A few months ago, my dear friend, Gerard Brender à Brandis, a world-renowned wood engraver based in Stratford, Ontario, came out to the Guelph to Goderich Rail Trail with me for a few peaceful hours. We were just west of tiny Wallenstein and strolled about a kilometre down the trail on a cloudy, humid spring day. Gerard, an expert in anything plant-related, named every bit of colour along the path and regaled me with entertaining stories about each plant -- what they were known for, if they were edible, their medicinal uses, etc. (In contrast, I believe I was able to come up with only two or three plant names along the entire 127-km path in my book...)
About a half an hour down the trail, he turned and quietly started back the way we had come. I was as silent as I could be, knowing something important was happening in his creative process. He stopped suddenly in the middle of the path, took another careful look around and said, "This will do nicely." He pulled a sketchbook out of his small knapsack, and with pencil in hand, perched himself comfortably on the flip-up seat of his walking stick. I carried on down the path the opposite way, trying very hard to be respectful, though I had a thousand questions for him. I took the photo below.
This, of course, was the genesis of what became the exquisite image at the start of my book. Entitled "Walking Home" the wood engraving is mesmerizing -- it pulls you in. Gerard was one of the first to read my manuscript and honoured me by finding this particular spot along the path that represented, to him, the essence of my story. It was an overwhelming experience to witness this modern-day master at work, and I am forever grateful for the enormity of his gift. The image is for sale in his gallery, "An Artist's Cottage," in downtown Stratford. If you have a chance to visit, he is as unique and layered as his remarkable engravings.