Tag Archives: ocean

written on the sea

Victoria Ward
Victoria Ward

Over the last month we spent a few weeks on the Gaspe Peninsula along the north shore, with many days in Cap des Rosiers. The following is a poem that I am struggling through. It is a work in progress.

When I was in the Gaspe on the ocean words came to me not paintings. Jotting these thoughts down over time has helped me digest my trip and also my complete stupidity regarding time. How am I here now and there then? The whole thing is weird. In any event here is my poem in progress. 

The white lines stay, written on the sea as it were

They had moved up and down, jagged turns and ways back, the quartz composition in the cliff, geological time markings, stories

Their sharp curves and sudden stops only to be reconnected when the tides move in and they sublimate to water

I have been near the sea, it’s salt and thick air full of fishy tones

The night waves rock us to sleep but enter us too, embedding their rhythm into tissue, sinew and bone

Our body’s circulations ebb and flow now like tides

The sun shone brightly onto our beach, it was ours and only ours

The larger rocks tossed around the pebbles are in perfect formations –  like a sculpture garden with an uncomplicated focus

The waves had come again, this time riding high with white foam, crashing down, prone, teeth-like and then scattered sparkling green blue water

We noticed how the wind moved the shore into and away from us; our footing was wobbly inspiring moments of healthy fear

Today we moved about like the clouds, at times swiftly with blowy determination, bright and white and then grey, then to a slow temporal wandering

Cap des Rosiers Lighthouse

Eventually the clouds (not us) turned into a blank vapour and took from us our cliffs, birds, mountains and finally our lighthouse that disappeared during the bright time of the day.

Veiled by the grey matter, freezing wet* fog crawled onto everything

When it left, the fog had not gotten rid of anything but only hid what mattered most, our shiny hopes and dreams

*Fog or a sea fret as the English would say has always appeared when on the east coast, always obscuring our sketching site lines and making the expectations of vista dulled. I like to look at vistas, not capture vistas anyway.

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Rural transformations

Victoria Ward
Victoria Ward

rural transformations

Rural and ocean side Nova Scotia is a poignant and beautiful thing. Tiny ports and towns dot the rugged edge of the world where once Champlain brought his boats, landing into a new world that seemed like a step back in time; untamed, wild and without European influence. Today these small places still spark and inspire; they exist like living monuments yet very much a part of the 21st century. A current conversation is what to do with all the churches. While parishes amalgamate due to shrinking attendance, each community’s little white and wind beaten clap board church is either in the throes of abandonment or up for sale.

Muttering out loud in a beaten up pick up on our way to collect some pews to be turned into bed frames, I wondered if little rural art galleries might eventually suffer the same fate. Not a chance said our host as in his mind tourism, specifically cultural tourism was now king and would continue to be for some time to come. I guess he would know I thought. I am not a tourism operator but I know many of them and they all wish, hope and believe the same thing – that there is unlimited potential in cultural tourism; that uniqueness of place can make it a destination; and that experiencing a place means authenticity.

As for the poor rural churches, it’s not so much lack of interest as an ongoing transition into something different. I live in a rural place and religion is still quite strong albeit with a smaller number of people. Today going to church isn’t just about God and all that but about seeing your community and perhaps discussing ways to help each other. Many good things come out of these church meetings; fundraising to help a sick family or a house that burned down; food and clothing drives to help the disenfranchised and so on. It’s local activity at its most basic and good. That God and Christian values are still a presence in these places and their works, in times of catastrophe they can just be ambient noise in the background as actual tactile help usually comes first.

The church for sale in Whitehead, Nova Scotia sans pews.
The church for sale in Whitehead, Nova Scotia sans pews.

I believe that in the arts this could be a good example to follow. When making art and then executing it in a gallery, festival or whatever venue is done locally, community oriented but with excellence as its main goal, creating something special is bound to happen. If becoming a millionaire artist with representation in New York and Beijing is your only goal then you will never find what I am talking about of any interest. But if you approach the world of art with a kind of devotion that needs no material manifestation save for your own efforts then you will be open to being someone who can expand their experience of art making and all its various implementations.

Being rural and community oriented seems to be a dreaded idea to most artists; I’ve been told straight to my face that nothing interesting happens outside of Toronto. But then if you lived in New York you would think that too and think that Toronto was nowhere so, it’s all relative. Art just happens and it happens everywhere. I can see a nuanced shift recently in my community where in fact some national attention is being given to small exhibitions, community oriented exhibitions and some very rural ideas. What this means isn’t necessarily clear yet.

Perhaps my Nova Scotia host has it right. Rural destinations are morphing from places of just environmental relief (no traffic, no pollution, lakes/ocean!) to places of sturdy refuge where change isn’t about acceleration and trends but of inherent solace and the culture is reflective of this. I’m not suggesting that small places shouldn’t engage with big places or that a small gallery should only show local work, to the contrary, I am talking about the impetus to create an environment where art making is a success not just for the artist but their community as well.

Like God being ever present in the activities of a rural church, art should also have such gravity; and I am only talking about art’s contribution here not morality – so don’t draw any crazy conclusions about my beliefs. I just like the parallel and possibly only for poetry’s sake but I think art’s sustainability would be stronger if its non-commercial presence out in the community was deeply felt.

In any case, seeing pews stacked up in a garage waiting to be dismantled to decorate a tourist’s bedroom seemed like a positive transformation. Nestling to sleep after a day on the ocean, close to a sculpted wooden bench that held the faithful and dreaming upon tomorrow – yeah, that just seems right.