Sunday, 15 December 2013

Being Here Now, Waiting for the Silence

Across the world, in Venezuela right now, in the Ukraine, in many places, people are fighting for their right to a fair way of living. For simple freedoms, for human rights, for their dreams, and some are being shot on the spot for demanding something better of their leaders. How is it that they are they, and I am me? It just is. For if I were them, I would be them, and if they were me, they would be me. What I deal with day to day is in no way a struggle in comparison to theirs. Where I live, however, there are still things to fight for, there are human rights to defend, there is nature to protect, and a living to be carved out. The onus is on us, as residents of this amazing part of the world, to preserve what is truly most valuable, to discover intelligent and resourceful ways to be self sufficient and to strengthen the social structure of our communities. They say you must start from where you are, with what you have, and do what you can. So, here I am renting a house on a gulf island, commuting to work in the town across the water, trying to utilize my talents to provide a living. What kind of living do I want? One of peace, of achievement, of contentedness, self-sufficiency and low impact. Should that right be available to all of us? Yes, it should. Then, how?

A Summer's venture to Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park

       One of the first places I came to visit on G Island in 2008 was the home of S and R, then best friends of my partner K. Arriving by bike off the ferry on a hot July day, I got lost trying to find their house, and had to keep asking the locals how to get there. Anyone I asked seemed to know the way, carefully checking me out before answering. While riding around the island in haphazard disorientation, my unfolding surroundings overwhelmed me with nostalgia. The quiet gravel country roads encroached only by by forest,  the fresh air and the lack of traffic, the smell of the sea in my mind wandered back to my childhood summer holidays spent at Qualicum Beach, where our friends owned the humble beach-front Waskasoo Inn, with its sand-splattered floor tiles and its seaweed and driftwood-scented rooms. Wild and suntanned children of the 70s, we'd bravely march along the railway tracks through the woods until we reached a secret trestle, where the raging river suddenly stood still and formed a pool as serene and deep as a mug of warm milk. We'd dive and swim and hang from tree branches,and shout at our own echoes from the surrounding rock walls ....then we'd wander safely back at dusk on the deserted Island highway, past a pink sunset shoreline view interrupted only by the presence of Mrs. Little's Cabins and the odd motel, to discover my dad and Mr. D returning from a day of fishing for salmon in the ocean...we'd devour the buttered red fish off the barbeque and watch in horrified awe as Mr. D held freshly roasted oyster shells above his head. Barely cracked open by the heat of the beach fire, they would slide slowly out and then suddenly drop down the back of his throat, setting us all screeching with disgusted glee. We'd light fires inside milk cartons and send them off on the outgoing night tide, watching them flicker upon the waves until we could only squint at little pinpoint specks in the dark, confusing them with the stars.

When I arrived at S and R's house that daydreaming July day, I noted how easily I could have passed it, tucked away and unassuming, an eyeblink of a driveway hidden from the road. I pushed open the big wooden gate in their ten foot fence, and walked into a world that would entrance me all over again, for I thought, right away, this is paradise. A thin but well-worn path crossed a yard overflowing with flowers and vegetables, past a tire hanging from a tree, and beaten down and bleached wooden sheds, bees buzzing, birds tweeting, the smell of soup cooking, a rickety old sunken mobile home covered in rose bushes, with a boot-trodden covered porch offering rocking chairs and sofas, decorated with hanging beads and glassware, candles and animal skulls and batik cloth and stoneware pottery, buckets of seashells, and beach stones piled in the corners of each porch step.. My partner was there waiting for me, and he introduced me to S ~ tall, with friendly eyes and and a lanky build, and R, with her red flowing hair and long colourful hippie skirt. I was invited in for tea, and was fascinated by the humble beauty of their simple, with plywood floors, a woodstove, a small kitchen, yet crammed to the rafters with books and musical instruments and textiles and art on the walls, the sun streaming in the windows to paint everything gold, highlighting a lived-in chaotic assembly of used furniture and unfolded laundry and pets. This initial visit would soon blend in with the many ensuing wonderful days and nights spent at at their place, eating fried local oysters in mesquite sauce, listening to R play the piano and sing while S played the accordian, huddling round the woodfire cuddling Angel the dog, gathering round the table for one of R's home made meals, laughing with her daughter and son, getting pecked on the neck by the lovebird Lucy, helping R organize her school papers for marking, watching S carve his artful handmade jewellery. Always their door was open and always they had friends over throughout the day. Always there to listen to stories and tell jokes and offer a shoulder for someone to lean on, they were, to me, the most exemplary couple ever. Like us, their love of the natural world surrounding them was their passion, and close small community their stronghold. I said to K the very day that I met them, this is how I want to live, I want us to be like them, with an open welcoming home and a strong supportive connection to our neighbours.

