July 29, 2011

Capturing a Place

I've never thought much of the lyrics of the song that goes "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with," until I saw photos of my eldest son on Facebook, touring around Amsterdam. If I could not be with him, enjoying the sites of Europe, I could put more effort into appreciating the area that I was able to explore - my home here in Beautiful British Columbia (as is proclaimed on our vehicle license plates).

Earlier this week my girls and I went off to the nearby village, which is a resort destination and contains, among its many shops on the esplanade, the summer employers of many local young people including my second son. We brought our cameras with us and decided to play tourist. We found it fun to try and see such familiar sites through the imagined eyes of visitors taking everything in for the first time. The result was a collection of photos, I am sure, quite similar to those of the thousands of people who flock here every summer.

A cold, glacier fed, Canadian lake

My eldest daughter treated us to one of these favourite confections.

A tart, crisp apple coated in delicious chocolate, caramel and almonds. Yummy.

Where many, many local teenagers work for the summers. There's also a great coffee shop next door.

A dragon boat regatta was happening, with thousands of participants.

One of the dragon boats coming into shore with the caller/drummer at the bow.

A wonderful and famous Canadian painter named Toni Onley used to come here, too. He would fly in on his float plane to sketch and paint. He would not paint scenes like the ones I posted above, of people, shops and flowers. He painted scenes much more like this one:

Unfortunately, Toni Onley died in a plane crash several years ago. I grew up knowing and admiring his work and only now am I able to put into words the beauty and mystery of his deceptively simple layers of watercolour. People are often heard to exclaim, when viewing a coastal landscape, "That looks just like a Toni Onley painting!" Toni could capture the essence of place and landscape like few others can. He painted abstracts, arctic landscapes, and scenes from Mexico, Hawaii, and the BC Coast. His paintings seem to float somewhere between earth and heaven, and he is loved equally among art critics and 'regular folks'.

Someone once said that great art picks up where nature ends. And so I leave you with one of Toni's works.

I found this painting on the Winchester Galleries website. I'm having trouble providing a link, so if you google 'Winchester Galleries Toni Onley" you will find more of Toni's wonderful work. The site is well worth the visit.

July 22, 2011

I'm Sending a Book to...

...the winner of my summer giveaway. My daughters put the names of the entries in a hat and pulled out...Brian Miller of Waystationone!

Brian, you will find my email link on my profile page, so you can send me your mailing address. Congratulations! I think you'll really enjoy Antonia Banyard's novel Never Going Back.

Brian Miller is a super-talented, gritty, tender and prolific poet, so please check out his blog! His group, One Stop Poetry, recently won a Shorty Award for art. They travelled to New York City to attend the gala, but I think Brian became somewhat distracted from the accolades after his disarming tour of the ten floors of the NYC Macy's department store. Read his great poem about it here.

I will be writing a post soon. We've been getting ready to send our eldest off to Europe on Monday. Even though I am not going with him, I feel like I may as well be after all the mental/spiritual/physical preparations. I'll be living vicariously through him with him in spirit.


July 15, 2011

A Summer Giveaway

For the past week my family and I have been taking in as many events at our local Festival of the Arts as we can manage. We all volunteer for the festival, which gains us passes for free entry into every event. Over seventy volunteers make the festival possible and are sometimes the most enthusiastic members of the audience.

This particular festival is in its thirty-third year and runs like a well-oiled machine. The weather has not been ideal, but the sun shone for a few days over the weekend and I found myself, one warm, breezy evening, lying on the grass above the lakeshore listening to live music, and looking up at the umbrella of branches of a sprawling willow tree - a blissful occupation. The band frontman introduced each of the six band members and told us where they were born. Each of them was from a different country: Cuba, Mexico, El Salvador, Phillippines, Canada, and Trinidad. Our festival highlights world music and by the time the ten-day festival is over we will have attended concerts given by artists from Africa, Ireland, Spain, Louisiana, Vienna, Hawaii and Haiti. The festival is always a wonderful time, and I become a bit of a mental sponge, absorbing it all. I find I am overwhelmed by the talent and passion of all these artists and their stories and the event tends to be a time of intense music appreciation for me. I suppose every creative person needs her own well refilled now and again, and the festival is one of those times. Music is not the only art form represented at the festival. We attended a play on Tuesday evening, and spend hours (and dollars) visiting the art market which forms a long, colourful row of tents along the beach walk on the weekends.

One of the colourful vendors at the art market
(The backdrop isn't bad either)

This evening we are all rather tired and will give the evening concert a miss. I, for one, need to get to bed before midnight at least one night this week. My husband has been dividing his time between the festival concerts, work, and Le Tour de France on T.V. On Sunday, he will take our eldest to Vancouver where Ian will perform in the young songwriters circle at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, a much larger event than the one we attend in the nearby resort village. I wish I could go too, but I will be volunteering with our youngest at the local festival and enjoying, hopefully, some more music in the warm sunshine (please?).

The willow tree by the beach stage

So, since I am somewhat preoccupied with the Festival, I thought this would be a good time to have a bit of fun on this blog. Last week I received a parcel in the mail from a blogger friend, Tracey in California. I had won her giveaway of a sampler tin of Jelly Belly jellybeans. What a pleasant surprise! Earlier in the year, I won another giveaway, a beautiful photograph, from Ireland's Ciara of Milkmoon. I began to think perhaps it might be my turn to return the favour...but what would I give away?

