Thursday, July 25, 2013

Frenchman’s Bay Beach, Playing Hooky

Frenchman’s Bay, Lake Ontario, Pickering Ontario Canada: accented by a lone wind-turbine, with an aging nuclear power plant looming in the background, I consider this one of the most interesting landscapes I’ve ever swam in.
We used to call it playing hooky, skipping school. Last week the heat was excruciating, (34C), and summers are short, so instead of keeping butt in chair and maintaining the discipline of making art, I headed south to Frenchman’s Bay, Pickering. I grew up there, with a view of the Pickering nuclear generating station from my bedroom window. It hadn’t seemed ominous at the time, being brand shiny new and a hope for the future—clean energy (we’ll figure out what to do with the spent fuel rods later (they still haven’t figured that out)). So some things, remain exactly the same as I’d left them.  But other things change for the better.
I don’t recall ever, on the many times I walked along the beach as a child, thinking, oh, what a nice place to swim. In fact, I only remember swimming  once (enticed by big waves) and needing a bath when I got home. I remember the water being murky, opaque, green, smelling of fish, wreathed in scum, and dead fish scattered along the beach. Maybe it was never that bad, but that’s how I remember it. 
But that’s not how I found it this summer. I’m still not over the shock/thrill of walking down to the water and seeing it clear and tinged turquoise. While not quite comparable to the pristine beaches of Lake Superior, it was decidedly inviting and beautiful, and I must confess one of the most interesting beaches I’ve every been swimming at.  As a sci-fi fan, the atomic-age scenery created by having the Pickering Nuclear Power Station as a backdrop was not lost me.  The singular show-piece wind-turbine, adds a 21st century touch, and a 1/2 kilometre of clear water and sand beach to swim across made it a surreal pleasure.  I’m still trying to find out how and what changed with the water quality, as it’s so much better than I remember.  And it’s always good to know when that things can change for the better.
Graphite plein air sketch on A4 paper
I try to maintain a certain discipline in my weekly routine, and the day was still an ‘art day’, so I brought along my portable art kit, a metal (and therefore damp-proof) clip-board and a small stack of A4 paper (my version of a sketch-book). I rarely do on-site sketching, as when outdoors I’m either physically engaged (walking, cycling, skiing, SWIMMING!) or I memorize with my eyes (and camera). But I guess I was feeling guilty about mid-week hooky, so after my first swim, I knuckled down and did some sketches. Most of it was pretty sketchy, folks just WILL NOT STAY STILL, but this pair were parked on the picnic bench just in front of me, oblivious to my observation and they pretty much stayed in one position as they ate their box lunches and thumbed their smart phones.
Mostly, though, my sketches come after the experience, after thoughts and feelings percolate back to the surface.
This is one I did a few days after my first experience swimming in the beaches downtown Toronto (Cherry Beach and Kew Beach), also a pleasant surprise, as the water was very nice.
BTW: if you’re thinking of swimming in these places, it’s always good to check the beach reports before you go.
Toronto Beaches are tested daily.
For Pickering, Frenchman’s Bay (tests weekly)  Durham Weekly Beach Report (OPEN-means good for swimming, POSTED-means polluted)

1 comment:

Jennifer Rose Phillip said...

i always thought of mutated fish when swimming in one of the great lakes as a kid, wished I would end up with an extra arm from swimming in one :p


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