In the summer of 1974 we rolled into Port McNeill with four kids inside our station wagon and two canoes strapped to the top. After traveling two thousand miles from Northern Manitoba, there were times when the kids almost joined the canoes! They were ages nine to fourteen then and the scrapping, after being in those close quarters for that long, was only natural; however, as we drove the short distance from Hwy. 19 into McNeill, a place we had never seen, you could hear a pin drop.
We had accepted teaching positions with School District 85 and by the next summer were building a home on Woodland Drive so we could vacate the three bedroom apartment provided by the school district. We are still proud to say that our family, with all that young energy, built the house in its entirety. During that second summer, we were the only house on the east end of the town. Standing on our new floor, there was not another building to be seen; not even a roof! Forty years later East McNeill is the main residential area.
Just as many of Port McNeill’s residents enjoy an incomparable view of Broughton Strait with Sointula and the Coast Range as a backdrop, we were no exception, enjoying immensely our huge TV screen, with its passing parade of watercraft. During the next six years, each morning was a blessing with a new view of the sun rising over that eastern horizon or perhaps a winter southeaster whipping up the whitecaps on the strait and our windows straining under the onslaught. Never ever boring!
It was a “bit of a shocker” when by 1980 our kids had found new horizons and we were alone in our five bedroom house, while our “new horizons” proved to be not too distant. In 1979 I had become a full time artist; a lifetime hobby becoming a new career. After having acquired a couple of hectares in the newly formed Nimpkish Heights, it made good sense to move to a place that enabled us to live the artist’s life. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take the view with us but soon grew used to living in the woods, a charming substitute. One of the things that we do not miss are the winter winds, which are amazingly non-existent here, except in the treetops; a shelter from the storms.
The painting displayed here shows my Nimpkish Heights connection with the ocean. Each morning I bicycle two kilometres straight down past the Petro station through Hyde Creek and down a long steep hill to this view of Broughton Strait. Incredibly invigorating, it gives me that “every morning look” at our friend, the ocean. The ocean that I used to see from Woodland Drive, with one welcome addition: I can hear the water!
For over 35 years Gordon Henschel has captured the very essence of the North Island land and sea, seizing moments in time. Comments: email: firstname.lastname@example.org or website: www.henschelfinearts.com