You remember so clearly those childhood summers at the lake, don't you, full of frogs and shorebirds, grebes and purple martins; little fishing boats and rickety piers to dive from, clean cold water for swimming. The birds and the frogs are gone, the beaches flooded and the waves skimmed with algae, when you take your own child there for the visit that will be your last, for this summer the family cottage will be sold. The days break your heart, but at night with an onshore wind you can still hear the lake, restless as it has always been, murmuring reassurance under the stars. You still smell it before you see it, coming down through the fields to the north shore. And when you wander the back roads for pincherries, or you stand on the pier as the sun goes down, there is still, always, the sky, arching down to meet the curve of the earth.
This sky is an old friend. You know it better than the fields, better than the cabins ringing the lake, better than the tiny towns scattered along the railway. You are small under this sky, cheered by its blue, weighted under its clouds, thrilled by the drama of sunsets and storms. You look, and you look, and you look, and you mourn that this time when you go you will leave it for good. This sky belongs here, to this quiet country where the prairie gives way to the northern forests.
Then you say farewell to a landscape you will hold in your bones forever, and you make the long drive west to where a different windswept sky humbles you, where the air smells like dust and home, where the earth rolls to a far horizon and lets you breathe. You remember who you are under this sky, too. And you pick up your brush and you paint.
The Sky series are on exhibit February 6 – March 1, 2014
MidTowne Gallery, 9250 Macleod Trail SE, Calgary, AB