The last refuge
I’m overtaken by two emotions when I’m in the midst of the great north.
The first is the awe that all of us experience, the greatness of this land that we are so blessed to live on. In Canada there is no city so large that a quick escape north cannot be fulfilled in less than one hours drive. Blessed we are when we can head off in almost any direction, east, west and north and we are free. Free of noise, free of traffic, in fact, even the frequency of neighbors in many places is farther than you can throw a stone or even a short walk. If you drive two hours things improve even more but if you venture beyond three hours drive, you can be truly remotely alone, if you so chose.
The second emotion that gnaws at my very soul is the forfeiting of that precious land in favor of housing developments. The shorelines being bought up by cottagers with no spaces left for general access to the water, inch by inch, property by property is disappearing into private hands
I think of the local politicians whose job it is to oversee the planning and distribution of the lands, motivated by the ever increasingly insatiable demand for tax revenue brought by expansive property development with no regard whatsoever for the preservation of the land and the access that should be partitioned and reserved for the general public.
My heart cries for my children and the next generation who will not enjoy what I enjoy. My heart cries for those who will not experience the great fresh breathtaking beauty of the lakes without the interruption of docks and motorboats. It’s not the owners faults, they only purchase what is made available. The responsibility lies with those whose job it is to plan and allocate.
My heart cries.
While my heart cries, my brush paints. In my own small way I am able to take back the land. In my own small way I am able to remove the structures, the roads, and silence the speedboats and jet skis.
In my own small way I am able to return it to its original beauty and that small way becomes more and more precious with every passing day.
I remember the day like it was yesterday. That awful Monday when they showed up. Those people in black suites, hair made perfect, shoes particularly shiny and not a stitch out of place. We’ve all been there at some point in our lives, you only need to be over the age of thirty, and that milestone is a mere dot in my rear view mirror now, to have known the day when all your fears are realized in that one sentence they speak. All of your associates gathered around the bosses office and the words, those proverbial words that all sound scripted right out of the Human Resources Handbook:
“We want you all to know what a valuable asset you each have been to this organization over the many years…”
In the seconds that followed you could hear it beginning, grown men and women realizing they were loosing their jobs. In that office most were forty somethings but many were in their fifties. Preparing for retirement but not quite ready. There were single mothers, grand fathers, grandmothers looking after grandchildren, many career back office banking officers whose intentions were to work till 65 and then retire. But such was no longer their future. Not only theirs, but mine.
I was one of them, 12 years with the big bank on Bay St. The life, the hustle and bustle of life in the community, it really was an electric place to work.
Let’s back up a bit, lets recap just a wee little bit. You have to know that even though I was a banker, and before that in Retail management, the thread that ruled my heart was art. I went home every night and loved my family over dinner and dishes afterwards and then made my way to my studio where I painted almost every night. Though I never forgave myself for all the time I spent away from them, precious time that can never be regained, I have many times been assured by my now grown children that they understood, everyone turned out just great, thank you very much.
The undercurrent was always my art and doing a better painting today then the one I did yesterday. When the internet came along, and that was a story all by itself, it just became the driver to paint more and share more.
I still recall how in the months that led up to that fateful Monday at the bank, tensions between my career at the bank and my busier and busier art aspirations were coming to ahead. Something had to give, but what? Would I leave a secure job, with three kids, mortgage, two cars in the driveway (no white picket fence but close enough). I prayed sincerely one night, Dear God, if I am to leave the bank it will have to be by your hand. It will have to be in a way that I did not bring about myself, and that I had no choice in the matter.
Zip forward now, remember those HR people in black suites? Did I mention the big stack of white envelopes they had in hand? As I stood there hearing those words that when paraphrased meant only one thing: Your job with the bank is toast! I heard grown women and men sobbing. I even saw one older man holding the arm of the HR officer begging for his job back. In those dark seconds, actually literally around the twenty first or twenty second second it hit me…I was now a full time artist! Shock gave way to joy, fear gave way to assurance, it happened in just a way that I had no choice whatsoever. Immediately I went from stunned to comforter. I began reaching out to associates and hugging, holding, supporting them as they processed the news.
The next chapter of this story we’ll leave for the book, working on that, but I want to say it has been 11 years now since that fateful day. While there have been low moments, I can say truly say I have no regrets. In fact, I would do it again in a heartbeat. I thank God every day for being my provider, my sustenance and strength. This writing today comes from a place when I realize many are facing uncertain futures as a result of COVID-19 directives and workplace closures. I encourage you to be brave, look inside yourselves for the thing that drives you. Seek your own passions and drill down deep to make them your new life. Here is my best advice for you who wonder about all the competition and the many obstacles in your way:
Your best work is what rises to the top, always pursue a better result then the one you achieved yesterday.
Trust God, seek him, he will provide for you.
Canadian Landscape Artist, writer, art publisher, founder of www.robertmcaffee.com, Canada on Canvas, Sell Your Art, Ontario landscape art for sale and other social media art groups.
Comments and questions encouraged.
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The Artists Journey
This is my blog page and it is where I get to be the opinionated man that I really am. The views are my own.
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This sketch above became this finished painting below
The Pine Tree Painter.
How did I become known as the Pine Tree Painter? You could say I paint a lot of Pine Trees, that would be true. I paint a lot of other things too, but Pine Trees, Spruce Trees, Birch and others seem to be a continuous string in what i do. I just like the way they stand there like a custodian of the land. or a greeter to nature. So, I continue down the path with the Pine Tree Painter name on my head, It's ok.