Thursday, March 14, 2013

Breakup on Portage Lake

During the 1970s when I lived in Anchorage and Palmer, Alaska, we got serious about skiing in March .  Firm snow and long sunny days lured us off on adventures nearly every weekend.  One of my favorites (you’ll probably hear those words often if you follow this blog) was Portage Lake at the head of Turnagain Arm southeast of Anchorage.  Back then you could see Portage Glacier from the parking lot where the US Forest Service visitor center now resides.  Without having to slog through deep soft snow it felt like we almost skated up the lake.  Tunnels in deep blue icebergs that had calved off the glacier before freeze up, and now frozen in time, provided wayside attractions along our route.  I “burned through” so much film those days that I was sure I was single-handedly supporting Kodak.  Upon reaching our goal, we’d climb around on the face of the glacier before wearily wending our way back to the car.

One summer day at Portage Lake we paused for lunch in the parking lot.  The lake had thawed and icebergs vied for space along the lake shore.  From the car parked next to ours out popped a frisky lass and her camera-laden companion  She took one look around, then, without a moments hesitation, stripped to just the wind on her skin.  With that, she dashed for the lake and dove in among the icebergs.  She didn’t linger. 

In June, 2011 I visited Portage Lake for the first time in many years.  It has changed.  Around 1984 the glacier retreated around a bend and is no longer visible from the more recently constructed observatory.  Back in the 70s Portage Lake was the end of the line unless you took a train through a tunnel to Whittier in Prince William Sound.  Today you can drive around part of the lake, pay a toll and drive through the railroad tunnel to Whittier.  However, the view is still world class.  

                            Breakup on Portage Lake    18 X 24 inches    Alkyd on Canvas

I painted “Breakup on Portage Lake” from a photo I took on that glorious June day.  The winter ice cover had recently departed and only small icebergs bobbed around in the lake.  Since the painting was a somewhat abstracted piece, I initially painted an abstracted line of brush in the foreground.  It looked good in the photo, so I figured it would look good in the painting.  No.  Karen thought it looked more like a cross between a hedgehog with a moderate case of mange and the toothbrush we use to clean the unidentified stuff between our bathroom faucet and the backsplash.  So, on her suggestion, I took the painting back a few days in time -- back to breakup as the ice went out.  I disappeared the brush and replaced it with the considerably abstracted ice floes.  Maybe I should try a painting of a hedgehog next.

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