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Heart of the Woods: Northwoods, Book 1 by Holland, Grant C. (28)

28

Levi

Both Levi and Brandon pitched in to help Don Walker out of the canoe. He laughed softly and said, “I thank both of you because I thought I would never see Lone Cedar Lake again. It is surely one of the most beautiful in all of the BWCA. I can’t wait to see the cabin. It’s such a special place. I spent many happy times there with Isabel and Walter when they first moved north.”

As the path gave way to the clearing, Brandon said, “I still get a catch in my throat every time I see it. This is a magical spot.”

Levi said, “Well, don’t get used to it. Mr. Walker, I want the cabin to come down.”

“Are you sure?”

Levi nodded. He reached out to wrap an arm around Brandon’s waist. “I’m moving to town. I’m going to live in Arrowhead Falls. We do have one big issue to sort.”

“The paintings?”

“Yes, the paintings. I found out something fascinating when I read Grandma’s letters. Most of them were from the courtship with Grandpa, but she also had a few that she saved from later years, particularly when they were planning the move here to the woods.”

Don Walker began to amble toward the shed. He moved slowly, but his steps were sturdy. He said, “I have to see what you have. You told me there are a lot of canvases out here.”

Brandon sighed. “You have no idea. Brace yourself.”

Levi unlocked the shed and pulled the door open. Don Walker gasped as he stepped inside. “These are all by Isabel? She must have worked every day.”

Levi said, “Yes, she did some painting almost every day. She was committed to it. This collection represents years of painting. At least half of the pieces were already here when I arrived. As I read the letters, I realized that she never really explained the large paintings to me. We stored them out here, and I did my best to take care of them, but I know now that they weren’t very important to her. She studied them for inspiration, but her connection with the pieces ended there.”

An expression of confusion spread across Brandon’s face. “What are you talking about?”

“I read the letters. When they first moved out here, Grandpa stretched dozens of canvases so that Grandma would have plenty to work with. If you look close, you’ll notice there are still some large blank ones behind the finished paintings. Except, in Grandma’s mind, most of these paintings probably aren’t finished.”

Don Walker turned away from the canvases and crossed his arms over his chest. “I’m not sure what you’re saying.”

“These are all practice, Mr. Walker. To Grandma, those small paintings that we sell are the finished work. I wasn’t smart enough about art to understand that. I’m not sure I would have gotten it even if she did try to explain. She didn’t intend ever to sell these. I saw her go through them from time to time. She switched around which ones hung on the wall. I helped her put them up and take them down. About once a week she would spend a few hours out here looking at them, but for her, that was like a baseball player watching films of his batting swings. She looked at them to try and figure out what she needed to change in her style or what she needed to do better.”

Don Walker smiled. “Well, as Isabel’s name and reputation grows even more, and sadly, it will now that she’s gone, these will become important. They’ll probably even be collectible on their own. Do you know what you want to do with them, Levi? I’m sure the elements have been tough on some of them, but the ones I can see appear to be in good shape.”

“I’m not sure. I want you to help me find someone to take the cabin down, but I don’t know about the art yet.”

“I do have some friends in Ely who are trying to get together a permanent collection of paintings by Northwoods artists. They even talk about opening a museum. If you don’t think you need the money, a donation is a possible idea. It would benefit the entire region.”

Levi said, “I think the most important thing is to figure out how to take care of them properly, and we’ll go from there. Grandma shared enough information on her personal money situation that I don’t think I have to worry about anything for some time now. At least I don’t if what she said about the will is right. You would know that, Mr. Walker.”

“Almost all of it is yours, Levi. Your grandmother loved you more than anything else in the world, except Walter.”

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