Monday, October 30, 2017

Painting Rocknotch Falls


Yesterday may have been the last gorgeous autumn day here. It's storming today, high winds and some rain. The wind will probably strip the last of the coloured leaves from the maples and oaks which provide the majority of the non-yellow fall colours. I have a maple tree in my front yard, but it is a Norway Maple, non-native and diseased. All the Norway Maples around here are diseased, something that causes big black spots to appear on the leaves in mid-to-late summer and obliterates their autumn colours. Right now my maple still has most of its leaves and if it weren't diseased it would still be green. But it's presently a terrible mix of green, brown and black. I have someone lined up to cut it down, but not until it has lost all of its leaves which won't be for several weeks I think. The tree is ugly, sick and has a split in it which does not bode well for its survival anyway. And there are phone and power lines running through it. While I have appreciated the shade it provides in the summer time, it also drains all of the moisture from the lawn and was the culprit in my sewage backup a few weeks ago. It is also the only suitable place for my bird feeder, so that will go as well. A winter without the birds.

The Master Artist at work

I mention yesterday because I went on a painting expedition with a local artist to one of her favourite sites. It is an old mill site on a river (McMaster Mill, on the Rocknotch Road), with several waterfalls. Beautiful at any time of year I guess, my friend has been coming here on a regular basis to paint. One of the things she likes about this spot is that is (or was) undiscovered, so she could spend several hours painting without interruption. However this old mill's days of anonymity must be over because after setting up our easels we had an almost constant stream of passersby interested in what we were doing. I am a complete novice at plein air painting, a near-novice at any kind of painting. Our subject was the area of the river just above one of the waterfalls. I brought Hapi along and she enjoyed wading in the river, standing out in the middle (a very shallow river) and letting the water rush by her. She managed not to go over the waterfall. When she was bored of that she lay down on the riverbank and napped.

Hapi and our subject matter

My friend is trying to teach me to paint. I don't know how successful she is being, I found it very hard and am not impressed with the results. Although she says one cannot expect good results until one has practiced a lot, and for now I should just be enjoying the process. Maybe so, but I did find it hard and after an hour or two was ready to just go for a stroll with the dog. In the meantime she completed three paintings, the first she said was to loosen her up and the others just to play with it. So her first painting did bear some resemblance to the scene before us, the other two were quite different. I think my problem with painting is that I am trying way too hard to make my canvas look exactly like what is in front of me, so I get very hung up on details. And I really don't know how to make the paint look like the actual scene so it feels very frustrating. I can't figure out how to make the colours and how to make the texture and three-dimensionality of it. Not to mention the reflections on the water and the movement of the water toward the waterfall and then over the edge into the pool below. Then I look over at what my friend is doing and her picture looks quite lovely even though it's not an exact copy of the actual scene.

She told me to put the painting away for a few days and then look at it, see what I think of it then. She thinks this may be the last plein air session she does this year, it will probably be too cold to go out again. But if she does go she will call me. When someone offers to teach you something that you've always thought you would enjoy doing, you don't turn down the offer. She said she has done a lot of painting workshops and she did not like it when the instructor never instructed but just let you go at it however you could and watched you flail around, all the while nodding approvingly. She preferred instructors who gave you instruction and criticism, so that was what she was trying to do. At one point she said if I thought she was being too bossy she would leave me alone but I said I appreciated her efforts. Knowing nothing I am open to advice and suggestion, but the learning process can be exhausting. I was glad when it was finally time to pack up and go home.

The viewing platform

But it was gorgeous there. Some local residents have put in walking trails and plaques giving the history of the place, and also a viewing platform for a couple of the waterfalls that are in a deep gorge.

The view

Monday, October 16, 2017

Excision

Branches, 2001

It is not easy to excise a character from a story.

Working on my fantasy story, now into its third draft, I thought that it might be easier to write and draw to a conclusion more quickly if I got rid of some of the excess characters. There are a lot of them, they keep appearing as possibilities that seem good at the time. But each new character complicates the story, they are all hellbent on their own conclusions which don’t necessarily coincide with mine or my original main characters’.