Thistles in the yard of S & R

I suppose I thought, when shortly after that visit I decided to move here, that I was coming back to that sort of an ideal island life, but you would not recognise my old Qualicum Beach today and I'm quite sure that this island is too, alas, slowly losing it's own quaint and isolated edge. Eventually I realized that my romantic vision had already passed by about thirty or forty years ago, and S & R's home was a fragile surviving oasis; they had bought their property years ago and worked hard to maintain their dreams and positively impact their community. As much as we hoped to replicate their frugal and simple low impact lifestyle, it was rapidly becoming a challenging and fading possibility.

Not long ago on the ferry I overheard another version of the wailing call of the far removed yearning for that future day. This wailing call is the mournful lament of the people who visit this island and hum and sigh about the difficult economy and say how much they would LOVE to move to a gulf island like this but it is simply impossible to do so and make a "decent" living. These are the ones like the man I met at a party awhile ago who said it took him seven years to finally move here because there was no way to build his second home sooner, like the businessman I met in Vancouver who sold his sprawling summer house here because his city obligations never allowed him time to get away to it.  The ones who firmly believe that a certain amount of secured wealth is prerequisite or imperative to setting down roots in this fast receding ecosystem of clean water, lovely forest paths, various rocky and sandy beaches, fresh fields that welcome deer, slapping tides that otters roll in, tree tops where the eagles perch, horizons cut sharp by orca fins, dewy earth-scented trails where bike tracks can dry and disappear before the next rider finds them, hidden alcoves deep off the beaten path that house muddy beaver dams, gravel roads that sit silent on a Friday at dusk,small and simple unobtrusive cottages that a woodstove can fully heat, ocean water that welcomes swimmers and row boats, pitch black night skies that offer a million stars per penny earned in a lifetime, as long as you can find a place where the treetops part enough to see them.

All of these divine and natural joys in life that should be FREE, free to us all while our lungs are still pink and our cheeks still rosy, seem to be the expected full or part-time reward only to a privileged few. And still, many of those privileged few prefer roads over fields, paint over wood, and parking lots over walkways, property lines over trails, and the erection of No Trespassing signs. How did this come to be? Of course some element of economy was needed to sustain anyone living here, but what kind of economy did that need to be? Wasn't it always here already if nature was able to provide, and those living here didn't equate serenity with luxury or enjoyment with convenience?

Last summer, working for $12 an hour, I had a chance to mow the lawns of numerous beautiful properties around the island.While I got my exercise I was able to feel the sun on my body, enjoy gorgeously abundant gardens, smell the beckoning giant froth of the sea and, on one particular day, stand in front of the widest private view of the ocean from a vantage point that will never be mine or anyone's but the home owner's...who wasn't living there, and wouldn't be back for six months.

K and I recently read a book titled Twelve by Twelve ~ A One Room Cabin Off the American Grid 
which encompasses an ideal that still struggles to find its space in the wilderness....the idea of self-sufficiency in a very low impact and minimal  lifestyle. It is a dream of ours to seek out such a living.

View of the ferry arriving ~ photo by Sean McFarland
Many enterprising people in society are sacrificing their time and their lives to an unchallenged formula, the formula that separates life from lifestyle, and career from home. They have an eye on the final reward...the comfortable life they expect to live here "one day". Much as I wonder at the roundabout pursuits of these people, their hard work and retirement-aimed goal has made it  possible for people like me to live here year round, to be crazy enough to barely manage to rent a house in the woods twelve months a year, to wake up every morning seeing trees and not cement outside my window, to force myself to be creative and resourceful in my means of earning a living, and to be thankful for having the very basic necessities with which to eke by while surrounded daily by the enormous beauty I can never, now that I know it so well, ever leave for anywhere else, unless we move somewhere more remote, somewhere that still runs fifteen or twenty years ahead of its wider discovery.

