This historical painting shows the effects of a mild winter and early spring arrival at one of the Finger Lakes near Port McNeill.

This historical painting shows the effects of a mild winter and early spring arrival at one of the Finger Lakes near Port McNeill.

Painting the early thaw

As a mild winter turns to early spring, flowers begin to show through.

If you live on Northern Vancouver Island I guess I don’t have to tell you we’ve had an exceptionally mild winter; admittedly moisture-laden but, nevertheless, mild.

Like most of us I wouldn’t mind a bit more sunshine but the benefits are more obvious in heating the house. We really enjoy a wood fire and use our wood stove quite a bit. By this time of year I’m usually frantically searching for new wood supplies but this year my woodpile looks rather healthy!

One wonders, however, about the blessings of so warm a winter. (After watching David Suzuki’s show on global warming I can visualize seawater lapping at our doorstep.) The daffodils and tulips are boldly peeking through what is obviously warm soil. Don’t they know it’s mid-January?  The alders are taking on that reddish-brown blush that is reserved for March and in south facing, sheltered low spots skunk cabbages are beginning to show signs of life.

Cause for concern? Not really. I can remember other mild winters when the salmonberry bushes audaciously stuck their pink tongues out at the world when they should have been wearing scarves of snow. After all, this is the “Wet Coast” and our environment is incredibly flexible.

This January I did the accompanying oil painting in my studio from a sketch done years ago of one of the Finger Lakes that are accessible by a spur off the Mac-Blo Main out of Port McNeill. It was sketched on one of those unseasonably warm winter days when the alders were beginning to show off their spring garb.

This painting is now a bit of history. The lake was renamed Ellison Lake in honour of Carl Ellison, a former Mac-Blo employee. I had to walk several kilometres to the lake down an old logging road overgrown with alders. It seems the area had been selectively logged at one time with very little sign of human impact.

This same trail is now a full-blown logging road once more. The wooded hills shown in the painting have been “culturally modified” by present day loggers. Mother Nature has again modified the six-year-old modification and the hills are once again greening up nicely. Time moves on.

Gordon Henschel owns an art gallery in Nimpkish Heights. www.henschel.ca