Be careful in choosing what you wish for. For it may surely come to pass. January did indeed add an early, and unexpected surprise for our New Year here in Rockport. It came out of no where... with complete stealth and... surprise. And completely floored us!
Surprise # One
I had set out on Friday afternoon in search of a site to enjoy my second outdoor painting foray. I discovered such a place and a subject in a very ordinary corner of my every day travels. The day turned out to be one of those rare winter days where there is no wind to deal with... and the growing warmth of the a higher January sun inspires one to set aside the usual winter need for speed.
Gone was the usual weather-driven need to set up quickly and to jump immediately into painting in high gear. There was ample time to just sit and take in... and to slowly savour the subject. There was no rush to paint. There was even time to set my radio to my constant PBS classical music radio station. With the trunk lid of the van open, I would be able to have music as my afternoon painting companion... on an otherwise empty back street in the rural village of Lansdowne. It was all too glorious. What a pleasant and unexpected surprise!
The scene reminded me so much of the Christmas cards I so admired now long ago, when I perused the ones Dad was quietly chronicling at the kitchen table after each and every Christmas. During his process, he would customarily check off the names of folks who wished to share his tradition of card sending, while eliminating those who did not wish to continue. He would even set aside those special cards that appealed to him pictorially. They would find themselves magically reappearing on the mantle at the commencement of the next Christmas season. I follow that tradition... somewhat.
I vividly remember being attracted to rural subjects like red barn board covered Vermont bridges... barns... horse and sleigh subjects and town street scenes... ones just like this quintessential rural winter street scene that lay before me in Lansdowne. I totally remember it as my introduction to Canadian art history and to figures like AY Jackson... Manley MacDonald... Pilot... Suzor-Cote... Gagnon and Colburn... just to name a few. Perhaps... this was the initial source and crucible for my own painting preferences... so many years later. It was certainly reminiscent of that earlier time on this day, as I set forth to capture this legacy from a rural past in Ontario that has all but disappeared. I shall be amongst the last of a generation that will have it to see... and to record. Things change... and with that change... things lose their value and finally their very physical presence in our cultural landscape. A pity... but it is how life runs!
Here is the raw sketch/impression that I painted as it came back to my studio. I feel very little need to rework it at all. There exist a few inaccuracies which always occur during an interface with the landscape and a few flat areas that need brightening a bit. Other than that, it will remain as I had recorded it... and I am well pleased with the result. It added joy to my life... and surprisingly came from close to home.
Plein air oil sketch on canvas 8x10 inches... "in the raw"
Surprise # Two
I decided next morning that I would got down to the studio and "tidy up" this sketch ... devoting no more than fifteen minutes to insure that I retained the painterly, loose quality of this small painting. As I approached the door between the stairs and the studio door, I was confronted by two rather dark and ominous patches on the burgundy broadloom.WATER! Terror gripped me immediately, as I grabbed the handle on the closed door opening into the studio. The area right at the entrance was soaked with water as well... but jumping further into the broad loomed carpeted area, a small sense of relief swelled within me. At least the studio area itself... with paintings, files and books on the floor had not been effected... yet.
I went over to the closed door to the adjoining spare bedroom... snapped on the light switch and quickly glanced into its interior. Horrors! The carpet in there was totally submerged. My greatest fear came from the fact that we has stored my quadriptych vertically in this area. We would have to put worries about that concern on the back burner for the present. I called for Deb, and together... we began quickly removing the paintings and bedding from the two single beds. That done and the studio cleared of all objects on the actual floor itself, we went back to the task of evaluating an immediate plan of action.
It was quickly obvious... looking at the one low window in the room, that water was entering the space... and very steadily as a result of trapped run off of melt waters from the 6-10 inches of solid ice that had formed in our driveway and around the house itself. The added overnight and all day rains had exacerbated the run off... so that water ran to places that it usually didn't. This created this major problem... and surprise for us. It realized that the carpet had to come up immediately and that a heavy duty shop vacuum would be required to remove all of the inside water accumulation and to stem the flow of the incoming water. I fully realized as well... that decisive action had to be taken outside as well, to remove the built up ice and snow from around the back and front of the house. So the problem... and required solution was two-pronged in nature.
I immediately called our land lords and they responded immediately by sending their very handy son-in-law to lend a hand. He agreed with my evaluation, so we joined forces in first cutting up the carpet and removing it. Then, using his mighty powerful 6.5 horse power "super sucking 2+1... he very quickly removed all of the water very quickly. We placed a good sized oscillating fan in the room overnight to further help in drying up the area. Our actions appear to have the problem under control... for the moment. Fingers crossed...NO MORE SURPRISES, January.... PLEASE!
I spent the remainder of the day breaking up the heavy ice crust and shovelling away the snow under it around the entire front and back of the house. After a breather, I set about axing a channel through the six to ten inch thick base of ice down the full fifty foot length of the driveway. Needless to say... sleep came early and was welcomed by us both at the end of this hectic and worrisome day. My earlier expressed enthusiasm for "surprises" had for certain been more than sufficiently... "dampened"!
Post Surprise Thoughts
Despite all of the worry and hard work that we faced in the handling of these little January "surprises"... they serve to teach each of us important lessons. Firstly... we must learn to accept what life delivers to us. We must first think... make a plan and then work as a team to overcome whatever the disappointment... obstacle, or setback may be. As with the pre-Christmas "surprise" power outage, we carried out these steps in the same order and we more than survived. We grew closer together as a result of our combined effort and genuinely felt much less powerless in the face of this adversity.
In my experiences in my own life... I humbly offer to you that Adversity has been my greatest teacher and that it has advanced my personal growth in every aspect of my being! The adversities I have been faced with and endured form the very basis of the current feelings of Peace and Contentment that I now enjoy. Deb has brought her unconditional love and support... providing the very "salve" that soothes the effects of adversities that regularly manifest themselves in our daily life. Together... we have formed a creative and grateful team. .. and we have learned to pull... and together, we share both the load and the benefits of our labours. That is all that matters in life.
"We"... are deeply blessed.... and ready to face more of life's endless array of "surprises".... small "s" fully intended! HA HA!!
Lesson Learned?... Focus more on the pleasant "surprises." Make a plan and ride out the unpleasant ones together. SMILE!.... They usually pass quickly... and are forgotten just as quickly as they have appeared !
Good Painting!... to ALL!!!
Post Surprise # 2 "All's well... that ends well"! (Shakespeare)
"Back Street Lansdowne Legacy" - plein air oil on canvas 8x10 inches... just a few "colour surprises" added