We remain here, simply surviving, with no guarantee of savings or so-called security, and yet, we actually own from day-to-day what nobody can buy or make or replace once it is gone...pristine, unspoiled nature.

Unsuccessful at securing a livable income on G island, we rely on my work in town on Vancouver Island, a 24 minute ferry ride away. Being among those who rent here, we're part of the struggling service population, and yet it is the only way we can be here now. Is it really a worse deal than owning a home we must wait to live in year round , or worse yet not ever want to live in year round? Sadly, I have quickly learned how much the odds are stacked against people like us, and how much the wailing call is a true and valid lament. It IS a struggle to live on G Island through all four seasons if you are not a home owner, retired, a successful business owner, or well-employed across the water.. The pursuit of simply maintaining a meager existence here is not for the faint of heart. A flexible and forgiving landlord is a Godsend and one has to pray he/she doesn't give in to the idea of renting at a higher rate to professors on annual sabbatical or a rotation of international visitors. People earning minimum wage who rely on affordable accommodations on G Island will never see the inside of  a $1600/month second story ocean view suite, and can only hope the $800-900 rentals hold steady, the same rentals that only three years ago were $500-$600. The population here is rapidly morphing to a majority of wealthy elderly retirees and off-island recreational home owners, whose symbiotic partner is the necessary service and rental income providing population. The trades, and property maintenance, provide the majority of work for year-rounders, much of it for cash or at rates competing with off-island contractors. Local employers are pressed by long quiet winters to seek the economic advantage of hiring retirees or teenagers who don't mind $10/ hour, and lack the means to hire working age renters who rely on a  full-time living wage. Unfurnished year round rentals are rare and far for September-June furnished rentals asking city prices are increasing, and many people would rather alarm and protect their valuable vacant properties, fearing poor upkeep or property damage by low income renters.

Our Front Yard

Diversity is crucial to the maintenance of strong island community. To dilute it and tip the ship too heavily one way is the beginning of a sinking. 

Almost everyone I know from the city has told me they could never take the risk of living as close to the bone as I do now. It's a massive leap of faith, which once taken, may not offer an easy way out. People will call you everything  from crazy to lazy to falsely entitled to doomed, none of which are true, nor should be. Is it wrong to strive to survive on as little as possible, to have a trailer on a huge treed lot and never develop it,  and to seek out an uncomplex life in the place you most wish to live? Good friends of ours who arrived here shortly after we did , all the way from Edmonton, eventually left for a more promising life in New Brunswick. A local family who have stretched themselves thin for seven years have announced they are at the end of their financial rope and will be forced to leave this spring.

My partner, who has lived on and off this island since the 90s, has witnessed the slow erosion of natural simplicity as it caves in to the invasion of West Vancouver style transplanted homes, more paved roads and the erection of NO TRESPASSING signs where once anyone could freely cut through the woods following only the deer trails. Now marketed and "branded" as the Isle of The Arts, an optimistic and exclusively chic  generation of commercial artists rely upon the Arts Council to promote their work to the tourists and sustain their careers. The council succeeded last year in packaging their brand by employing local artists (upon condition they belong to the Arts Council) to paint the telephone poles along the ferry hill, staking their claim to represent their commodity to the tourist market. If you are producing art here and are not in the council, you will likely miss out on the fanfare of having your work widely discovered....something for diehard art hunters to might be necessary to go a little deeper to discover what is hidden in the woods...among my very favourite artists here, is an ostracized drug addict who lives on welfare, who would prefer to remain anonymous.

