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The Nature of Durham Region: Words Inspiring Pictures

© By John Arkelian

Photographs © by Martha Weber & Andris Piebalgs

Situated on the eastern reaches of the Greater Toronto Area, Durham Region is bordered by a Great Lake (Lake Ontario) on the south, with a second lake (Scugog) in its center, and a third (Simcoe) at its northern border.  Home to 633,130 people (as of 2011), its 2,590 square kilometers comprise two cities, several large towns, and large swathes of rural land.  A visible reminder of the last Ice Age, the Oak Ridges Moraine, runs through the region’s center.  An artificial construct of the provincial government that glued together several disparate communities, yes; but, there’s no denying the sheer diversity of the place – in geography, urban and rural contrasts, economic pursuits (everything from automobile manufacturing to higher education to agriculture and tourism), and cultural life – with one of Canada’s best symphony orchestras, a successful year-round international film festival, an award-winning magazine of arts and ideas, galleries, museums, bands, choral groups, opera, amateur theater, artists, and photographers.

In Summer 2014, two of the region’s enterprising artist/photographers – Andris Piebalgs and Martha Weber – embarked on an imaginative new project to give expression to the way people living in Durham see their own regional community:  “We would like to hear from people about their favorite place in the Region.   It doesn’t have to be a spectacular setting, just any place that, for some reason, touches and renews their spirits.  Do you have a favorite place?   Let us know how you feel about your chosen place.  We will try to see it that way too when we consider how to photograph it.”  Thus, The Nature of Durham Region” project was all about words inspiring pictures.

The goal was to explore the natural beauty of Durham Region through the eyes of its residents.  The written submissions of more than 30 people describing their special places in Durham were photographed using high resolution technology.  “Some of these locations are well known and some are hidden gems.  But all are accessible to the public.”  The result was an exhibition of photographs at Weber and Piebalgs’ Cross Roads Gallery in Cannington that opened in October 2014.  Now, beginning in August 2015, Artsforum is pleased to bring you that exhibition – of words and the images those words inspired. We begin with three places; more will be added at regular intervals.

Editor’s Note: For more about Cross Roads Art & Photography, visit:  http://crossroadsart.photography/#/page/home/


(I) Standing on the Shore at Lakeview Park

© By John Arkelian

I had lived in Oshawa for some time before I ever became aware of Lakeview Park’s existence.  The fact that it came as a belated

Lakeview Park – photo © 2014 by Martha Weber & Andris Piebalgs.

Lakeview Park – photo © 2014 by Martha Weber & Andris Piebalgs.

discovery made the place doubly special for me.  Even now, some of that sense of ‘happy surprise’ about the place lingers:  Suddenly, I have left the city behind.  Getting there involves a dreary drive through busy commercial sections of the city (for me, the entire length of the city).  But, once there, it’s like being in another place altogether – with Lake Ontario spanning the horizon like a vast inland sea.  It makes me think of the ocean, which, as a Maritimer once-removed, I long for in my bones.  On a windy day, the place has many of the elements of earthly beauty that most move me – breakers crashing against the beach, cool air in motion about me, sandy beaches, blue waters reflecting the blue sky above, long vistas from the tree-lined boardwalk (and from Bonnie Bray Point), rocky ramparts lining portions of the shoreline, and a sense of serene solitude and freedom.  In such a place, like the Atlantic seashore, my spirit shrugs off its mundane burdens and worldly concerns – and soars.  It’s a year-round treat, but never lovelier than in my favorite of all seasons – autumn.  And in the evening, the sun is on its way to a daily rendezvous with the distant horizon, while the crowds have evaporated, leaving me alone with my thoughts and the intoxicating beauty of a place that both is, and is not, part of the community in which I live.


(II) The Beaver River

© By Nancy Aldridge

The Beaver River wending its way from Uxbridge to Beaverton, defines many lovely vistas in Durham Region, none of which, in my

Beaver River – photo © 2014 by Martha Weber & Andris Piebalgs.

