Monday, September 2, 2013

September Song... in my... Treasure(d) Islands

 "River Boy" - oil on canvas 24x30 inches
This painting was a painting from a solo show entitled "Summertime Dreams" a decade ago. It depicts my son Andrew with my canoe looking out over our River on one of our six week-long annual painting and canoeing treks into The Thousand Islands. The painting hangs... where it should - in his living room... a magical River memory of our time of (not) growing up together. Precious to us both!

Though at the the beginning of each fresh Summer, it always seems "a long, long time... from May till December"... it always becomes obvious to me in these few August days of rapidly dwindling light... that Summer has fled. Everywhere about you... there lies evidence of ripening... and especially in the flower gardens... there lies ample evidence of Summer's decline and decay.

On each morning this weekend, over at the Andress Boat Works Dock across the road from our "Islesview" home, we have watched boat load after boat load of "summer people" from the islands bring their summer gear and belongings to shore... to be loaded into their homeward bound vehicles. Then... comes that reluctant look out over their River and their summer refuge... before they pile into their cars and head back to their urban jungles and lives.

I well know and understand their feelings. My family made this migration for over fifty years... to and from our own "Shangri-Lai" at Narrow's Lane Road. Our unpretentious... simple cottage was nestled alongside the River on the mainland at the Narrow's on the inside of Tar Island just east of Rockport.  It was but one of a colony of small cottages where everybody played and swam through each two months of summer together. It was a place where one belonged... "where everybody knew your name."

Though Time... Life and circumstances beyond my control swept "Me" away from this Nirvana ... The Universe and its great mysteries that govern us all made possible our return. It was an invitation to take part in the 1st Annual Rockport Paint Out in 2011 and my meeting Wendy (Johnston) Merkley... its organizer which set things in motion for our eventual moving of our The Paint Box Gallery back to Rockport. Everything else which has occurred between Then and Now... is in the Past. Deb and I now live our lives comfortably... contentedly and successfully couched... and feeling deeply blessed in the comfort and joy of being finally... Home!

The word "Home", in my own context and usage is distinctly different from the word house. I have lived in many houses over my life time and called many places temporally home. But The St Lawrence River is truly my Home. "Home" is that special place in each of our lives and souls where.... as John Keats describes in his River classic "Of Time And  An Island"... as a place where, "as soon as we return... we feel as if we never have been away."

Shangra-Lai... which was once "Home" for each Sherman for over fifty summers has been turned over into an entirely new vision... someone else's summer home. I feel no physical connection to that place any longer. Even the anger created by the deceitful way that it was cruelly ripped from us by a family member has finally dissipated and all but disappeared. Life's current must carry one on... without petty bitterness. To continue to harbour it within... robs one of the ability to find new purpose... Happiness and Joy.

This was the Sherman's Shangra-Lai sanctuary for over fifty summers and winters... with our humongous willow ever present with its umbrella-like canopy under which so many August reunions and birthdays were celebrated. It remains recorded in a couple of my small watercolour and oils... gifts for my parents when they were alive... and in my Soul!

This painting entitled "Time Stood Still, Narrow's Lane Road" oil on canvas 20x48 inches captures the very scene directly seen for every summer at sun down from our lawn and under the giant willow friend. I gave it to my daughter Lisa as a house-warming gift when she purchased her lovely home on Kerry Point. It is the view directly seen from her patio/balcony. It truly speaks of the Truth I have tried to express on the subject of house vs Home feelings that I practise.

(my) Paradise... Lost! Someone else's other rightful dreaming!

I have always carried my Home within my heart. It is that sacred space in my own memory and soul where I "house" my treasure trove of life long family blessings. It is portable. It remains untouched by outside influence and change. It remains mine alone to remember... relish and to refresh my sometimes wearied spirit. Just as the River flows, unchanged much really, despite some ugly aspects of modernity... so does my ever vibrant recollections of my yester-years on the shores of my River. "I"... am a River Boy and feel greatly blessed to have shared that very feeling with so many others... who feel the same. I had the privilege to re-acquaint myself with many of these River pals since moving back. I have made  friends with a number of new River Folk. Amongst them... a high honour to have shared time this summer with each of the Keats family of Pine Island... both on their Pine Island Paradise... and our new Rockport Shangra-Lai... "Islesview." But that's another story..., for another time.

Stay tuned!...

 I have chosen a passage (words) from Keats's book to close out this post.... and some (paintings) memories from my easel It echoes my own feelings... and those of all of us privileged to have summered or lived alongside this marvellous and mighty River.

"Nothing has changed in this always new and infinitely old center of our lives. We never feel homeless in winter because we know where we live.We live in a house on a stone in the middle of a river in the center of the world at the very heart of time."

"We"... are greatly blessed!

Good Painting!... and Happy Fall ... to ALL!!!

Two River Boys... enjoying company together... Captain/ Pirate Peter Frost  (JK's grandson and myself) at The Head on Pine Island... the actual site where John K. Keats wrote "Of Time And An Island." The Universe... playing out its mystery and magic!

My People's Choice award winner, 20x16 inch canvas entitled
Sun-dappled Pathway to the Head, Pine Island"... painted at the 2nd Annual Rockport Plein Air Paint Out. It now hangs with honour... in the main house on Pine Island - my gift to all Keats now... and to come!

A smaller 12x10 inch canvas version of the same painting just requested by Megan Kahn, daughter-in-law of Chris Keats. She wanted it as an island memory of her teen aged years spent on the Island..for her new home located  in Washington. I rarely , if ever do an exact replica of any painting. But this a special instance, I relented. It was... for "Family" ! It was completed two days ago... dried and packed for their departure at 7:00 am this morning. I handed it to them and wished them a good winter.... and a see ya in the Summer of 2014!

This painting entitled "Morningshine... at Chimney Island" -oil on canvas 24x48 inches hangs above our hearth in Islesview. It is a personal favourite of mine because it depicts a place where my family picnicked for a number of years on Sundays before we were blessed to own a cottage of our own. I feel that it rather depicts this River view in a cathedral-like manner... somewhat similar in function to a high altar piece. The outdoors is my cathedral... my chosen place of worship of my Creator's gifts and blessings to me!


  1. Wow, Bruce!! That painting of your son with the canoe and the People's Choice winner...both are just so darned awe-inspiring. Love your old family Shangri-La, though admit that I don't care for those pieces of wood sticking of the top of it now. But you are back on your beloved river, yes? Oh to be able to live in such a place...I have always had a strong pull to both sea and mountain. So? I enjoy my vicarious thrill of the sea through your blog and your art.

  2. Good morning Sherry!... Thank you... for again lifting my spirits and making my day... early... with your encouraging comments and reflections!

    To be told that one has inspired and encouraged a fellow traveller is a precious gift that we all can share... each and every day of our lives. It takes but a moment... and a simple act of kindness to send it out... but the "ripple effect" it can, and usually does have a far-reaching effect that we can neither anticipate nor actually see. But the fact is... such a simple act of kindness is remembered ... and cherished!

    Thank "You" Sherry... from the bottom of my heart! In my constant journey... Art Matters... and so do fine folk like "You"! You are special!

    Good Painting!... and Happy Fall!
    Warmest regards,