Arthur Lismer first visited me in Algonquin Park in May of 1914. I met Arthur at the Canoe Lake Station. It was about ten o’clock in the evening when the train rolled into the station. After nine stuffy hours in the train, Arthur revelled in the fresh and cold air, invigorating his body and forgetting about the city left behind.
It was a cold spring night, the frogs were piping as we drove through the bush to the Fraser’s at Mowat Lodge. The glorious moon was coming over the spruce tops shedding a yellow and mysterious light on everything. The air was tang and I could see that Arthur was anticipating every bump – he did not know what to expect – this was an alien land to him.The days I had together with Arthur were simply grand. I had the pleasure of introducing Arthur to the North Country. I could see it in his eyes. Arthur was eager to learn and in the days we were together I introduced him to the trails, paddling, how to make camp and most importantly how to fish. He was enthralled to see the North in its rugged beauty and design. We portaged, sketched and moved over what Arthur kept calling the magic land.
We went from one lake to another and I showed Arthur the trails I had made in the previous year. He couldn’t see them but I could. A matter of perception I reckon. Despite it being mid-May there was still snow in the woods – deep in the woods. In the late spring, I liked to hunt for snow, like it was wild animal. It was a reward for me when I could find the last vestige of snow of winter, especially when the leaves were beginning to come out.
I showed Arthur that every day in spring was an urgency for colour. What seemed like dead birches one day, would burst into a vibrant yellow-green overnight. We watched the wildlife take on a new sense of urgency, or rather a new vigour for life. We saw the beaver, the cries of the Canada geese still heading northward. Arthur loved it and he was thrilled to part of my spring.
It was cold in the evenings, and the temperature about midnight to early in the morning was below the freezing point. Any water left in the camp pails was frozen hard. But the sun came up and everything responded to its glow and warmth.
We revelled in what Arthur called the glamorous North. He never experienced anything like it. It was a wonderful time, when everything was on the very edge of rebirth with a peculiar intensity that can’t be described but it can be painted.