Better late than never

Last week, out and about driving, I caught bits of the CBC radio program “Now or Never.” The hosts were celebrating “late bloomers,” people, that is, who embark on something under the auspices of “better late than never.” I thought of my recent foray into sketching and watercolour, a late blooming kind of interest, I suppose, but which in fact I was first attracted to in 1994. That summer, 26 years ago, I sketched — in light and timid pencil — some objects around me. A pot of geraniums, a clump of bananas, my children’s ears.

At that time it seemed an antidote to writer’s block I was experiencing, as well as a wonderful mechanism for close observation. I soon concluded that in spite of my desire to do it, I wasn’t a “natural” and would need to work hard to learn. And, shortly I was unblocked and writing.

But, about a year-and-a-half ago, the impulse rose again, from its dormancy, and I bought a sketchbook to try to set down on blank paper what I saw. The first entry was a tiny oak in our Toronto children’s front yard, which I’m just remembering that I wrote about here.

Last week, I looked through my (now 3) sketchbooks, recalling the occasion of each drawing or watercolour (which I also began to try, because there were some paints and brushes at the local thrift store). I rubbed my finger on the surfaces and noticed how the colour comes away. It was cheap paint. I could let myself feel ashamed of those amateur attempts, but I don’t, because of the enormous pleasure of the wet colour sliding into place, even if badly. A year from now I’ll view my current progress and see its failings too (though the paint has been upgraded). The point is, I’m happy when I have time to try. I’ve taken a couple of classes and there’s a plethora of online tutorials. Rarely does my picture turn out like the teacher’s, but this is the glorious thing about “better late than never”: who cares? I’m learning stuff I never had a clue about, in terms of colour and paint properties, learning enough to know that I’ve only begun and that the journey forward is bound to be absorbing. The outcome doesn’t really matter.

Neither do I have a particular focus or personal preference in style yet (what we writers call in writing our voice). One day it’s loose, as in the poppies below, the next it’s nostalgia as in the Green House I grew up in (yes, I know the kids playing croquet — my four brothers and I — should be higher into the picture; I worked from two separate photos). Another day, some hours doing a tulips-in-jar tutorial, or trying on my own to capture the simple beauty of pears.

 

DCD5116B-9F88-4975-B4FD-A1987206054EAnother day (last Sunday to be precise), I went to my first-ever Urban Sketchers meet-up in Vancouver and tried my hand at a look down Burrard Street from the Waterfront Plaza, though it was cold and said hand was soon too chilled to grab any more detail.

It’s hard to articulate the what and why of it all. Enough time and latent curiosity, perhaps, converging. And no idea if the doing of it will be sustained. I’ve been wondering too whether I’m trying to express my environment or control it. For now it’s some version of see and show and tell, and better late than never.

High Time

High time for me to show up at my blog.

High time? It means “the time that something is due (bordering on overdue)” and alludes, I learn online, to the warmest part of the day, when the sun is highest in the sky. Which, gauging by my watch, is more or less this moment of writing, though the air is filled with smoke from British Columbia’s numerous wildfires and the sun is hidden and the light has an eerie cast.

In the steady turning of time from low to high and round again, H. and I have reached and passed a year here in Tsawwassen, and are still pleased to be here. We’ve also just reached and passed another year in our marriage, to 43, and are grateful for that. Continue reading

Words will be wanted

I was so ready for this. For this weekend. A festival of women writers called “Growing Room,” put on by the ROOM journal collective.

I’ve been happy in our move, I can certainly count the ways I like Tsawwassen, but I was unusually excited about the opportunity to be in the middle of writers again. Never mind that I wouldn’t know anyone. Or would have to plan and plot my getting there on a map. I was reading at the launch of ROOM’s latest issue (below) on Saturday evening, since it contains a creative non-fiction piece of mine (“Notes Toward an Autobiography”). Why not spend the day at panels and workshops? Why not spend the next day too? Just to hear the familiar vocabulary of writers’ talk. Just to hear them read, even complain, about their work.

Why not indeed? And a rich two days they were. A highlight: a panel on writing about trauma with Evelyn Lau, Christine Lowther, and Sonnet L’Abbe. Another: a panel on “rewriting the stories we tell about our bodies” with Lorna Crozier, Francine Cunningham, Nilofar Shidmehr, and Juliane Okot Bitek. Continue reading