Thursday, September 29, 2011

Read, Read, Read, Wonder- Day 5, Minden

Today began as another Vancouver day, as my son would call it. He hasn’t been west of the Ontario border, but as an avid reader, at eight, is already familiar with the misty, overcast days on Canada’s west coast.

Even with the rain it is lovely here. The sumach trees are crimson, the beech trees sienna, and the maples, a mix of green, gold and orange—their leaves will be around for a while, as will the needles on the conifers and their rusty hues. Against the grey skies they are spectacular!

Can you sense a pitch coming?

After today I have two days left in the Minden residency. I know it’s unlikely any of you reading this in the EU or Russia will be able to make it for Culture Days or the many Studio Tours happening in the area over the weekend, but perhaps I’ll see a few 416ers or 905ers? The article on Voices at Hand in yesterday’s Minden Times is certainly having an effect and I know the lovely woman at Gravity Coffee House is spreading the word.

This is the first residency where I haven’t been stationed in a storefront, still from my seat in the centre of the library I can see out windows in three directions, so I don’t feel like I’m missing either the colours or the day. The library is definitely a community hub. There is a steady flow of visitors all day, some stay to use the facilities as an office, much like me. I get the odd comment that my overflowing wastebasket and all my stacks of papers remind people of home. 

I like the energy here, if you can call companionable silence energy. Unlike storefronts, no one has tapped my shoulder to check if I’m a mannequin— not that people aren’t curious, the code of ethics is just a little more entrenched. When reading aloud, I try to strike a balance between being audible, yet low-key enough not to wear out my welcome. Thank goodness I can rely upon my inner librarian to shush me when I get too enthusiastic. No one seems to mind though, even if I am, as one man put it, “ the messiest person here.”

As for submissions, I’m thrilled with the response. I arrived with a full mailbag and have added to it steadily—9 letters on my second day and 46 over the last two.
Of those most recently processed a Wayfinding letter written this summer and a suite of letters written by a grandfather to his granddaughter in the 40s stand out.

The letter I’ve filed under Wayfinding begins:
It’s great to hear from you – and you’re still writing far better than the average schmuck I receive emails from.” 
And continues:
“Don’t sweat the not writing dry spell. The stress and hard times is great fodder for later. If you are serious about writing, stop trying to write new material, grab something old and work on editing it. Or read. Read. Read. Read. Anything you want but read.”
If the donor stops in again I’ll have to ask how the guy made out.

The letters from Grandpa to Susan are happily filed under The Small News—many of the others in the Voices collection written in the 40s are wartime correspondence. Grandpa is an artist and most of his letters are illustrated. Pen & Ink drawings of animals, a watercolour painting of Santa coming down the chimney and delicate silverpoint drawing of Grand Ma—Susan is a lucky girl.

Grand pa always begins with a description of his day and his love of the natural world shines through, as does his need to share it.
“Now when I look out the window in the garden...all around the edge are beautiful blue flowers called Scilla  (sil’ – ah) belong to the Lily family called squills or blue bells. They look like little blue bells waving in the breeze. Fairy bells the colour of the sky of summer.” 

When she brought it in Susan shared with me that after her grandfather’s stroke he had to work with his left hand. I was surprised to see the effects of it in his writing, but not in his pastel drawing.

I don’t always get the back-story when I receive letters; sometimes wondering is just as intriguing.

1 comment:

  1. feel like you brought a bit of minden, voices/minden version 4.0(?), the world and the beautiful snapshots of a grandfather to sarah letters/drawings here in bloglandia. merci!