Wednesday, March 8, 2017


“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all 
Emily Dickinson

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Cold Comfort Camera

 I've looked at snow "from both sides now, from up and down" to quote the great Joni Mitchel, but I do know snow. I grew up in Manitoba.

Huge sloppy flakes, tiny beads that sting your face, curtains of snow, drifts of snow, hard layers of city snow like prehistoric layered ice and earth, soft snow that you fall back into without fear; crystal snow that creeps with icy fingers onto your neck between your parka and your scarf; that freezes your toes in your ice skates; that burns your face, cuts deep into your wrists just above your mitts and numbs your silly nyloned legs on the way to school.


And I see it. I see how it transforms my garden, my city, my street. I long to see it more often at the lake where we spend so much of our summer. 

I know the colours of snow in light and in the dark. I know the long shadows that fall across it: clear shades of blue; dust gray, mouse brown, sun pink, green tinged, sheer frosted white, and dirty sand brown. And when it begins to melt I recognize the pockmarks than deepen in the snow that mean a thaw is at work.

I know snow's indescribable smells - early snow that smell of earth and sun - and late snow in the city with the dark moist smells of tar and sand. At the lake cottage there will be the smell pine and the echoes of mouldering leaves feeding the earth below. I've tasted snow. I've felt it, formed it and built with it. 

My memories of lake visits always start with cross country skiing in; of the cottage floor and walls covered in frost until the fire gets hot enough to warm the wood; cutting and bashing through ice for water; snowshoeing through the woods dodging clumps of snow that slide off the spruce and balsam trees onto knitted caps and shoulders, and the whap whap of it falling off our warming roof to the ground below. Most of all, the deep silence broken only now and again by hushed breezes and distant bird chirrups in the night.

Deep red the bracken; its shape is lost;
The wild goose has raised its accustomed cry,
Cold has seized the birds' wings;
Season of ice, this is my news."

-  Irish poem, 9th Century

My Street in early winter
copyright Margaret Buffie

City Garden

"Nature has undoubtedly mastered the art of 
winter gardening and even the most experienced gardener can learn from the unrestrained beauty around them."
-  Vincent A. Simeone  

"I've been a dweller on the plains,
have sighed when summer days were gone;
No more I'll sigh; for winter here
Hath gladsome gardens of his own."
-  Dorothy Wordsworth,

Garden gate
© Margaret Buffie

Still morning 
© Margaret Buffie

The arbour that separates our two gardens
© Margaret Buffie

Icicles outside my studio window, overlooking the garden
© Margaret Buffie

Iced Alyssum Flowers
© Margaret Buffie

Through my studio window - late afternoon
© Margaret Buffie

My little winter hummingbird
© Margaret Buffie

Frosted leaves
© Margaret Buffie

The snow cones of cone flowers
© Margaret Buffie

Cotoneaster berries with frozen drops of water. 
I can see myself in one of the drops
© Margaret Buffie

Sage and ladybug held in deep frost
© Margaret Buffie

Early morning snow on my veranda stairs 
leading to the street. No mailman yet, to scar the smoothness
© Margaret Buffie

Drifts of shadow waves near the river
© Margaret Buffie

Early morning visitor
© Margaret Buffie

Nature has many scenes to exhibit, and constantly draws a curtain over this part or that. She is constantly repainting the landscape and all surfaces, dressing up some scene for our entertainment. Lately we had a leafy wilderness; now bare twigs begin to prevail, and soon she will surprise us with a mantle of snow.

David Thoreau

Swathes of snow, constantly changing shades 
and movement - yet all done in complete silence. 
Margaret Buffie

Shades of crystal blue
© Margaret Buffie

Stairway fence
© Margaret Buffie

"Ski slope" in my garden
© Margaret Buffie


It is the life of the crystal, the architect of the flake, 
the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam. 
This crisp winter air is full of it. 
John Burroughs

“December's wintery breath is already clouding 
the pond, frosting the pane, obscuring summer's memory...”
John Geddes

Behind a frosted window I see a small creature peering in at me.
© Margaret Buffie

Another visitor waiting behind the frost,  
white shoulders gleaming.. 
© Margaret Buffie

Moon Flowers
© Margaret Buffie

Dancing Frost
© Margaret Buffie

A little forest of frost
© Margaret Buffie

Knitted frost
© Margaret Buffie

Feathered Frost with Hidden Figure
© Margaret Buffie

Early Winter at the Cabin

Balsam cast in ice-white amber
 © Margaret Buffie

Stone and Ice
© Margaret Buffie

© Margaret Buffie

A breath of wind will puff it all away
© Margaret Buffie

The log cabin in hiding
© Margaret Buffie

Going to a snow ball
© Margaret Buffie

The old dock
© Margaret Buffie

Soon the ice will come and as it 
deepens and thickens, 
it with twist its wooden back.
© Margaret Buffie

Heading out for a walk
© Margaret Buffie

Settling in 
"There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you .....  In spring, summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself."  Ruth Stout 

© Margaret Buffie

© Margaret Buffie

"Winter, a lingering season, is a time to gather 
golden moments, embark upon a sentimental
journey, and enjoy every idle hour. "
John Boswell


Neighbourhood "Walks"

The shed of leaves became a cascade of red and gold and after a time the trees stood skeletal against a sky of weathered tin. The land lay bled of its colors. The nights lengthened, went darker, brightened in their clustered stars. The chilled air smelled of woodsmoke, of distances and passing time.  James Carlos Blake

Earliest snows soften the leaves
© Margaret Buffie

Hatted fence soldiers on guard
© Margaret Buffie

Garnished ice branch
© Margaret Buffie

Light but relentless snow all night long
© Margaret Buffie

The artist of winter chisels silver icicles just for me
© Margaret Buffie

Shadow me  - between two elm trunks
© Margaret Buffie

Spring is not far off

 The days are getting long, the shadows longer still. The sun is warmer on my back. My boots are dripping and damp. Spring is creeping toward me.
Margaret Buffie

© Margaret Buffie

Ending with one of my favourite quotes about winter!