Once an island of hippies and wood cabins and small trailers on widely separated lots, as with all areas known for their natural beauty, the private ocean views and the tree-felling dream houses were soon to be sought after. Suddenly offered sums for their properties they couldn't even fathom, the simple living folk, unsung artists and bohemians of 20th century G Island sold out....and, sadly for the economy, the peaceful ma & pa pot growers  such as our friend S have been increasingly busted out, essentially having their lives upset and ruined for no advantage to anyone. They must take the hard knocks and the punishment, as the greedy masqueraders of the the profit-seeking medical marijuana commercial industry barge in to trample them over and  remove all their human rights. As far as I am concerned, pot is akin to broccoli and should be treated as such...grow it at home or buy it from the store, illegal to anyone under 18 to purchase. It's plain intelligence, and the economy would thrive, as well as people over corporations. The people are also let down again as another corporation, BC Ferries, has cut the sailing services to the island forcing the working class out, and more empty subdivisions shall continue to cramp in as real estate agents see profit.

Across the dirt road from us, a large circular lot has been carved out deep inside a remaining thin circle of high evergreens. We walk past it and peek across at the motor home which at night glows with a golden light. We've met one of the women who lives there, and we think we've spotted the other one at times. I always think, they have everything already, no need to go any further. Truly, if we actually owned a lot like that, a sweet little cabin or motor home would be enough for us to end our days in and find a community-serving way to make it work. But that's just me and my partner. We're wondering when the chain saws and hammering will start across the road, or if they will at all. So far we just smile and say hi when we see anyone there...we're too afraid to ask if, eventually, the trees will all be shaved, the magical forest stripped, and a West Vancouver lookalike home be erected. 

I wish there was a way we could ALL find the life we want, simple or extravagant, where we want, and when we want it. Sometimes I'm sure there are two types of people...those who shall continue to move toward outer space, and those who shall remain cherishing this rare and fragile pristine earth. Both are adventurous and inventive, but me, I want to work where I live and be here now, build on my humble and simple living days where I thrive the most, for after all, life itself is a rental. The world is discovering how insecure we all are, balancing on a needle head. K and I want to earn our keep here always but starting NOW, and not buy into the delusion of the far removed who may never see their future day. We don't want them to be right, and they don't have to be. I want us to make it here, to make it here because we want for so little and don't want to have too much . And most of all, I want the wailing call to fade away.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Solstice 2013 Eases Into Hot Summer and A New Emergence

I saw a photo of a T-shirt on Pinterest and it made me chuckle. It reads "I'm Busy. Read My Blog."
My own version would read "I'm busy. I forgot my blog". For five months!! Well, I didn't forget it entirely as it rose up into the back of my mind from time to time as a quiet guilt-ridden anxious urge, reminding me that I had left so much undone and time was swallowing up the chance to recount anything. In these moments of distant intention, I fell deeper into into the blue funk of avoidance, convinced there was nothing to post as I was suffering the worst creative block ever. Winter, long and arduous, brought on various justifications to procrastinate..... fatigue, laziness, shifting priorities, my unpredictable on call schedule at the library, periods of near starvation, K's accident and discovery of his spinal stenosis followed by his two surgeries to prevent paralysis, stress over the stepkids, discovering the garden as a haven... too much indulgence in earthly stimulations and distractions. The undone promised story of Suzanne Valadon hung over me like an unfinished university paper would have once done. The conviction that nobody cares padded my apathy. Reading my posts and wishing my sense of humor was more apparent, my writing more spontaneous and less studied....yeah, all that and more. Depression. 

And then of course just as I was nearing the hope of picking up again where I left off, I discovered Pinterest, perhaps the current day's most time-sucking online vacuum ever. I felt I needed to "collect" ideas for inspiration, build boards such as Palettes for Painting and (as if) My Art Among Others, as well as my current favorite collection, Art That Breaks Through. I was on a constant hunt for ideas, colours, styles, that spark of artistic ignition. You can get an idea of how far I wandered into this visual abyss when you see I racked up 65 themed boards, straying slowly from art to imagined closets and flea market finds to gardening perfection. K looked on with mild disappointment, dropping guilt trips such as "You could have started half a canvas during the time you've been on there pinning". He was right. About 3000 plus pins into the addiction, I began to admit I was becoming oversaturated with ideas, hooked by the endless search for that elusive better high.