Beaver River – photo © 2014 by Martha Weber & Andris Piebalgs.

view, are more magnificent than those found near Blue Mountain Road off Lakeridge Road.  There, walking the trail that parts the rustling reeds characteristic of wetlands, I feel very much at peace in quietness, under the scope and majesty of the ever-changing expanse of sky that dominates this area.


(III) White Cliffe Terrace Cenotaph

© By Marsha Scott

“At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.”  Early in 2010, White Cliffe Terrace Retirement Residence in Courtice made a commitment to construct a permanent cenotaph on our grounds as a place of remembrance for our

White Cliffe Terrace Cenotaph – photo © 2014 by Martha Weber & Andris Piebalgs.

White Cliffe Terrace Cenotaph – photo © 2014 by Martha Weber & Andris Piebalgs.

residents as well as the local community.  After consulting with the local Legion and other stakeholders, an artist’s rendering of the cenotaph was prepared.  The design used the same brick and architecture as the front entrance to tie into our building.  A helmet worn by a Canadian solder during WW II was sourced to top the cenotaph.  Construction was kept in-house to help with costs, and it also allowed the residents to daily monitor the progress of the monument.

On May 1, 2010, a ground-breaking ceremony was held to begin construction.  The Legion and local dignitaries, along with residents, staff, and families came together for the ground-breaking ceremony just outside our main entrance.  On September 18, 2010, a dedication service was held.  Residents, their families, staff, dignitaries, and the community at large were invited to participate, as the completed cenotaph was unveiled.  The Legion attended with their ‘colour-guard’ and participated in the service.  On November 11, 2010, the first Remembrance Day Service at the new cenotaph was observed.  It was an emotional event as veterans from White Cliffe Terrace, local politicians, and other community-based organizations who wished to honour the veterans by laying a wreath, came together “to remember.”  Each November 11th, we hold a service honoring the veterans residing at White Cliffe Terrace Retirement Residence – all veterans that have served over the years, as well as those who paid the ultimate price.  The community at large is welcome to join with us.


(IV) Tyrone Mills

© By Robert Shafer

The Tyrone Mill was built in 1846 in order to supply the local market with a place for the farmers to sell their wheat and to supply them with flour.  During the 1850’s and 1860’s flour was shipped to Great Britain and the United States.  As markets and local

Tyrone Mills – photo © 2014 by Martha Weber & Andris Piebalgs.

Tyrone Mills – photo © 2014 by Martha Weber & Andris Piebalgs.

agriculture changed, the mill moved into feed milling as its main business.  In the late 1950’s, as the feed mill business declined, a saw mill was added along with woodworking.  That enabled the mill to stay in business until the current owners, France & Robert Shafer, bought it in 1979.  The first year, we made $50 grinding feed and quickly realized that feed milling belonged to the past.  We concentrated on the lumber business and sawed logs on a custom basis.  We eventually began to develop a retail lumber market specializing in cedar and pine.  After a couple of years the mill began to press apples into cider.  We pressed cider for 25 years and developed the bakery and store side of the business.

In 1996, after re-installing millstones, we ground our first wheat in over 100 years.  Today the mill is still in the lumber business, providing cedar, pine, and hemlock for many different uses.  We can produce our own mouldings and other specialty products.  The second floor still has the original woodworking machinery and is used to produce Muskoka chairs.  Flour milling is done on as-needed basis to supply our store.  We are known for our apple cider doughnuts, and other items are baked daily.  Recently, we have teamed up with a local gluten-free baker who sells her products at the mill.  Certainly unique, Tyrone Mills is one of the last water-powered mills in Ontario.  Please stop by for a visit.


(V) The Beach and Pier at Lakeview Park

© By Grace Stevenson

We moved to Oshawa in 1970 and I began to work for the stationery company in which my husband was now a partner.  Our office was in the south part of the city, and it wasn’t long before I discovered a

The Beach and Pier at Lakeview Park – photo © 2014 by Martha Weber & Andris Piebalgs.

