The Outdoorsman

“Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.“ Rachel Carson 

His love of northern forests, pristine lakes, wildlife and quiet spaces drew him to a career in Parks. 

In those days the job was physically demanding requiring self sufficiency. Perfect for an athletic person comfortable being alone in the wilderness.

“Note the distinct difference of pine and spruce. Now draw them,” Dad instructed as we wandered northern boreal forest. Happy to be with my Dad in the park, surrounded by the scent of pine, I dutifully turned to my paper.

I don’t remember the detailed lessons of pine & spruce he taught that day when I was a child. But I do recall the spread of his wide shoulders under his kaki shirt swooping down to scoop a pine cone in his calloused hand. I remember the timber of his gentle voice and the easy manner of which he walked. I remember that moment so clearly, my love for him shining in my heart as it does today. Sharing shyness and a love of wilderness, we walked to the sound of chickadees in the bright summer sun.

He is a man of few words, who stands by them. Never to offend, always in respect and kindness. A leader by example. Not once have I heard him raise his voice. Never. Not in anger, fear, or celebration.

He fought forest fires and injustice, broken trail and found lost hunters. He tracked, tended wounded wildlife, and worked undercover to catch poachers. He spent recreational time playing music, sharing it with others. At 86, he still does. 

He can still hear the soft call of a crane over forest & village chatter, and is attentive of wildlife migrations. Mom would say, “you can take the guy out the park, but never the park out of the guy.”

Dad’s sensible teachings translate to the work I do, and how I live my life.

When I was 14, Dad proposed a one-time weekend job cleaning the forest fire crew’s quarters. ( paid from his pocket.) Approaching the empty bunkhouse, he said. “Remember, for the summer, this is their home. Do not judge how they live, or them.” 

My duties, he explained, were to clean, mop and scrub every room, surface, floor, fixture, appliance, including the communal bathroom.  It took two full days and need to develop a strong constitution for offensive odours.

Nearing the end of my task, while transforming bathroom ‘appliances’ to their original colour, Dad arrived to check on my progress. Leaning on the doorframe he gently inquired. “Did you clean underneath the urinals, wall behind, plumbing hardware ?” I looked at him in slight horror.  “Dad, these guys won’t know if I cleaned under the bowl.”

“You are absolutely right…. but you will.” He continued, “Never forget your name goes to every job and everything you do in life. Your name. Your accountability. It doesn’t matter if they notice any of it. You know and that’s what counts.”

As teenagers, Dad didn’t want us to apply for summer park jobs. “It won’t matter if it’s a fair hire, getting the job on your own. You will be treated differently, by staff and fellow workers. You will be seen as the kids who might have had an easy ‘in.’ You don’t want to be those kids, and I don’t want you to be either.”

A few years ago, in preparation for a wilderness journey, I sought his advice.Thou I grew up in nature, I hadn’t tackled anything quite like the expedition I was about to embark on.  Traveling fully self supported in remote wilderness with 5 strangers was a little daunting.  

I wondered if he would suggest what to pack, portaging or paddling skills, safety tips; yet, it wasn’t surprising his advice involved none of the above.“Do you trust your guides and have faith in your abilities? if you don’t, you shouldn’t be going.”He said.

When you think about it, if you don’t apply due diligence or believe in your skills, it doesn’t matter what you pack. Isn’t this true about so many things in life? 

Thou some families aren’t supportive of an art career, my parents have been my biggest champions. They attended nearly every exhibit and bought my work at full price thru the gallery. When I said I would have given them the painting, they were equally horrified. “This is what you do.” said Dad. “If you sold cars for a living would you give them away? It’s your work, and we are pleased to collect it. ” Mom added.

It was an honour to have Dad attend my recent exhibit in Saskatchewan. When a massive snowstorm arrived opening day, I said “Don’t worry, even if no one shows up, we will still celebrate.” Dad replied with a smile, “Yes. You have already done your job. You dreamt of showing here and you’re here, now, aren’t you?”

To the easy- to- hug, ever kind, steadfast man who gave us a life surrounded by nature and support, my Dad, Happy Father’s Day. Thank you so much for always being there for us, for your generosity, gentle honest guidance and deeply enduring love. 

~

Art :

“The Stand” 14×18 Original oil $910.oo

“Creek” 5×7 original oil $350.oo

“Tree” 24×36 original oil in progress

“Sunset” 11×14 in progress