The late Glenn Frey wrote the song lyrics, "You were born in the city/Concrete under your feet". These words echo in my mind as I traipse through the vast Canadian Rockies landscape, overwhelmed with scenes to paint. The part of me that belonged to the city was lost years ago.
Around every tree, a new experience: a grouse launching itself into the air, making you jump and taking your breath away; an elk sauntering along the trail; an eagle soaring above so you stop and stare until it disappears from sight.
Thankfully, I'm never alone out there. I have the voices of the women who went before, whispering in my ears, guiding my steps. Some are the voices from dusty books: women who walked in the Rockies to paint: Mary Schaeffer and Catharine Robb Whyte, both fearless it seems. Others are women who have been on MY path in life, imparting their knowledge and determination which I am so grateful for.
One woman, a descendent of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the "Little House" books, had a small farm in the country. Every morning she walked slowly to the barn to feed her beloved cows, (one was named Rowena after the much loved character in the book Ivanhoe). Her emphysema slowed her stride, but she remained one of the strongest women I ever knew. I struggled to lift the quilts on the beds in her house, but she would pick them up and fluff them high in the air as if they were made of paper. Whenever I cook a roast, I hear her voice saying, "Cook once, eat twice!"
Here in B.C. on a remote cattle ranch, I stood on a porch with a woman as she watched one of her animals struggling to give birth. Her eyes widened behind the binoculars with worry, then she leapt on the ATV, standing up as if competing in Motocross, sped to the field and remained there until the baby was safely born. When she returned to the porch, undoubtedly wondering why I was standing there in shock with my mouth agape, she said, with a voice so calm as if this were an every day event, "Guess I'll clean myself up and then we can make that jam like we planned to."
These women, each pioneers in their own way, worked the days without counting the hours. "You just work until it's done", one inspiring woman informed me. With all they accomplished every day, I thought they must bake bread in their sleep! The pantries were full, fridge and freezers groaning with food, but there was no "extra" time in their days to make pickles or jam. It was just something else added to the work list.
I remember thinking one afternoon that out here in the Rockies, you don't just whitewash a fence--you whitewash ACRES of fence!
When I paint outside, especially on the bluffs overlooking the wetlands, that's when I hear the whispers. We artists stand back to back to be alert in case a curious bear arrives. Those pioneer women whisper to me: "No point in worrying, just trust your instincts. With courage, you can do everything."
Thank you for spending this time with me,
P.S. I am honoured to impart the news that one of my drawings was accepted for the Kootenay (Ktunaxa) Culture Show at Art Gallery Kimberley in Kimberley B.C. The show runs from February 1-25. If you'd like to view the exciting collection of art inspired by life in the Kootenays, please visit their website: www.artgallerykimberley.com