Saturday 15 April 2017

The Art of Gratitude

For much of my life, I had a particular dream. That dream was to devote myself to making art - not as a hobby, nor even as a part-time vocation worked around the fringes of a job, but as a full-time occupation. However, life has a way of forging its own path, with its various obligations and commitments and responsibilities, and years went by. I brought in a regular paycheque and was able to make art part-time. I felt reasonably content but never fully satisfied with that arrangement. Finally it seemed the moment was right and I took the plunge – leapt off the proverbial cliff by leaving my day job and giving art-making my full-on attention. It took a while but I figured out how to make a go of it. Art teaching helped pay the bills, my productivity increased, my art evolved, and – happily – sales grew. Although I never worked harder in my life, I was (and am) grateful to be pursuing that dream, and for those whose unflagging support helped make it possible.

I had another dream, one I shared with my husband. That dream was to have a little place on an island – a place we’d be able to go for much-needed breaks from our busy lives. For me, an art studio was part of that idyllic picture. In 2014 our island dream also became reality when after more than a decade of on-again-off-again searching we managed to purchase a dilapidated little yellow cottage in the woods on Mayne Island. Grateful doesn’t do justice to how that felt – it was like a miracle. We could hardly believe we’d done it!

I’m grateful my husband was able to taste that dream given just a few short months later his life suddenly ended.
A black year of solid grief was followed by a grey year of re-grouping as I struggled to figure out my solo path. My gratitude for those who helped me through those times is beyond measure. The same goes for the constant presence of my four-legged companions who got me out of bed each morning and curled up with me at night. And when life on the mainland was too hard to bear, the little yellow cottage provided refuge, a place where I could find solace among the trees, listening to the wind and birds ...

... or wander to the nearby beach, perhaps to observe a summer moon reflected on pink water ...

... or get going on some of the therapeutic physical tasks of fixing and maintenance.

Being there helped me in ways I can’t put into words. Even during the darkest times I understood that despite everything that had happened, I was lucky to have such a place and I was grateful.
And now phase two of the island dream is becoming reality:

When we first purchased the property, we dreamt of building a modest house and turning the somewhat scruffy little cottage into an art studio. That dream was shattered but instead a re-worked version of it is now coming together. The cottage has benefitted from some TLC, and just across the driveway a tiny art studio will soon be complete. It’s not much bigger than a glorified garden shed but it’s snug and it has windows that take in the view of the big trees to the east and the sunny meadow to the south.

Looking at it, I feel a shiver of contentment. And sometimes I can almost feel my husband beside me, squeezing my hand in approval, helping me remember to be grateful not only for what I have, but for what I had.