The Beach and Pier at Lakeview Park – photo © 2014 by Martha Weber & Andris Piebalgs.

nearby street led down to Lake Ontario.  I love the water, so, after that, my lunch beside me, I drove down to Oshawa beach every noon and parked the car facing that huge body of water a friend from Scotland called “another ocean” when she first saw it.  On good days, I got out and sat on a bench to eat my sandwich.  But the days I enjoyed the most were those when the wind forced me to shelter in the car watching the angry waves roar up onto the beach and foamy whitecaps adorn the vast expanse of water stretching far into the distance.  Those solitary hours, combined with exploratory drives on peaceful northern Durham roads, helped to ease the stress caused by leaving Montreal, the city where I was born and which I still love.  They also prepared me for the next chapter of my life, one that has proved to be both eventful and happy.


(VI) Mandela Point

On July 18, 2014, the City of Oshawa dedicated a gazebo and lookout point in Lakeview Park (and erected a plaque) to the memory of Nelson Mandela (1918-2013).  Mandela became closely identified with the quest by the people of South Africa for freedom under the

Mandela Point at Oshawa's shoreline – photo © 2014 by Martha Weber & Andris Piebalgs.

Mandela Point at Oshawa’s shoreline – photo © 2014 by Martha Weber & Andris Piebalgs.

oppressive apartheid regime.  His opposition to that regime (which included armed resistance) resulted in his imprisonment for 27 years.  Remarkably, that ordeal seemed to leave him unscathed by the bitterness, rancor, and vindictiveness which it so easily might have engendered.  Instead, he came to embody the very qualities – dignity, compassion, forgiveness, endurance, patience, and forbearance – that enabled Nelson Mandela to become a force for unity among South Africa’s erstwhile contentious racial and ethnic solitudes and become a statesman who was admired by people in many countries, including Canada.  He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, and he was elected President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.   © 2015 by John Arkelian

“The purpose of freedom is to create it for others.”

“I [have] always admired men and women who used their talents to serve the community… even though they held no office whatsoever in government or society.  The combination of talent and humility, of being able to be at home with both the poor and the wealthy, the weak and the mighty, ordinary people and royalty, young and old, men and women, with a common touch, irrespective of their race or background, are admired by humankind all over the globe….”

“As a young man I… combined all the weaknesses, errors and indiscretions of a country boy, whose range of vision and experience were influenced mainly by events in the area in which I grew up and the colleges to which I was sent.  I relied on arrogance in order to hide my weaknesses.  As an adult, my comrades raised me and my fellow prisoners, with some significant exceptions, from obscurity to either a bogey or enigma, although the aura of being one of the world’s longest serving prisoners never totally evaporated.  One issue that deeply worried me in prison was the false image that I unwittingly projected to the outside world; of being regarded as a saint.  I never was one, not even on the basis of an earthly definition of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

The quoted words from Mandela come from:  “Conversations with Myself” by Nelson Mandela (Doubleday Canada, 2010).

Editor’s Note:  Mandela Point was suggested to the photographers for their Nature of Durham Region project by the mayor of Oshawa, the day after he participated in the site’s dedication.  (The dedication took place on what would have been Mandela’s 96th birthday.)


(VII) Amos Pond

© By Susan Ward

My father, Joseph Amos, came home from World War II in April

Amos Pond photo © 2014 by Martha Weber & Andris Piebalgs.

Amos Pond – photo © 2014 by Martha Weber & Andris Piebalgs.



1945 after five and a half years’ service.  He married Frances Campkin on May 9, 1945.  He bought acreage with a small sand pit and eventually it led to an aggregate, loam, sand, and gravel business.  When the product was depleted, it created a larger pond, and Joe planted willow trees on its banks.  The neighborhood still enjoys swimming and sledding at Amos Pond – which is situated in Pickering at the corner of Finch & York-Durham Townline.


