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“trash” in the water.

“trash” in the water.

There is a story associated with this painting. It represents an event that took place late in the summer of 2008 on the shoreline of the Pinery Provincial Park in Southwestern Ontario.

As anyone who has visited the shores of Lake Huron knows, the winter storms can wash a substantial amount of driftwood and grey stripped pine logs on to the shore, and they fuel the timeless campfires on the beach throughout the summer. When lazing on the beach that day, I had the idea to place some of the logs, (which were up to 20′ long) back into the water, drilling their ends into the soft sand to hold them up and create a wood-henge in the waves. I admit, it was no spiral jetty, but in its simple fashion it was my way of creating a contemplative artistic space within the natural environment.

It was about an hour later that I watched a man in a jet-ski noisily approach from the horizon and come to a stop 30 feet offshore. At first, I thought it was an OPP officer, because he was sporting what looked like a bullet-proof vest (in the summer heat my imagination fabricated that from his life-vest) and a dark blue baseball cap with yellow lettering that I couldn’t make out at the distance. When he called out to me, I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but since I thought he was a policeman I waded out to him when he motioned to me.

When I was close to him he shouted angrily, “Are you the one putting the trash in the water?!” I looked around but couldn’t see any trash.


“The trash – we’ve had a lot of problems with kids putting trash in the water. Are you reponsible for this?”

Again, I replied “What?” Then it dawned on me – he was referring to the logs. “You mean the driftwood?”

“Yes, and let me tell you – we’ve had problems with that around here. This is a $14,000 vehicle, and if I hit one of those things I could damage it.”

“Oh,” I said. “Well, this stuff washes up on shore all the time, the lake is full of it. I can’t really speak to it being trash, but it seems to me that it belongs here more than your jet-ski, which I might say is noisy and is kind of ruining the beach for us with you zooming back and forth all afternoon.” Suffice it to say a heated argument ensued, in which I proposed that the driftwood should stay in the water and he argued that I was a menace to society at large and I should take it out. It never did get resolved, he just stormed off to alert the authorities who never did come down to the beach to set things right. The next day the waves had taken care of it and washed them back onshore.

I know they washed back up on the beach because all that night I had nightmares of them falling on a kid. They were so vivid, that despite my partner’s chuckles, I raced the 100 miles back  to the Pinery as soon as it was light the next morning to take them out of the water, only to find that overnight the waves had done it for me.

It was a lesson in how (not) to get along with strangers and highlighted two irreconcilable views of what constitutes an enjoyable experience of nature. Regardless, I’m glad it happened, without the experience I doubt I would have painted this piece.


acrylic on canvas

Private collection of Sue Klanac.

This entry was posted on Saturday, January 10th, 2009 at 6:47 pm and is filed under Landscapes, Paintings. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.