise as much, or more, in way of nature sightings. We may not live on waterfront, but we do currently live across the road from the Muskoka River (in the front) and near a swamp (across the road in the back).