Northern Light

As young students in elementary school we boarded a bus one day for a trip to Klienburg Ontario and the then private McMichael Collection of paintings. When we arrived one of the guides noted an old shed just off to the side of the parking lot.  We were told the shed, recently moved from Toronto, had been built behind the studio building for Tom Thomson to use when he was in the city. I couldn't resist leaving the group for a closer look and was just tall enough to see over the window sill. A very basic building, one door and a small window, with a sleeping loft. A large eagle painted inside, a doodle of sorts. I thought it must have been very cold inside in the winter until the stove warmed things up.

Once back with the group and inside the McMicheals log home we saw paintings illustrating views from across Canada. Paintings created by Tom Thomson and others that had later became known as the Group of Seven. We were told that AY Jackson one of the founders of the group and a good friend of Tom Thomsons lived downstairs when he was in town. He did not meet us on that day as he suffered from a cold and didn't want to pass it on.

Many years later one project we were asked to complete as students was to pick any painted picture at all and insert a self portrait into it. I looked and looked but nothing interested me like one of Tom Thomsons lake paintings.

The mystery surrounding the death of the painter Tom Thomson is only slightly clearer after reading Roy MacGregors' book Northern Light than it was before. MacGregor does point out that old time country justice and a good cover up seemed to be at play and that Toms' bones probably still rest at Canoe Lake even though an undertaker and immediate family would say otherwise, but who knows.

For me Northern Light was an interesting read bringing to light the geography of the early twentieth century Ontario. Familiar sites and sounds recalled. I had camped by these lakes, counted the stars reflected in their surfaces, drank their waters and painted their views.