One of my daughters helping herself to a Jelly Belly.
I decided I would order a copy of my friend Antonia Banyard's novel Never Going Back, and offer it as a gift to one lucky friend. Antonia Banyard and I have been friends since we were six years old. I have written two blog posts about the impression her family had on me, and about our friendship and her career as a writer/editor. Never Going Back is her first novel. The following is a description of the story,

Four days, five friends, a birth, a death, a suicide.

Evan, Siobhan, Lance, Lea, and Mandy were once inseperable, but in the tenyears since high school, they have barely spoken. When a memorial finds themreunited in their hometown of Nelson, BC, a small town with a big reputation,each friend is forced to confront secrets from the past. If they don't face themselves, each other, and the central trauma of their lives, they'll never be able to move on.

I have read the book a few times and enjoy it more each time. Of course, there is so much in it that is familiar to me, the setting (my hometown of Nelson), the types of characters, the humour of the writer, but the story stands alone very well as an engaging read for anyone who ever negotiated their way through the challenges of the inevitable changes in friendships that endure after high school is over.

So, if you would like to enter for a chance to win the book, just leave a comment on this post telling me you would like the book, and next week I will put all the names in a hat and draw a name. You also have to be willing, if your name is drawn, to email me your full name and mailing address so I can send you the book!

Good luck! (Now back to the festival)

July 8, 2011

Years Through the Lens

The first summer we lived here I sorted through five years worth of photos I had neglected to keep in order. As I spent a few days sorting and filing the photos, I swore I would never leave the task so long again. I would be more like my friend who, when she picked up a new batch of developed photos (three copies of each) would place them in albums and number each photo with  the corresponding negative, keep a set to send to her mother and brother in Poland, and pass out the rest to friends.

Last Sunday, I pulled a large cardboard box of photos out of the laundry room where they had been stored and ignored. Despite the 'never again' promises to myself from eight years ago, each new envelope of photos had been unceremoniously tossed in the box and become jumbled, waiting for the day when I would find the time and will to deal with them properly. That day had come and I was suddenly quite determined to get my act together and put the photos in acid free albums.  I felt the need to move on to developing a good system for organizing and printing my growing collection of digital photos before another eight years passed, but I knew I had to deal with the my pre-digital collection first.

On Sunday afternoon I sat down to try and make sense of the eight years worth of photos. Putting the photos in chronological order was the most difficult part. In the end I tracked the years by the progress of my youngest child's teeth. In Kindergarten, she had a row of tiny little baby teeth, in Grade One she had lost a few, in Grade Two the two front teeth were almost fully in, etc. Additional clues were held in the length of my eldest's hair, which grew longer and longer into his teen years, and in the number of candles on the various birthday cakes. The process was a bit like detective work and by nine o'clock each evening I would become exhausted and need to stop. Last night the job was done, and eight hundred photos were filed in two large albums, their copies (I usually ordered doubles) and any extras I chose not to include in the albums put in order in a shoe box for the kids to use for their own albums later on.

While the job of sorting through eight years of photos may seem like a tedious chore I found I was enjoying myself. I had not looked at many of the photos for years and as I did, I realized the great value of the family photo album. When I look at the albums from the past years of our lives together I am able to see those years both in individual moments and as a whole. The photos of family camping trips, visits with friends and family -several series of photos show a myriad of cousins playing on the beach - celebrations of birthdays, holidays, First Communions and Confirmations, of record snowfalls measured on the outdoor table, and of performances and recitals, as a whole give the impression of a good and happy childhood. In the pictures the kids are smiling or looking thoughtful, being silly together or laughing unconstrainedly. They appear active and interested, enthusiastic and innocent. Their dad is hugging them, talking to them, showing them something interesting or teaching them to chop wood for the campfire. There are not many of me because I was usually behind the camera.

I remember a time several years ago when family life was hard for me. I wanted to rebel against my chosen lot of wifedom and motherhood. We had recently moved away from civilization and I felt like a trickster had pulled my comfortable town life out from under me leaving me emotionally uncertain and reaching out for something to hang onto. At one dark point I took out our album of wedding photos, hoping to find some meaning there. As I pored over the pictures of a happy couple ready to take on the world, I knew I would be okay. I knew I was at this place in my life for a reason that was larger than myself and I trusted that fact to lead me through the difficult phase I was in.

Even now it is easy to become bogged down by the negative day-to-day stresses and mundane details of life. I tend to lose perspective from time to time, and there are weeks when all the demons I've ever known rise up to try and undermine any positive feelings I may have about my life and work. I don't take pictures of those times deliberately, but sometimes I will find a particular photo which will trigger a memory of some period of painful growth and difficulty. In addition to providing proof of our ability to ride the ebb and flow of family life, the photo albums exist to mark the series of experiences that have made our family what we are. They provide a chronicle which my patchy journals alone cannot supply.

The albums also show, repeatedly, the reason why we signed our youngest up for a musical theatre camp this summer, and why she is having the time of her life. From the age of two she was a ham!