Flirting with the merry widow

At one time everyone knew The Merry Widow, a precocious lady to say the least, with her store of precious metals hung about her. You have to talk to some of the North Island old timers to get her whole story. They remember her alright; during the days of the mine at Benson Lake she lured them all with her alpine treasures until a mine was eventually started on her slopes.

I won’t go into her history here but suffice it to say she has always been a beauty and is just as alluring to an artist’s soul as to any prospector’s. Beautiful mountains draw me like a magnet and The Merry widow ranks right up there with North Island’s scenic greats. There are only half a dozen that keep their crowns of snow all year round here on our relatively warm coast and she is one of them. I have painted her many times and each time I come away dazzled.

The last time I painted her a logging truck pulled up beside me. The driver looked at my easel set up on the logging road on the mountainside and looked puzzled. “What are you painting?”.

“The Merry Widow, of course”, I shot back. “Is that a problem”?

“No, but I’ve seen you painting her before” (He has been doing this run for years and once in awhile we run into each other. Thank goodness not literally!)

“Well, I’m doin’ her again from a little different angle. If you remember we were up on the hill north of here last time”.

Another logging truck had just gone by and given me a big “Howdy” wave. Logging truck drivers, largely underestimated, have one of the most dangerous jobs in the woods. As I wind my little minivan down some of these incredibly steep slopes I often picture myself behind the wheel of one of those big trucks with a load of huge logs piled up behind me ready to take me into the next world if I make the wrong move. These truckers seem quite casual about what they do yet, if you watch them closely they are at once deliberate and careful in their movements. That is why I’m never concerned about meeting them on the logging roads. I have yet to meet one that hasn’t been polite and considerate in our passing each other.

I did this oil painting on one of April’s beautiful clear days with the spring snow still glistening on The Widow. It was done on a logging road above Trout Lake just across the valley from the precocious mountain. If you want to follow my steps turn you car on to the Benson Lake road across from the Port McNeill Western offices and don’t take your foot off the gas for 32 kilometres!

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