A Brush with Henschel: Country Garden

A few years ago, on my usual July hunt for fireweed scenes, nostalgia hit me right between the eyes. I remembered when clear-cuts were still very clear and on your way down island, turning a corner, you would sometimes see an entire valley bathed in various shades of pink and mauve. Remember that? The effect was almost surrealistic as you floated along in your car through what seemed like a garden of colour.

Wanting to relive some of this visual splendour, I optimistically packed my paints and headed toward where I had last seen clear-cuts of any size, the Eve River Valley. Although, after passing the Tsitika headwaters area and slowing down to keep a sharp eye out for any hint of a break in the forest, I almost missed the clear-cut when it did come along because it was off the highway.

A flash of colour alerted me but I had to turn around to find the logging road that led to the illusive prize. I was not to be disappointed. For the rest of the day I painted in an area where the fireweed blazed everywhere in the distance, wave upon wave, to finally lose itself against the shadows of the mountains that formed its backdrop. The result was the painting shown here which we finally published as a print.

A couple of weeks ago, remembering this very successful endeavour, I repeated the trip down the Island Highway hoping for a similar wonderful day in my “country garden”. The fireweed along the highway was in perfect bloom, the petals being about halfway up the stalk. As I neared the old familiar logging road I literally trembled with anticipation.

I should know by now how fast the trees grow in this country! The Western people had done a good job of reforestation; too good. The little trees that last year had looked so good among the fireweed, had grown enough to obliterate any sign of my beautiful bouquets. I had to be content with my old print and memories of sunny days and buzzing bees.

Always an opportunist, however, I set up my paints and did the mountains!

Comments: email: gordon@cablerocket.com or website: www.henschel.ca.

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