Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Old Beaver Pond

Our 1963-vintage aluminum Grumman canoe has reasons for being dented and leaky.   In it’s infanthood, it plowed furrows through too many shallow gravel bars, scraped too many rocks as we wildly careened down Vermont Creeks swollen with spring runoff.  We didn’t always make it.  Once we hiked out to a road to get ropes -- to wrench the canoe off a rock where the roaring current pinned it like Wily Coyote under a boulder.  The bend in the bottom of our canoe persists to this day.  I have a photo of my arm -- the only part of me above water -- clutching a paddle after an unsuccessful attempt to make it over a waterfall.  That day turned out to be good practice for the time I found myself sitting in the canoe in the middle of a lake on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula a week after the ice went out.  The only glitch  -- the canoe was upside down.  Lesson learned -- kneel in canoes.  Forget the seat.

Now, living here on Mitkof Island, this beat up craft may not be the most suitable water conveyance.  Our island lacks whitewater rivers that aren’t full of wind-thrown logs.  The nearest qualifier is the tide rip at the mouth of Wrangell Narrows.  There a dunking would be a high likelihood.  Survival a much lower likelihood.  We’ll pass. 

One local place conducive to safe canoeing, though, is Blind Slough.  There, the channel that flows out of Blind River, the route of many a migrating salmon, continually beckons.  Launching the canoe from the Blind Slough picnic area it’s about a half mile up that channel to a subtle side tributary.  Exploring that channel many years ago we found it lead to a massive beaver pond stretching behind a massive beaver dam. 

More recently we set off to explore that pond.  Our intent -- push the canoe up that subtle channel, with detours dragging it over logs and through brush lining the creek.  The pseudo-portage wasn’t easy., but we made it...only to find the beavers gone, the pond drained and replaced by an extensive meadow. 

I hope someday the beavers return to rerun nature’s cycle.  Meanwhile I remembered one rainy-day photograph I took of that pond years ago.  That moment in time needed to be painted.  

                                   The Old Beaver Pond    18 X 24 inches    Alkyd on Canvas

Part way through, before I added the standing snags (dead trees) that had died when the beavers first flooded the forest, I froze.  I liked the painting just that way.  Should I press on?  I consulted my chief art critics, Karen and John McCabe.  John suggested it was finished -- that if I chose to press on -- in his immortal words, “Don’t screw it up.”  I stopped.  It’s an artists prerogative.

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