Winter is the king of showmen,
Turning tree stumps into snowmen
And houses into birthday cakes
And spreading sugar over lakes.
Smooth and clean and frosty white,
The world looks good enough to bite.
That’s the season to be young,
Catching snowflakes on your tongue.
Snow is snowy when it’s snowing,
I’m sorry it’s slushy when it’s going.
~Ogden Nash

Sunday, October 23, 2016


One cold morning in a late August,  I woke up at 5 am and looked out the window of our veranda. The light over the lake was luminous, misty and so inviting - how could I go back to bed? I dressed quickly, stuck my flat-topped straw hat on my head, my sneakers on my feet, grabbed my cameras and paddle, and headed for the canoe. 

At first, I was only going to paddle 
on the still water through the mist into our two bays. I wanted to catch the full sunrise, which can often be stunning and each one is unique. So I paddled around, followed a beaver for awhile as he headed home from work, and when his tail smacked the water and he went down, I turned the bow toward the eastern far bay where the sun would rise from behind the wall of trees.

Photo copyright, Margaret Buffie
The creek is behind the mist, middle right, 

I paddled slowly toward the pink glow through the mist. The sunrise was very slow coming up or I was just impatient. It was chilly out and the mist was refusing to scatter. My hands hurt from the cold, so I pulled my sweater over them and kept paddling toward the third bay  - in silence  - except for the slow dip and swish of my paddle. 

Half an hour later, I was a third of the way into the eastern bay. Ahead is a wide creek that cuts deep into the marsh at the far end of the bay. The creek connects eventually to a wide beaver dam, and behind it is another watery marsh, and not far off is a nearby lake which one can reach via a very narrow waterway and an old walking trail.

But ... I had not left a note for my family. Two days earlier I had had a freak accident with my canoe when I stepped into it off a rocky ledge and realized the rope holding me in place had somehow loosened. I did the splits over the water, with one foot the canoe and the other on a rocky ledge. I fell into the water up to my shoulders, banging my calf on the gunnel of the canoe, and tipping the canoe over, so it took in gallons of water. My weight took me down. I tried to stand up, my head just above the waterline, but my feet were sinking down into the muck. No life jacket. Yes, I have learned that lesson. Finally.

I saved myself from going under and drowning, by wresting one leg out of the muck while holding onto the full and wallowing canoe. By then, the water was past my chin.  I finally found one flat rock underwater a good stretch behind me and was able to stabilize my drop into the muck - then, I was able to pull the canoe toward me as wobbly ballast. After a long struggle, I finally balanced both feet on the rock. Now what? I saw a 4 litre plastic bottle in the canoe that I use for ballast and by using my big pocket knife I cut off the base of bottle to create a good scooper. I bailed the canoe for what felt like hours. To make a long story shorter, I fell in once more, trying to get off that rock and into the bailed canoe! So, I bailed it again. This story would take too long to go into here, but thankfully one of my family members heard my shouts (no one heard my emergency whistle which seemed deafening to me!) and I was finally rescued by two family members in a small fishing boat. My husband and family slept through the whole thing, of course.  

Back to the third bay:  Paddling to the creek reminded me I had not left one this morning, so I knew I could be in trouble if I crossed over into bay three and vanished down the creek. But I was halfway there  - one of my favourite spots on the lake. So now what?

Go back? Go forward?

Maybe it was to prove to myself that, as an experienced canoeist, the near drowning was a fluke.  I somehow had to put it behind me behind me with a solemn promise that I would never again take the chance of getting off on a ledge to pick cranberries without a life jacket on .... or maybe it was me getting back on the horse in hopes that the nightmare I had during the night wouldn't come back and haunt me.

No one in my family ever gets up before 8 am, except me,  so I gave myself 2 1/2 more hours to be back at our dock. And I dug my paddle in.

Photo copyright, Margaret Buffie

The opening to the creek just ahead.

I took the photo below after I left the creek and the sun was up. You can see the entrance to the wide creek  was full of huge clots of beaver debris, and chunks of marsh that had broken away during a big flood earlier in the summer. The flood lasted a few weeks  - and in the wind and rising water, the marshes on the lake released large pieces of  flotsam "islands" of marsh plants and bog that, in this case, closed the creek off to anyone except a canoeist.

Photo copyright, Margaret Buffie

Photo copyright, Margaret Buffie

After battling over clogs of flooded marsh, 
I headed  down the beginning of the creek.

Photo copyright, Margaret Buffie

You can see the mist rising and the bend ahead. I love this photo. 

Photo copyright, Margaret Buffie

Photo copyright, Margaret Buffie

Photo copyright, Margaret Buffie

Just  around the corner should be the beaver dam. The lily pads are thickening.

Photo copyright, Margaret Buffie

Photo copyright, Margaret Buffie

The beaver dam stretched across the span of water 
and surrounded by marsh plants.

Photo copyright, Margaret Buffie

Alien world

On the other side of the beaver dam is an alien world. There are waterways that lead past low grassy areas where I once saw a moose standing in one of the open ponds eating lilies. It is a dreamland with beaver dens, deer, water fowl and that strange silence you get in the mornings with only faint chirps and songs of small birds in the distance. 

If I'd had a partner with me, I'd have hauled the canoe over the dam and gone further, but I was still injured from the accident the day before and ... I hadn't left that promised note, so I turned around. and paddled back home, happy as a beaver with a nice juicy lily pad rhizome to chew on. Memories. And photos. And there is always next summer!

Photo copyright, Margaret Buffie