North of Bayfield Inlet, Georgian Bay. 40” x 24”, oil on canvas, 2003
A tapestry of minute lights filling the night sky, air that renews your lungs and a silence broken only by the sounds of noc- turnal creatures and lapping waves against the shore..
There is no experience that melts one into the landscape like walking under the heavens in the wee hours of the morning on a remote island. Shrouded in darkness, the land takes on a mysteriousness that heightens your senses and permeates your being.
I had been thinking of trying to capture this in a painting on one of our trips, but had yet to come across the scene that for me would say these things. While doing some midday scouting by canoe around Head Island in Georgian Bay, I found a view that caught my attention and made plans to come back early the next morning.
While preparing to turn in for the night, visions of the canoe floating away while I slept prompted me to go and check on it. Typically while camping I would empty the canoe, pull it ashore, turn it upside down and maybe even secure it to a tree or a rock. But seeing as we were taking a couple of days in a cabin at this point in our trip, I decided to adopt the more convenient approach of just leaving some gear in it and tying off to the dock. Reaching it, I confirmed that all was well and prepared to hike back. That’s when I felt the alluring call of the night. I paused and looked up at the stars. Its difficult to describe the feeling one gets when facing such a vast universe from this peaceful and remote environment. A subtle awe settled in and for a few mesmerizing moments, I lost myself in it.
I rushed back to the cabin invigorated and with purpose. I was not going to wait until morning. Why, when such splendor awaited in the shadows? If I headed out in a couple of hours, the half moon would rise enough to shed light on the scene that I had found, and maybe create that which I had been looking for. So with gear by the door, I set my watch alarm and closed my eyes.
One o’clock rolled around and I awoke, gathered my things and struck out. The location I had found earlier was actually reach- able on foot, so I left the canoe where it was. Dim illumination provided by the moonlight revealed the ground before me as my eyes adjusted to the darkness. I picked my way along the water’s edge and reached the clearing where the northern sky was in full view. To my great surprise and pleasure, the scene had taken on some unexpected changes. A form of northern lights that I had never seen before, a greenish celestial arch, had appeared. As well, the Big Dipper joined in, and both had settled in just above the horizon where they completed my composition perfectly.
I soaked up as much as I could and headed in. On the hike back I couldn’t help but realize how fortunate we are to have places like these to enjoy.