Meanwhile I started a few more paintings...started...and didn't finish...started another...and didn't finish. Still bogged down by my bad habit of wanting to treat each canvas as if it was my only chance EVER to create a winning piece of art, according to the intricate and rigid plan I had in mind. Too uptight to just try and fly off a who-cares-what one day creation.

Ugh...plans. OK so I've had it with that. I'm grabbing canvases now and I refuse to be anal, to sit pondering the blank white elephant forever ....and I'm just diving in. I'm going to select a palette, and that will be my only premeditation. Then its bombs away. I want to actually finish a painting in one day or one sitting. I'm dropping oils except to finish what I've started, and taking up acrylics again for that fast finish.

Let's see if I'm worth watching or not.

Here is at last the finished painting of my Sudanese voters. I titled it "Voice", and dedicated it to my loving K whose idea it was:

"VOICE" ~ Ranza Clark ~ Acrylic on Canvas 20" x 16"

It was a fun time painting it....I started out without any adherence to factual references, aside from the faded digital photo K gave me. I became more interested in reading about the election and the people I was depicting, but I still relied on my imagination to take control, rather than adhere to authentic renditions of the setting, accuracy of physical racial features, or indigenous attire.  My voters remained true though, they knew who they were and why they were there. It came out in their expressions. Each person in the line...there are five...(one almost invisible, the partially hidden tall man)...became a crucial presence, the "Voice" belonging, one after another, to each of them in their own single vote. In the real world, this election of 2011 saw South Sudan vote resoundingly for their secession from the north.. If you wish to read more about this recent piece of history, well, here at  Human Rights Watch is a start, and another good summary here. Of course there is still a long way to go. When I think of the absolutely pitiful voter turnouts in Canada, a country so rich in resources, a country that influences so much of what occurs in countries abroad as well, I look into the eyes of these Sudanese voters...and they tell me how important a responsibility this is. In my painting I see a diversity of circumstances, choices, and fates, each figure owning a determined comment on personal beliefs, self sufficiency, individuality and dignity. 

Oh and technique...I used acrylics. I decided to outline the figures I know not why. At first I wanted to attempt realism in lighting, but not being adept enough, I fell into a style that to me resembles almost comic book illustration...yes, there I go yet again, illustrating rather than painting. Argh. 
Anyway, enough analysis, there it is. I have to sign it still, undecided on side or front. It's a regular shallow canvas, so bottom right front I think. We are hanging it on our pumpkin coloured bedroom wall in the cabin, but of course, it is for sale. 

And me, I am back in the blog world.I 'll be posting more frequently again (well,more often than every five months,anyway) even digging up and finishing some old posts sitting in draft. Summer is here and I have gone all artsy in my garden, building a maze and adding three dimensional art forms using wood, clay, dead branches, stones etc....well, you'll see the pics soon. It's a little bit heavenly I think!!

Thanks if you've read any of this. I am grateful.   
Love, Raonasa! xo

Sunday, 13 January 2013

The Moroccan Ceremony That Went to Calgary

I've posted most of my paintings here under the headings at the top of the on Art for the Cabin Walls above for instance, or Art for Fawns and Sprites to see some of them! However, I had not until today posted the painting that is featured as the cover art for my blog, the one titled "Moroccan Ceremony", and here it is (slightly cropped in the photo I'm afraid):

Moroccan Ceremony ~ Oil on Canvas 24" x 20"

I painted this bright fanfare in 2011 during the soggy downtrodden wet dirt road to nowhere dwindling winter, while feeling wistful for more exotic, lively and colourful places in the world. Couldn't I just BE there, in Morocco, or Istanbul or, or....anywhere but here? Spring was coming but not quickly enough!

Surely you would think, being surrounded by glorious Canadian flora and fauna, I'd be tackling landscapes featuring arbutus trees and the brooding grey oceanic beauty that seeps onto the canvas of the seasoned west coast island dwelling painter! When it is all around you the lure is inevitable and it's true that there's nothing like local nature to bring out your most exacting and vivid palettes. The truth is, though I madly love where I live, my mind goes off in the wildest most far fetched other-continental other-planetary places when it sits conjuring up the next painting....and I can't help it, I dream of Africa, the Orient, Old Europe and the Middle East a lot.