(VIII) Chalk Lake

© By Bob & Arlene Jacobs

Our special spot is the view from the south side of the Skyloft Chalet,

Chalk Lake photo © 2014 by Martha Weber & Andris Piebalgs.

Chalk Lake – photo © 2014 by Martha Weber & Andris Piebalgs.

overlooking Durham’s beautiful landscape to the southeast.  The top of the adjacent ski lift, we understand, is the highest point in Southern Ontario.  Included in the vista is Chalk Lake, on which we are fortunate to live.  Finally, it was the location for our daughter’s recent wedding reception and this view provides the backdrop for the wedding and family photos.  We feel so fortunate to live in this beautiful area.


(IX) Lakeridge Road – from Whitby to Beaverton

© By Cheryl Jack

Driving north of Highway 7 along Lakeridge Road to Beaverton,

Lakeridge Road photo © 2014 by Martha Weber & Andris Piebalgs.

Lakeridge Road — photo © 2014 by Martha Weber & Andris Piebalgs.

awe-inspiring hills and valleys in abundance make my heart soar – with farms on either side of the road, vistas of wide-open fields, and billowing beckoning cloud formations.  We pass Hy Hope Farm, Dagmar Ski Resort, and then down to the Chalk Lake water pipes, through which flow endless gallons of spring water.  Crossing Highway 47, the turn off for Uxbridge brings to mind this delightful town:  first settled by Quakers in the 1800’s, it is ‘the Trail Capital of Canada.’  A little further and there’s the road to Leaskdale and the house where, for fifteen years, Lucy Maud Montgomery and her family resided.  The end of the road finds us in Beaverton, on the shores of Lake Simcoe, with its trains traversing the small town as regular as clockwork, whistles blowing day and night.


(X)  McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Preserve in Oshawa

© By Chelsie Vaillancourt

Sometimes getting away from the busy-ness that we call our city life

McLaughlin Bay – photo © 2014 by Martha Weber & Andris Piebalgs.

McLaughlin Bay – photo © 2014 by Martha Weber & Andris Piebalgs.

is difficult, yet necessary.  A walk in the wild – that is the backyard of a General Motors building – is all that really needs to be prescribed to cure a hectic day.  Walking along these trails, you can smell the sweet scent of blooming wild flowers.  You can feel the small stones under your feet and if you listen closely, you can hear the calming waves of the lake getting louder with every step.  This site is a refreshing deep breath.

Photographers’ note:  Chelsie was the youngest participant in the Nature of Durham Region Project.  She is a gifted flautist and recently, at age 16, she was selected to be a member of the prestigious Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra (TSYO).  At the time of this writing, Chelsie can be seen on the TSYO’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/TheTSYO/


(XI)  High Point Road in Scugog Township

© By Mara & Karl Bergmanis

A beautiful scene is a drive east along High Point Road from Ashburn Road.  Look south over the fields, or north to the woods, or toward

High Point Road – photo © 2014 by Martha Weber & Andris Piebalgs.

High Point Road – photo © 2014 by Martha Weber & Andris Piebalgs.

the rows of trees and fences for a reminder of the gentle peaceful countryside of the land of our birth.  And around mid-afternoon, you can see dairy cows being herded across this road to be milked.  How often does that still happen in the region?  How fortunate we are living in the treetops surrounded by soft pine trees, oaks, and maples – below us, though obscured by these trees, a small spring-fed silent lake; while behind us, climbing a short steep hill, we can overlook Durham Region and see in the distance, some 80 kilometers away, the skyline of Toronto and the C.N. Tower.  Nature, silence, solitude, and spiritual renewal: What a gift indeed!


(XII)  Grass Park in Brooklin

© By Sue Pitchforth (Chairperson, Group 74)

We moved into the area approximately 20 years ago, coming from Streetsville, not knowing what to expect.  We wanted to raise our

Grass Park – photo © 2014 by Martha Weber & Andris Piebalgs.

