A print of Northern River by Tom Thomson hangs in the corner of my living room, diagonally across from my favorite reading chair and the library table where bookish materials, journal and pen, salt lamp and a bowl of stones reside under a good reading lamp. The painting is there for a good reason - I love looking at it because it is a powerful visual reminder of the light, wildness and radiant life which are to be found beyond the confines of village and city.
In life, Tom Thomson was a lover of light and wildness, and he often said of his own work, "there is not enough light in it". That cannot be said here, for his passionate rendering of the light playing over and around his unknown river is intense and flawless. The image he crafted is a wild prayer of the highest order.
Looking at the painting, we find ourselves on the bank of a smoky autumn river, viewing it through a lattice of evergreens standing in solitary splendor against water, earth and sky, an elemental fretwork of arched silhouettes and spiraling traceries. The artist's tree forms are rendered as simple shapes against the natural light which moves and flows around them in differing intensities. At certain times of day, the image looks for all the world like a stained glass panel in intense earthy hues.
Does the image remind me of the beaver pond I write about here occasionally? It certainly does, especially at this time of year when the light of the world is falling away, at least in the northern hemisphere.
What may be said of my own life? Sometimes, I find myself thinking as Tom Thomson did in his time on the earth that "there is not enough light in it". Like him, but with considerably less talent and craftsmanship, I pursue a wild, elusive and elemental light with my brush and lens and a net of clumsy woefully inadequate words - occasionally I find it and just stand like a fool, by the pond or fen or northern river.