Monday 6 April 2015

Island dreams

The first annual Festival Active Pass is taking place in the southern Gulf Islands this month and it happens to be based on Mayne Island - my new home-away-from-home. It is self-described as "a must-do event for naturalists, birders, photographers, visual artists and arts enthusiasts, historians, families and children" and will feature exhibitions, performances, workshops and excursions, all of which are "inspired by the natural beauty of the area and the welcoming residents of the islands". It's the kind of event that's tailor-made for a bird-loving artist and I had signed up enthusiastically early on this year. When life took a terrible turn a couple of months ago, I cleared my calendar of all art commitments except this one.

It makes sense that the Gulf Islands would host a festival such as this. Active Pass is internationally designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA), and you can read more about what that means by clicking here. Not only does Mayne Island's western shoreline border Active Pass, the island is home to a couple of components of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, a piece of which is on Bennett Bay, just a stone's throw from Horton Bay and the little yellow cottage my husband and I acquired last year.

Although the dreams we had for our "little piece of paradise" turned to dust with my husband's sudden passing, my love for the place lives on. Enough repairs have been made in the short time since we acquired it that, while it's still a bit rough around the edges, the cottage is ready to be lived in. It must now be a place where new dreams are made, and be a refuge for healing and reflection. It will also become a place of inspiration and art-making where I can wander down to the beach and see sights like the male surf scoters (pictured below) that I observed last fall on the calm waters of Seal Bay near Comox. I have chosen a space in the cottage that I have set up as a mini art studio. 

"Bachelor Brothers: Wintering Surf Scoters" (Coloured pencil)

During Festival Active Pass I'll have a piece or two hanging in the art exhibition at the Mayne Island Agricultural Hall. I'll also be taking part in the Artists' Market at the Community Centre. Mingling with like-minded bird and nature lovers and with the artists who call the Gulf Islands home will give me a chance get to know the community a little better, and vice-versa.

Anyone interested in learning more about Festival Active Pass can find out more at

Wednesday 1 April 2015

One breath at a time

Those of you who don't know me personally or who aren't connected to me via social media might be wondering why I haven't written lately, why my website is unattended, my classes cancelled and, in general, why I'm suddenly absent from the art scene - particularly given I ended my previous blog entry on such an optimistic note. I've been debating whether or not to share what's been happening in my life lately - it's very personal and not what you'd expect in a blog about life as an artist. However, given art-making is a deeply personal occupation, it goes without saying that the creative process is impacted by what goes on in the art maker's life. And so I've decided to tell you about it.

It turns out that just when I was hoping, in fact expecting, that things would take a turn for the better after a challenging year, things got exponentially worse: my husband quite suddenly and unexpectedly died. The event that took his life - a massive stroke - was shocking to all who knew him, no one moreso than me. The ensuing weeks have been a blur, from frightful days and nights in the hospital, home to the comings and goings of friends and family, to the planning of his memorial service, the memorial day itself and its beautiful/terrible/healing events, the gradual dispersing of houseguests, and now simply a quiet time to mourn with the gentle support of the many kind souls who keep checking in to make sure I'm OK, and maybe to go for a walk or share a meal or drink a cup of tea or glass of wine with me.

Right now I live in a fog of grief that clears a little when people call or visit. My days are structured by the necessities of life, particularly those of Lily, the not-quite-one-year-old spaniel pup, and my trio of cats who, while less demanding, have definite feeding times that they always make sure I'm aware of. I'm not able to do much in my studio, I have cancelled my classes till fall, and for now I simply work on getting through each day, one breath at a time, placing one foot in front of the other. I walk with Lily, and walk, and walk, and am thankful for the arrival of spring. In the grand, sad scheme of things, I find it's good to have small things to be thankful for. I'm glad, as always at this time of year, to hear wrens singing in the forest, and to see trilliums blooming among last year's fallen leaves. I looked up one morning and smiled at the sight of a small flock of trumpeter swans winging their way north, calling softly to one another as they flew. Life does go on.

One day, not long after my husband died, a creative friend mentioned to me that he wondered how this tragic, life-altering event would affect my art - perhaps through my choice of colours or subject or composition or ...? I responded by saying that for the time being it had only served to stem my creative flow. Since then a few others have asked if I've started any new projects, but I only shake my head. Not yet. But I know art-making will become my lifeline, and I have no doubt I must be changed in some fundamental way and I find myself wondering if that change will be evident in what I create. Only time will tell. For now, I await the moment when my hand is compelled once again to put pencil to paper.

As I left the hospital after my husband breathed his last, my only clear recollection of that moment is that I heard a raven calling from the treetops.