Grass Park – photo © 2014 by Martha Weber & Andris Piebalgs.

son in a small town atmosphere with a strong sense of community.  Little did we know we picked the right place!  After moving in and unpacking, we decided to explore and walk into the downtown area.  As we were coming across Cassels Road, we heard distant music.  We followed the music and ended up in this quaint, triangular park named Grass Park right in the centre of town.  What a wonderful spot!  We just loved how it was a hub of the community and how it drew people together.  Grass Park is such a special place – where families gather to enjoy ice cream, visit, picnic, and listen to ‘Music in the Park’ weekly in the summer months.  Major events such as Summer Artfest, Harvest Festival, and Christmas in the Village are centered in the park – and draw thousands.  For me, Grass Park is a very special part of living in Brooklin and in our region.  It truly reflects how special Brooklin is and still provides a warm feeling each time I drop by:  I think of all the wonderful memories we have and it makes me smile.


Here are a trio of one photographer’s personal encounters with landscapes during the Nature of Durham Region project.  Photographer Andris Pielbalgs’ own prose descriptions are accompanied here by poems from Durham’s poet laureate Owen Neill.

(XIII)  Candle in the Wind

 © By Andris Piebalgs

 Beaverton:  Along the eastern shore of Lake Simcoe stands a

Candle in the Wind – photo © 2014 by Andris Piebalgs.

Candle in the Wind – photo © 2014 by Andris Piebalgs.

gnarled finger of a tree.  Its roots are black and bare; the waves are eating the ground that gave it birth.  This cedar began life behind a large stone, but seeking light it grew sideways before turning outward over the lake.  The course of its long journey is recorded in its sinuous trunk and missing boughs.  One day it will plunge into the water.  Until then, it stands a testament to tenacity and strength facing the powerful storms of life.

Summer Drifting

© By Owen Neill

I lie in the roots of the multiple birch,
silver fountains into the sky.
Sun flashes through its watery branches
and touches me speckled with its eye.
Clouds drift by like lazy fishes
riding the rhythms of their great blue sea.
I am gently swept past enviable eddies
through the twilight gates of my magic tree.

Its oozing sap is the blood in my rings.
I am earth-child bound while my branches sway,
and I know the ecstasy of synthesis
when heat and the season carry me away.

My skin is the bark that houses me.
My finger-leaves cascade into the sky.
My hair roots drink the sweet earth wine.
My rustling voice is the sky hawk’s cry.

We share the world and yet as one
the elements press their proclamation.
Our ecstasies are all the same
once we accept our limitation.


(XIV) High Water Dancer

 © By Andris Piebalgs

Lake Scugog in April (at Port Perry):  A delicate tracery of shadow

High Water Dancer – photo © 2014 by Andris Piebalgs.

High Water Dancer – photo © 2014 by Andris Piebalgs.

and reflection offers a graceful ballet, which belies the stresses of frequent spring flooding.

Seeing More

© By Owen Neill

Through my shades I learn what the bees sees
grasses red-stalked, bloomed and dripping
chased by the lake wind winnows
as far as the world can go
beckoning me now to come too.

But Raven calls me not to forget
the purple flash of his black games
as I stride upon the morning air
eyes polarized against the sun
yet seeing things beyond subtlety
beyond the spectrum of my ordinary.

Old venues underfoot, mere lake and grass
cut to fit parameters of summer play
deserted now this suncharged morning
but for voices bouncing off the water
youthful banter under novice sails
and a fitful loon chattering
where cattails sharpen their claws.

Deserted yet, though summer’s high
this haven, once river, dammed for power
now paradise for just a little walk
snakes its course in whiskey flow
and cradles beauty in its peace
even when crowds lounge human on its edge.
I see it all in my metamorphosis.
Like the bee my flight seeks for a honey reward.


