This is Neys Provincial Park. It’s a campground in Northern Ontario, three hours by car from where I live. When I was a kid, I spent my summers here with my family, and made many of my fondest childhood memories.
Neys is tied with Granada at the top of my list of favourite places. It’s forest, beach, rock, driftwood, and lake … kind of in the middle of nowhere. You have to believe me when I say that despite the cold water, black flies, and unpredictable weather, it’s one of the most special places in which you could ever find yourself. There’s a rock formation at one end of the beach called “Prisoner’s Cove” – Neys was once a prisoner of war camp – where I would sit and stare at Lake Superior for what seemed like eternity. It’s a place where I was happy just to be part of the world.
I’m sure that Neys is responsible for my love of what most people would call “miserable” weather. A typical “Neys Day” is overcast with occasional soft rain, and just windy or chilly enough to make you put on a sweater. In other words, it’s exactly the kind of day I had when my family and I went out to record this video:
In recent years, I’ve spent less time at Neys (I’ve had summer jobs, or I’ve travelled to Spain), and I’ve missed it. Sometimes I’ve thought maybe I’ve outgrown camping, but then I remember how it feels to sit on the rocks or walk the trails, and the simple joy of staring at the open water. I suppose I’m easily entertained, but pure contentedness – and great inspiration for art – can come from what seem like simple experiences. I’d like to point out that Pic Island, which is depicted in the famous Lawren Harris painting of the same name, is within plain view of the Neys campground.
I hope this recording captures my love of Neys and conveys to you what a special place it is. On such a “Neys Day”, the park has an almost eery sense of tranquility. I wish I could experience this kind of tranquility more often; it’s the kind of peacefulness off of which “artistic Matt” feeds. It’s like the park itself invites me to write. I think I knew this even as a child. It’s waiting for you to create something new, patiently and in relative silence, until you’re ready to share.