Tom Waits once described how his songs come to him, and a famous author also mentioned Tom's process in a fantastic TED Talks lecture on creativity (don't you LOVE TED Talks, and if you haven't heard  of it, click the coming link and discover it, right now!!). The author was Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote Eat, Pray, Love. Anyway, as Elizabeth described Tom's creative process, and also her friend the poet's creative process, I nodded and said "yes, that is basically it", and I'm sure I wasn't the only one to connect. How I start my own works is not always entirely explainable, a vision of an image just suddenly forms or appears or I even dream of it, but the spark is fleeting and I need to be alert to it. I think my tendency is more towards portraiture and creatures than abstracts and landscapes. And I am also an illustrator more than I am a painter...moving an illustrative hand to the painting canvas, I always battle uptight restraint, and measured planning, my two weaknesses. When I sketch, it flies like wildfire and I am left dazzled, but when I paint it's slow and desire to apply discipline and technique sometimes stifles the wild journey and stream of consciousness I long to follow. For me, painting Moroccan Ceremony was to become a meeting of all of those elements face to face, a new beginning, a new dance, a new celebration of colour and splendour waiting to burst forth from order and precision.

Once I have my vague idea, I begin to search through art or photography books and magazines for a colour or a scene that will further ignite my "spark"....I was flipping through a book titled "Moroccan Interiors" and thinking of ornate birds and tapestries, and from the tiniest corner of a photograph of a living room, on page 263, there were two framed prints of birds facing each other in a mirror struck my fancy to attempt a symmetrical painting, and to make it vividly colourful and celebratory.

I began with a sketch, and from there, it went:

 And then from there, it went again...

And even though I thought I was going to paint certain light colours, I was taken more and more into a deep chocolate background and earthy tones mixed with brights. I used a set of quick drying Pebeo oil paints, and felt like experimenting with lots of different tubed colours. When it was completed, I left it without a varnish, as I enjoyed its luscious and rich matte finish enough. I hung the painting in the entrance to our kitchen, and from time to time I would think of working more on it, or adding a varnish to give it sheen. But the birds would sit there pleasantly and say "We're happy this way, absolutely happy as ever". And I'd agree, and smile.

Then one day in November I got an email, a really lovely email, from a woman in Calgary. She had come across my blog while searching for things to remind her of Vancouver Island. She wrote me to ask if the cover art for my blog was actually for sale. I told her yes, it was! She was also interested in my original sketch of Queen Noushin. I felt as if she'd been guided to my art, and it was looking for her too.

After a few emails back and forth, and a trip to the framers to frame my sketch, I was ready to mail the art to my customer in Calgary. Calgary, my home town where I was born and raised! My art was finding it's way to a wonderful Calgary home where it would emanate grace, healing and joy, and be appreciated and loved in return!

December arrived and with it a few setbacks...K's accident was the final blow in a series of family hospital visits, me having hurt my thigh at work and winding up with a painful hematoma, and K's daughter having gall bladder surgery. All of these things delayed the packaging and shipping of my art, and, running out of mental and physical steam, I decided to look for help from a professional. Jeff Molloy came to my aid. I visited his studio with my two pieces and he wrapped them to perfection. This man has sent huge pieces of very valuable art overseas, and so getting my smaller babies safely to Calgary was for him a whiz. He taught me some handy pointers as he carefully worked away. He prefers to use sheet styrofoam rather than bubble wrap, and to keep the work flat and even, he uses hard thick cardboard, and saran tape going both length and width-wise. Brown parcel paper was used for the first inside and final outside wrap. I was able to send them off looking perfect, and soon heard from the new owner that they had arrived in fine condition. Hooray!!

I created both pieces with love, gratitude and happy energy, and my prayers are always with their owner to flourish every single day!! xoxoxo

Thursday, 10 January 2013

2013 and How We Got Here

I haven't written for months, so now I'll likely drum out several posts all in a tumbling row! It's difficult to justify my online absence other than to say it has been an eventful fall and winter. After my now almost dreamlike trip to the family reunion in France (did it really happen? Yes, I will cherish it again and again for the rest of my life!!!), I returned to my job as a casual library worker, however my holiday had set me back on the seniority list of casuals and I returned to virtually no work. You'd think this would open up a world of painting time but I tend to fret and procrastinate and obsessively clean the house when I'm worried about paying the bills. I irksomely focus on making our house tidy ~ a huge waste of time as we are rural dwellers, where domestic chaos is an accepted, no expected, state to present to visitors!!