© By Owen Neill

cool looks without sight
cruel hooks in the night

more savage by day as eyes rush to hide
and ravage heart’s disarray as cries hush inside

Nothing but
your silence.


(XV)  Oasis of Life

 © By Andris Piebalgs

 Lynde Shore Conservation Area in Whitby:  A complex interplay of

Oasis of Life – photo © 2014 by Andris Piebalgs.

Oasis of Life – photo © 2014 by Andris Piebalgs.

sun, cloud, water, marsh grasses, and trees supports a rich and varied habitat for wildlife.

Cloudy Moments

© By Owen Neill

Often I look to that cloud ruffle skyscape above
and relish my childhood delights way back when.
On this Fall day pale blue and varied greys
play ins-and-outs with constant variation
and my instant delight in this childish throwback moment
leaves me to wonder why I do not do this more often.

Clouds are always there hovering for speculation.
Playful or ominous they display their weather moods
and if we take the time then we can join
escaping the moment of daily earth concerns
to fly with birds and taste the wine of angels
before a parent voice dissolves the spell.

This day of autumn they distract my immediacy
and I pause to see and feel their seasonal race.
I’m involved as once when I had childish cares
and time to waste on an afternoon with a friend
when we lay on a hill and played with cloud shapes
eyes full of many things that were not there.

Memory’s a grand thing for a reality check.
My child inside still thrills me secretly
and looking at clouds on a busy adult day
brings a freshness I haven’t felt for much too long.
I promise myself to indulge more cloud formations
and spread the word of nature’s grand gallery sky.


(XVI) Cannington Valley View

Suggested by Karin Mundinger

Cannington Valley View – photo © 2014 by Martha Weber & Andris Piebalgs.

Go south of Cannington to explore the Trans-Canada Trail in this area.   Sometimes the sky is peppered with cotton clouds throwing shadows across the fields.  The contrast can be exquisite and haunting.  Drive south on Laidlaw from Cameron Street.  Just outside Cannington, the road rises and crosses an old railway bed, which is now part of the Trail.  As the road descends again, look to your left to see the valley.   But, if you decide to stop, be sure to park further downhill, where roadside space is a little wider and cars cresting the hill have time to pass you safely.


(XVII) Lake Park Pier at Whitby Harbor

Suggested by Adam Dimitrick

An evening mist in early autumn creates a ghostly image of the pier

Whitby Lake Park Pier – photo © 2014 by Martha Weber & Andris Piebalgs.

during the brief moments when the water appears to meets the sky.  Then, people on the pier become quiet and introspective, seemingly slipping into a dreamlike state where perhaps everything is possible, until dusk turns to darkness.  Located on one of the finest natural harbors on Lake Ontario, Port Whitby Marina is award-winning, year-round marina with 420-slips, operated by the Town of Whitby.  The marina has been a member of Boating Ontario’s ‘Clean Marine Environmental Audit Program’ since 2003, consistently scoring among the top five percent of marinas in the province.  In 2009, the marina achieved the highest rating of ‘Five Green Leaf Anchors.’  In 2012, it won the ‘Robert Eaton Environmental Award’ for excellence in environmental practices. 


(XVIII) Valleyview Gardens in Oshawa

Suggested by Marian Vipond

Valleyview Gardens – photo © 2014 by Martha Weber & Andris Piebalgs.

Located in downtown Oshawa, the home of the annual Peony Festival and some of the best formal gardens in Durham Region, Valleyview Gardens is a hidden gem.  Perhaps it is the location between Bond and Adelaide streets along Oshawa Creek that makes it hard to notice – as it cannot be seen at all from Bond Street.  With their winding pathways, the scenic gardens and park provide a quiet, contemplative place in the middle of the busy city.  The Rotary Bridge was erected in 2006 by the Oshawa clubs in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Rotary.  After heavy rains, this late afternoon picture shows the bridge in long shadows with just the east end still bathed in brilliant sunlight.

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