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.


  1. Oh Deborah, you brought tears to my eyes! I wish you much happiness for your future and yes I believe we must live for today and be thankful for what we have for none of us knows what the future holds in store for our particular journey.

  2. Robin Bandenieks7:52 pm, April 15, 2017

    Deborah, thank-you for sharing your journey with us. You are an incredible, strong woman. I hope you enjoy many hours of relaxation and creative work in your new little studio on Mayne Island. As you know the size of the studio does not determine the quality of works produced. However, your ability to make beautiful pieces will be enhanced in such a lovely, tranquil setting.

  3. Hi Deborah! I still think of you as Debbie, but it has been many years since we were in touch with each other and I am so happy to reconnect with Deborah, the full-time artist and part-time Gulf Islander. Such a beautiful blog post above--I was so sorry to hear about Tom. Such a shock and much too soon. Thank you for sharing your journey with your readers. Your honesty, integrity and soul-depth shine through and I could feel the sorrow and also the gratitude. I am so happy you are working as a full-time artist. Your work is amazing--such sensitivity to the creatures you capture. Heart opening and beautiful!

    Jeff and I are living in Sooke on Vancouver Island. I am still working as an editor and Jeff has retired to do community work here in Sooke. He will be making another run at getting elected as a councillor next year and in the meantime does volunteer work for a number of organizations. I do some felting and make simple items like dryer balls and other felted items, which I sell and donate the money to volunteer organizations in town like our yoga society and environmental groups. It would be lovely to see each other again. If you are on the Island (the "big" island), :-) let me know and perhaps we could meet halfway, in Victoria.
    Here's my website if you want to get in touch:

    1. It's lovely to hear from you. I'll definitely be in touch next time I'm on the southern part of the "big" island. It would be great to see you.