Toward the end of the year I pulled together a few of my old Christmas Card designs (eventually you will be able to see all my watercolour greeting card designs on my other blog, Thumb & Thistle) and I took part in two local weekend markets, my favourite being the Christmas at the Commons. We've had so much to thank the Commons for throughout this year, and it's there that I've met some of the most real and down to earth people - people whose hearts and souls are far bigger than even the daily challenges they have to endure, and quite a few have lived on this island since much simpler times before their circumstances diminished...these are the people I feel the most at home with, and an ever evolving way of living has emerged for K and I as we now serve frequent shared dinners, offer our hot shower as a drop-in option and our sofabed as a respite to the same friends who give us a ride when we have no gas, drop off chopped wood to keep our fire along, lend us flashlights or come running if someone is sick, and so it goes round and round as we all find our equal footing and establish a lifestyle that nurtures the abundance we can collectively manifest in our small community. I never knew anything like this in the city. Here, the economic currency is the free time that is filled with open, unconditional favours traded between neighbours.

Just past mid-December K was driving home on the first snowy and icy evening of the winter and as he rounded a bend a deer appeared in his path. Although he knows not to swerve for deer, the timing of its placement at the apex of the curve was sudden and visibility low in the pitch dark....what he thought was shoulder room on the road was only an illusion created by ice his fleeting horror he discovered it was in fact a ditch.... as he skidded into it, he hurtled toward a huge tree and flipped on his driver side just in time to avoid a head on smashup and sure death. I was meanwhile at home snoozing, although even in my floating sleep I sensed an excessive lapsing of time, unconsciously unsettled that he should be home by now. I was soon woken by a friend knocking gently on our bedroom door (we never lock the house in our quiet neck of the woods)..."Ranza, you need to get up now and dress, K has been in a little accident". His overly calm manner betrayed his tentative words. My heart racing, I tore on my jeans and we drove down to the accident we approached, and I saw that a road crew was actually enforced to slow traffic (what, here? That never happens!!), my stomach churned, and I nearly threw up across the dashboard of our friend's car at the sight of our hefty Forerunner on its side, the hood ravaged open by the metal-gnawing machinery of the paramedic rescue team, and my man nowhere in sight, already extricated and whisked off  by the ambulance. 

K survived, in the opinion of the police and the emergency crew, by the skin of his teeth and the grace of his huge physique. And above all, in our humble opinion, under the protection of the Mysterious Great and Grander Entity. After a long night in hospital undergoing tests and xrays to rule out spinal and brain injury, he came home with a compound fracture and stitches to his nose, lacerations and tissue damage, a throttled knee and a bruised arm. 
K and Seeker in the Fall of 2012

Why had K driven out that icy cold evening? Leaving me at home to rest after an exhausting day, he was on an errand down mid-island to pick up a space heater for my studio from a woman who had a spare one to give me. It wound up coming at a much steeper price. I never thought the resulting comfort of a cozy warm studio would infuse me with such guilt and gratitude at the same time. 

No Longer Freezing, My Studio is Awake Again

Today we were having a laugh at the fact that K's otherwise boxer-like lumpy nose has actually healed much straighter than before.....and knock on wood we're back in the saddle again dealing with life's other simple struggles and exorbitant joys.

K and I met on New Year's Eve 2007, so it's our anniversary of course! We have stayed in to celebrate quietly all the Eves since, and this time as it passed uneventfully into the new enlightened era, I coined our shared motto for 2013:

"Carpe Diem! Fear Nothing, and Force Nothing! Get on with it in 2013!!"

I do have inspiring stories to tell and art to reveal, coming up soon!! And if I stick to my own words I will put the final brushstrokes to all the half-started paintings I began last year, including the yet to be titled oil below:

Oil Painting in Progress
                                      Happy New Year everyone, from our house in the woods.

The Road Ahead