Thursday, March 22, 2018

Counting Eagles

Photo by Vancouver Island Photographer, Rainer Willeke
In the morning when I sit at my dining table having breakfast, I look out over a forest of trees to a distant patch of sunlit ocean, backed by snow-topped ice-cream mountains. Often ravens are having conversations in the tall evergreens, and once in a while an eagle wheels overhead, just beyond my backyard. There is a little lake out of sight behind the trees, and I like to think that the eagle is swooping down to fish there, but more likely it is scanning the road at the back of our place, looking for roadkill. 

One of the things I love about being back at the BC coast again is seeing eagles. Lately we have been making regular trips to our local ski hill to go for an afternoon of skiing. This involves a drive up the coast, and then up into the mountains. It takes a little more than an hour. On the way I count eagles. (Note that I am not driving while I count. Rob drives to the hill, and I drive home.)

I always see at least one, and I have counted as many as six eagles on the drive. I have learned to look for their favourite perches, high up on dead branches. They like to position themselves where they can overlook both a stream and the highway. Open patches of field also are favoured. Sometimes I see hawks as well as eagles. I am speculating that the number I see on any given day depends on whether the tide is in or out. The Island Highway is just a few kilometers from the ocean in most sections, and when the tide is out, there is lots for the eagles to eat in the tidal pools.

This retirement gig is pretty awesome! I am grateful everyday that I get to be in this place and do the the things that I do. Skiing, for example. I have written before that skiing is part of my identity story. I love to ski. I have had some injuries that sidelined me from skiing for periods of a year or more, and nearly a decade ago, I even had one doctor tell me that I would never ski again. So now I ski much more cautiously, and am thankful for every additional year that I get to be on the ski hill.

A Happy Skier
We have met some new friends here who like to ski, and have had great fun meeting them at the hill. Later we debate the problems of the world in a bar or restaurant.

My Trusty Skiing Partner
Of course, not every day is a perfect day. Sometimes things break -- one of our toilets, to be exact, and we have been waiting for a week to get a plumber. Or technology decides to drive me crazy. For example, my mobile phone has decided that it no longer wants to communicate with my computer. So I can't upload my photos, just when I am trying to organize and edit my painting photos for my art website.

The sun does not shine everyday. This is the west (wet) coast. However, we put on our raincoats and boots, and out we go anyways.

Thursday Dog Walking Group

This morning most of the hardy members of my weekly dog walking group showed up despite the threat of rain. That is my dog, Kate, in the foreground. And yes! The smiling person on the left is Donna of Retirement Reflections.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Time For Art

All of my life, it seems that I have had to fit art in around the edges of my life. Sometimes, there were multi-year gaps when I did no art. I could usually find time for a little art or a little writing, but not both.

So when I retired, I planned to devote a lot more time to those twin passions of writing and art. When looking for a place to retire, the natural beauty of the location was an important consideration, as was choosing a house that would have space that I could use as a painting studio.

Silhouette of Garry Oak
The part of Vancouver Island where we have relocated to is glorious. It is a rural area on the coast that has a little town centre and a strong sense of community. There is a network of trails right outside my door, and I go walking on them several times a week. I take photos on my walks, often thinking that I might use the images later as references for a painting. I have noticed several spots, not too far away, that would great for setting up my easel and doing plein air painting.

For example, the photo below shows of one of my favourite places along the trails. It is a rocky green meadow high above a lake, fringed with evergreens, Garry oaks, and arbutus trees. A little seasonal stream runs through it. I took this photograph on my walk this afternoon.

Meadow above the Lake
Along with spectacular views to paint, there is a strong community of artists in the area. In the Fall, I was invited to participate as a guest artist in a weekend art show. Although I exhibited in many juried shows and other group art shows from 1994-2004, and also had a number of solo shows of my work during that period, in recent years I have little time to exhibit. So I was thrilled to be able to participate. I put together some paintings to display, which happened to be the first 21 paintings that came out of the moving boxes. Many of the rest still have not emerged from the boxes yet.

My Paintings at the Studio Art Tour
It was wonderful getting to know the other artists, as well as members of the community who came to the art show. Recently, I formally became a member of the art group. This group hosts studio tours during the year, when members of the public are invited to visit the artists in their home studios and see their work. I have already set up the working part of my home studio, but still need to hang my paintings in the section that will be the gallery.

With the help of my daughter, who is an artist and web developer, I have been working on building an artist's website. Unfortunately, over the years, I have not done a good job of documenting my work photographically, or keeping track of all the data about each painting. So over the last few weeks, I have spent many hours sorting through the photos of paintings that I do have (retrieving them from my database of more than 17,000 digital photos!), labelling them, and making them website ready. I need to photograph many paintings for which I do not have digital photos, or only poor quality ones. There is a lot of other "behind the scenes" work in setting up a studio/gallery and being part of a formal group.

It all takes a lot of time. But, I am happy to report that I have finally picked up my brushes and started painting again.

Painting in Progress in my Studio
I hope to announce my new website soon. Stay tuned for details about our upcoming Spring Showcase.