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You'll find Lightning Lake by driving just over two hours from Vancouver and heading for Princeton. At the summit of the Hope Princeton highway is a British Columbia Provincial Park called Manning Park. Within that park is a small chain of lakes called the Lightning Lakes. The second lake in that chain is actually called Lightning Lake and for me, that lake is a very special place in this world.

Every year since my children were young we've been going to Manning Park for an annual campout with family and friends. That place fosters so many warm and comfortable memories for me. It is truly a highlight of my year to pitch my tent and slid my canoe into the waters of Lightning Lake. One cannot measure the amount of solace and pleasure that this magical place has provided me. I can only say that it is one of those places that I'll not want to know when I visit it for my last time. I'll always want to be able to look forward to my next Manning Park visit.

At the south end of Lightning Lake, where the trout are cooperative and the wilderness is most inviting, I often find myself drifting in the canoe and dreaming. I seem to absorb the place through my pores. I want to stock up on the very essence of the tranquility and beauty of the place. I'll use it over the coming cold, wet months of a Sunshine Coast winter.

At that end of the lake, in the shallows, lies a fallen cedar tree. These small lakes are actually manmade and as such, when the dam was constructed all those years ago it flooded some low lands and drowned the standing trees. This fallen cedar is one of those. It provides shelter for small fish, but it does more than that. Its root ball, exposed above the waterline, has been bleached silver grey. Its trunk is under the water line. That exposed root system is now what's known as a "nurse" to new growth. There, growing from the exposed root system is a small spruce tree no more than four feet tall. I've watched it over the years as it prospers there alone in the middle of the lake. Many times I've tried to photograph it for the purpose of a painting, but I've never been successful in finding just the right composition.

In the summer of 2008 though, all that changed. I was with my brother-in-law Mark at the end of the lake and as we paddled by the familiar tree the composition became evident. It came into focus. I had Mark take his camera and put it at water level and from our vantage point facing north he snapped the shot that would become a painting. That little tree, shaped by the elements it is exposed to, will forever live in my painting only known as "Lightning Lake Bonsai".



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