So for the third draft I picked a couple of what I thought were minor characters and wrote them out. I rewrote one pivotal chapter without those two and it went not too badly so I proceeded. The next chapter was also not so hard, but it did mean I had to substitute another existing character for one of the two that were now missing. The third chapter after that was drastically foreshortened due to the missing characters, and by the fourth I was running into problems. It seems that at least one of my missing characters was more integral to the action than I had thought and taking him out was causing some difficulty. How do I explain things without him there to ask the right questions or give the right answers?

Now I was starting to rethink the operation. Did I really want to continue without that missing character? I tried to see into the future of how the plot was going to proceed without him, and it was murky. Perhaps he wasn’t as extraneous as I thought he was. The other missing character I could still do without, but he was related to the first one and I would have some serious rethinking and rewriting to do if I got rid of one and not the other. They were kind of a package deal. The whole idea was to simplify the story and speed up the action, and instead it was having the opposite effect. It is not easy to excise a character from a story.

Sometimes I think my life would have been entirely different and so much better if only I had done this or not done that, if I had turned left instead of right, or vice versa. But is rewriting one’s life any different? Could I really eliminate this or that character from my life and have it not become more complicated than it already is?

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Numerological musings

Snow in July on a mountain in northwestern BC, in my screensaver collection
The other day I was idly following links on the internet and ended up on a numerology website where you could enter your name and birthdate and the numerologist would give you an analysis of who you are, your strengths, your weaknesses, etc., etc. Being idle I entered the requested information and listened to the analysis. There were a few bits that I thought were an accurate description of me and some other bits that sounded totally off, about what I expected. I think that on hearing the accurate bits I was half-hoping he would be totally accurate and I would have this newfound respect for numerology. Didn't happen. Then there was a pitch for me to submit my email address so he could send me more detailed information and I could learn deep secrets about myself. That didn't happen either.

Completion of tipi erection in Black River
Later, I watched a movie on my computer and then did something else while the computer went into screensaver mode. I have it set to display in random order photos from my digital collection, which spans some 45 or so years, almost a half century. One of the things the numerologist had said was about how adventurous I was, which I mentally put on the "not accurate" side of the report. I hardly consider myself adventurous. Restless maybe, but not adventurous.

Stop in Saskatchewan on my first cross-country roadtrip
But apparently those screensaver photos tell another tale. They stirred memories of all sorts of things I had done in those 45 or so years. At several points the screensaver put several photos together in a sort of collage which really brought home the point: I've been a lot of places and done a lot of things!

At The Farm in Tennessee
I'm not sure how I would define "adventurous", somehow it still doesn't fit right. Maybe I am equating "daring" and "adventurous", or maybe when I sit here quietly in my little house watching a movie or browsing the internet or reading a book, I think that this is not what an adventurous person would be doing with her time. I got a phone call late in the afternoon from someone asking if I was going to go to an event around suppertime. I hadn't heard about this event before and was kind of looking forward to not doing anything so I equivocated. Maybe, maybe not. Later I thought that if I'd heard about this event earlier I could have planned around it, I just wasn't into spontaneous action. And that would be totally wrong for an adventurous person. An adventurous person would just say, "Sure, I'll do that! I don't need no stinkin' plans!"

Kayaking to Tobacco Caye, Belize

Monday, October 9, 2017

My friends and family cross-country tour


As I said in my previous post it was my intention to write about my trip, but so much time has passed that I feel like it is almost ancient history now. I'm also now uninterested in sifting through all the photos I took to post any here. However, here goes.


I dislike flying however it seemed like the only thing I could do to make this trip happen, so I flew. Halifax to Vancouver (with brief stopover in the Edmonton airport), Vancouver to Castlegar, Kelowna to Grande Prairie (another stopover in the Edmonton airport), Grande Prairie to Toronto (stopping over in the Calgary airport this time), and Toronto to Halifax. There were also ferry trips (from Vancouver to Victoria to Hornby Island and back again, also to the Sunshine Coast), a train trip (Toronto to Barrie), and a couple of long distance bus rides (Nelson to Kelowna and Barrie to Toronto). Every single one of them uneventful and on time, which I consider a great stroke of good fortune.


