A Lo­cal’s Per­spec­tive

Whistler Traveller Magazine - - TRAVELLER I CONTENT -


Isobel MacLaurin is 85, and she’s still in love with life — and the moun­tains. Raised in New Brunswick, she met her hus­band Don when he was study­ing forestry there. Af­ter mov­ing to B.C., they were mar­ried, started a fam­ily and vis­ited what was then known as Alta Lake, de­cid­ing to build their “sum­mer cabin” along nearby Al­pha Lake. They im­me­di­ately put their stamp on the com­mu­nity: she as a pi­o­neer­ing artist, he as one of the first recre­ational trail builders. Don MacLaurin passed away in 2014, hav­ing pre­vi­ously pur­chased pine coffins for he and his wife — she painted his with im­ages of his beloved vin­tage ’51 red MG con­vert­ible and a sign that read, “Yes, I can take it with me.” Isobel’s cof­fin, painted with Whistler wild­flow­ers, is presently in her garage — wait­ing.

Tell me the story of how you and Don came to Whistler.

We came to Alta Lake in ‘61 on the old Budd car (train) and stayed at Cy­press Lodge, which is now the artists’ point (The Point Artist-Run Cen­tre). We loved the peo­ple so much that Don and I said, “This is the place where we’re go­ing to have our sum­mer cabin.” So, he looked around and got this lot and we started build­ing.

You and your fam­ily spent your sum­mers here when your chil­dren were grow­ing up. What are some of your mem­o­ries of those early days?

One day we went across the lake and saw a sign that read, “The new Garibaldi lift will be open­ing soon.” [As a fam­ily of very keen skiers, Isobel re­calls be­ing ex­alted: a ski re­sort so close to their cabin was like a dream come true.] That was in 1965. An­other time, Jack Bright, who was the first man­ager of Whistler Moun­tain, had his two boys come over to play, and I said, “You can play when you get enough rocks to help us build the ce­ment foun­da­tion un­der­neath the house.” We had neigh­bours and friends and the kids help­ing. So, the kids went home and Jack phoned and said, “What in the hell are you mak­ing my kids do when they go over to visit you?”

We had an out­house, a beau­ti­ful out­house, up on the hill. Once, one of the kids came in and said, “Mommy, mommy, our out­house is gone.” An en­gi­neer was build­ing a road above us, Alta Lake Road, and dy­na­mited and knocked a whole bunch of trees down, knock­ing down our out­house. It was done by the gov­ern­ment, so they built us a new one. It was beau­ti­ful, and Nancy [Greene] once said, “Isobel, when we go to par­ties, would you stop talk­ing about your out­house?”

I went to a Catholic girls school in St. John. The nuns would al­ways get me to do the draw­ings and I thought, “OK, ev­ery­body can do this.” It was just such a nat­u­ral thing. I’ve al­ways drawn. How­ever, I never learned to type, be­cause be­ing an artist, you don’t have to. Siri [Ap­ple’s voice-ac­ti­vated per­sonal as­sis­tant] does my work now.

You are well known for your paint­ings of moun­tain scenes and the area’s abun­dant wildlife, which are fea­tured on some of the in­ter­pre­tive sig­nage around the re­sort. Where do you get your artis­tic in­spi­ra­tions?

I love to sketch and paint ev­ery sub­ject. As they say, any artist worth his salt can paint in ev­ery medium. When I was young, my girl­friends were fu­ri­ous when I went down to Granville Is­land, and in­stead of do­ing a beau­ti­ful moun­tain pic­ture, I did a gor­geous wa­ter­colour of the work­ings of a de­crepit sawmill. But I’ve al­ways loved the out­doors, and I’m lucky that I’m liv­ing here.

What is your favourite Whistler hang­out?

Oh, I love my house! I love my cabin! And it is still a cabin. Most im­por­tant of all, I’m go­ing to die here — I’m go­ing to die in this place.


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