I love going for early morning walks along the trails, especially if there is a slight mist or fog in the air … the sun not long up, creating atmospheric glow through the trees. Following along the trodden path, taking care over exposed roots and uneven rock protrusions, up and around each bend, looking, listening, smelling, and sensing. Treasures revealed–each time different–even if familiar. Facing the sun and feeling its warm embrace, I take in a slow, deep breath, feeling the fresh air swirl and glide through my nose, down my throat into my expanding lungs, and I close my eyes. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Open my eyes and give thanks. Peace.
Well, OK, perhaps my experiences in nature are not always that focused and serene, yet that sense remains a part of me and I feel that undercurrent of peace and connection rekindled just by going for walks in nature, in Conservation Halton lands and elsewhere.
My introduction to a Conservation Halton park was with my family after we moved to Ontario from Quebec when I was 11 years old. Dad wanted to make sure we visited “tourist destinations” when we first arrived in the area. Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area was on the list, and the place has become a common thread in my life, along with other natural lands in this area. I feel very fortunate that, from a young age (even before moving to this area), my parents instilled in me a connection with and love for the natural world. I believe this connection and love shaped the direction I would head in life, even though not a straight path.
At the age of 54, I consider myself an emerging artist. For me, art is “a calling.” I have never really fully understood what a calling is until recently. That is, until I left work with the federal government to pursue freelance science editing work.
The impulse to create art is something that has percolated through me my entire life. I have moved in other directions and disciplines, and stopped making art for periods of time, and yet the inclination to record or create an interpretation of what captured my attention and heart has always come back, calling, and is somewhat of an obsessive compulsion.
Art classes were my favourite in high school; I initially went on to pursue an Arts education immediately after high school. For a few reasons, this trajectory was not to be and I left the program shortly after starting. I worked in banking for a time, transferring to Banff, Alberta for a stint out there. Even then, I had the notion and began preparing to go back to school for environmental studies of some kind.
So, four years after high school, I ended up pursuing an education and career in environmental sciences. This was a big switch and undertaking for me since I had pretty much avoided science in high school whenever I could. I needed to complete some prerequisites for the university programs I was considering, and get over the story in my head that math and science were too hard.
Going back to school, my first inclination was to study wildlife biology; I had read an inspiring story about a female zoologist and was enthralled. I have always loved animals and being in natural areas, and had romantic, idealized notions of perhaps becoming a park warden in any of Canada’s national parks. Admiring women like Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall also brought this to mind. My other notion was to get in on efforts intended to help restore and protect the Great Lakes Basin ecosystem.
My interest in wanting to help restore and protect the Great Lakes Basin ecosystem stemmed from the seemingly deplorable conditions of Lake Ontario when my family moved to the area in 1975. It was so disappointing; I remember my mother’s cousin warning us that we should not likely swim in the lake or eat fish caught there. I had been really looking forward to living near the lake and taking advantage of its offerings, to no avail it seemed.
I chose the latter education route and specialized in environmental toxicology – the pollution side of things. Idealistically, and inspired by my 1975 disillusionment, I believed I’d be able to help make a difference by contributing to cleaning up and protecting Lake Ontario, and perhaps the Great Lakes as a whole.
Over a 25-year period, I earned a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science from the University of Guelph, then worked with the federal government in applied research, environmental regulation, and finally environmental communications for science users. Much of my work did have a focus in keeping with my idealized goal of restoring and protecting the Great Lakes. In that time, my artistic inclinations occasionally emerged, and I also completed a certificate in fine arts.
As I learned along the way, public servant jobs and their priorities change with changes in governance. When the opportunity arose with cutbacks in 2012, I was ready for a different change, and volunteered for layoff. I had fallen in love with editing, and I planned to pursue science editing on my own. With a sense of freedom gained to follow my heart’s desire at that time, my attention quickly diverted to a pursuit of photography, this time as a career possibility, and that triggered an unfettered resurgence of my aspiration to paint and draw.
Each of my experiences along the way have informed the next, and my detours in science, and life as a whole, have helped to guide purpose for my art today. My artistic pursuits seem tied to fostering nostalgia and care for the important things in our lives, and the natural environment is a fundamental component in my work.
Many of my works portray natural lands in my local area, and Conservation Halton lands are regular features. One of the things I strive for is connecting with others who view my art. One hope is that these works will live on others’ walls, bringing back fond memories of the place and time in their life, rekindling feelings of wellbeing and peace, and act as reminders of what we love, need to protect, and stand to lose. One of my collectors wrote a testimonial that struck a chord and gives me reassurance that I am perhaps heading in the right direction:
“I really appreciate your style and how the natural settings you choose I so immediately identify with. I love your use of colour, light and shadow. For me the real ‘punch’ is how your works emotionally resonate, evoking echoed memories.” (Andy W.)
I feel truly blessed on my current path, finding and sharing beauty and solace in nature, and other facets of life, through the magic of art. I make a point of giving thanks for this gift, often as I walk in solitude along the trails … Facing the sun and feeling its warm embrace, I take in a slow, deep breathe, feeling the fresh air swirl and glide through my nose, down my throat into my expanding lungs, and I close my eyes. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Open my eyes and give thanks. Peace.
Last modified: October 17, 2018