An airport is an airport is an airport, but one of the most striking things for me was my second stopover in the Edmonton airport (en route to Grande Prairie). It was evening and the lights in this part of the airport were dimmed. In the centre of a large rotunda was a grand piano and a very talented pianist-singer. I don't know her name but she was amazing. It was welcome diversion from the typical waiting-in-an-airport. Kudos to Edmonton International Airport.


In Toronto and Vancouver the mass transit has evolved to a new level of sophistication and with the use of a card that one preloads with money for transit fares (Presto in Toronto and Compass in Vancouver) and Google Maps, you can travel effortlessly and without lengthy wait times at bus stops. I  bought a Compass card (refundable) in Vancouver and used it a lot; it would have been nice if I could have used it again in Toronto but instead one must buy another card for that city. I had some leftover subway tokens from when I lived there so I used them instead, and my stay in Toronto was only a few days so that was enough. Google Maps was amazing, not only does it tell you which bus or buses to take to get to your destination, it also tells you when to leave your home and whether the bus is running late and if so by how much time. So in theory one should never have to wait more than a few minutes at a bus stop.


In those cities everyone is on their cell phone. If they are not wearing earbuds, then their phones are in their hands and they are either busy texting or holding the phone handy in case they might need to text. Once I was trying to get from a bus stop to a museum and someone on the bus suggested I just ask anyone at the bus stop how to get to the museum because everyone knows and can tell me. But when I got to the bus stop and looked around for someone to ask directions from, all I could see were people wearing earbuds and I didn't like to interrupt whatever they were listening to. I finally found someone not wearing earbuds and he pulled his cellphone from his pocket to look up the location of the museum. Then I felt silly, I had my own cellphone and could easily have looked it up myself. I am just not in the habit of relying on my cellphone for direction.


The other places I visited were a little more "primitive", they either lacked cell phone coverage or internet signal or bus systems. The flight to Castlegar was to visit a friend in a small town an hour's drive away. Silverton is an old mining town now mainly home to summer residents only. It is on a lovely lake surrounded by mountains, the mining operations long since abandoned. The highway that runs through it is a favourite of motorcyclists who love its curvy new pavement through a narrow valley. My friend lives on the main street of the town and the traffic is predominantly motorcycles in the daytime and trucks by night. It is a broad street with homes on one side and store fronts on the other side, and walking down the middle of the road is easily done provided one keeps an ear out for motorcycles. My friend had two inflatable kayaks which were light enough that we could carry both of them at once the few blocks down to the lakeside. And the water was warm enough in early September to go swimming every day.


The impetus for the trip was the birth of a grandchild in Alberta; the secondary purpose was to visit friends and family across the country. Over the entire five weeks I stayed at either friends or family places so it was a huge social occasion for me. I enjoyed that very much. I think my timing was such that no one felt particularly burdened by my presence, or I hope so at any rate.


I had good conversations with all of my sons (and grandchildren) and very much enjoyed the company of old friends. I also got to see an aunt, uncle and cousin in Ontario that I rarely see. My uncle Bill has been in a nursing home for over 14 years after an unfortunate stroke when he was 70 that left him physically incapacitated. He had recently had one leg amputated and they were considering amputating the other due to pain. He was on morphine but clearly still in pain. However he was moved almost to tears when five of us, all family relations, arrived at his bedside. He is my Dad's "kid brother", the last of that generation of the family alive.


The grandchild, Coen, was six weeks old when I arrived there. His seven year old older sister is---as one person put it---a real firecracker. Intelligent and sassy, used to being the centre of attention. Coen almost did not survive his birth so his parents are understandably attentive to his every cry or fidget. The family dynamic is somewhat tense due to lack of sleep and adjustments to a new family member.  But it was the first time I interacted with my granddaughter, she does not like to talk on the phone (or Skype) with people she doesn't know. I think we established a bit of a relationship, but four days is not really a long time to do so.


There was a lot more but I'm going to leave it at that. While visiting friends in BC I was nostalgic for the days when I lived there and was being encouraged to move back. I definitely considered it, and who knows it might happen in the future. However coming home to Nova Scotia was very good, despite the sewage emergency. I have to say that I am grateful that I live here. Moving away is the furthest thing from my mind right now. But ask me again in the spring, I may change my tune after a hard winter (some folks are forecasting such already).

Hapi's brother Hiro, in Victoria