I canoe every chance I get. Living near a swamp and wildlife management are with 36,000 acres of protected wet lands in fun to canoe in. Friends stop in now and them and we take a canoe ride. One brisk November a fellow visiting New Orleans stopped in so I could take him for a ride to see the swamp in winter. It is as beautiful then as ever. Generally, after putting the canoe in at the landing I give a brief talk about safety, sitting still, not “rocking the boat”, and wearing a personal flotation device are essential things to be aware of. Along with that, more tips on canoeing in a deep water with a strong current as we enter the river. I explained we paddle in “dead water” usually near the bank with no strong current, but warn not too close to overhanging tree branches and stumps. This trip the visiting fellow would reach up and grasp low hanging branches just interested in what the tree was and what was on it. Some have Spanish Moss, some have sweet smelling leaves but a lot as I warned, have insects. Ants, bugs, and wasps live in those branches. So I asked that he be careful and not disturb things. Especially not grasp so hard and tight as to tip over the boat. As we slowly paddled along in the dead water near the bank he found a branch with a nice size oval wasp nest. Asking me to get closer so he could look, we paddled to it. It was about 9 inches long and looked empty. Pretty paper with some leaves hanging from it. I cautioned him but he got close and told me he thought it was empty and would like to cut it down. Again I said maybe it is best to leave the swamp just with a photo and memories? After taking a knife and cutting it down he placed the nest by his feet in the canoe. That day was cold between 38 and 40 degrees as we started out but slowly warming. It wasn’t long until the sun shining on his feet warmed up that nest. Wasps sleep in the cold moorings of winter but when they warm some go out looking for food. He realized shortly the nest was not empty and began to ask what to do so I quickly paddled to the bank and told him throw it on shore. He hesitated but then did it quickly. The wasps were more concerned about their home than the canoe or us and flew off to keep with the nest. Close call but another learning experience that it is best to leave the swamp with memories and photos and not tokens that may have a sting or bite.
From a lot of canoeing I take photos and paint from them. The swamp is a place you can find interesting things and a lot of scenes to paint. Here is a link to my paintings http://www.figstreet.com/studio