A Novel Idea

Marc Chagall: Time is a River Without Banks 1930-1939

The Diviners by Margaret Laurence…my favourite book of all time!  I read it once every five years or so.  Recently, while reading, I began to add its content to my clothing. (my father, at this point in reading, will articulate, in some fashion, as will my close friends…”What the hell are you doing, wasting your time??  Why aren’t you painting?  To which, I might respond with something from Chagall’s titled work…”Time is a river without banks!”  Or more likely, “I Don’t Know.”)  I’m getting ready to have my portrait taken by Jen Hall.

As I explore the first chapter again, The River of Now and Then, I experience a huge affinity with the character that Laurence writes, Morag Gunn. Her’s is a search for identity.  A very ‘Canadian’ read, I strongly recommend this book.


The river flowed both ways. The current moved from north to south, but the wind usually came from the south, rippling the bronze-green water in the opposite direction. This apparently impossible contradiction, made apparent and possible, still fascinated Morag, even after the years of river-watching.

The dawn mist had lifted, and the morning air was filled with swallows, darting so low over the river that their wings sometimes brushed the water, then spiralling and pirouetting upward again. Morag watched, trying to avoid thought, but this ploy was not successful.

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe. Gustave Flaubert

The Nuisance Grounds

If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend one of my favourite novels, The Diviners by Margaret Laurence.  As I pick up other people’s garbage during this Changing-the-Landscape-project, I easily remember/reflect upon Laurence’s chapter, The Nuisance Grounds.  A poignant chapter…we meet ‘the scavenger’ and we learn about the stories/myths created by Christie Logan when he comes upon the cast away remnants from another person’s life.  Some of what is tossed into the nuisance grounds is precious…and never does Christie divulge the secrets.  He keeps them in his heart. I suppose with the threat of identity theft these days, people are more cautious of what they discard, but the truth is, there remain more stories about the community and their carelessness, than the stories of individuals.  I am sharing with my readers, four pages from Margaret Laurence’s Diviners, Pages 30 to 33, The Canadian Publishers, McClelland and Stewart Limited 1974 Current isbn  978-0-7710-3490-9 (0-7710-3490-3)  It is a very powerful thing to read the complete chapter, but these bits give the gist of what I am thinking about as it relates to my current project.

The Geography of Home and My Obsession With the Notion of Place

Presently reading, Geography of Home: writings on where we live by Akiko Busch and have always had quite a thing for thinking about space/place/where I live.  At this very moment, I am rearranging/sorting/cleaning out the studio.  The weather can only be described as  ‘autumn’ here in Calgary, so this is the perfect time!  I found this photo reference in a box in the studio…a photo of Angel Glacier up Edith Cavell-way back in 2004.  Now, there’s a place that, even as I think about it, gives me chills.  It is such a mystical experience to do the alpine hike and to hear huge chunks of the glacier crash down into the milky green water below.

At the same time as thinking about this place, I move my painting of Angel Glacier onto my back deck, as I sort and stack.  There it is leaning against the bench, beside a snow shovel.  It is an interesting thing how paintings attempt to give some impression of PLACE, but can only succeed to a point.  Landscape paintings, I think, are about inheritance and about leaving future generations with some sense of how beautiful our world is/was.  At least, this was something really on my mind as I approached landscape painting.  Who knows.  I first thought about this when the protagonist, Morag, of Margaret Laurence’s The Diviners explained to her metis daughter, Piquette, what a buffalo was.  It’s interesting, but from one generation to the next, something is lost.  I think artists of all kinds, try to capture a bit of the sense of ‘the dance’ once the audience goes home.  I love typewriters and old records for just this reason.  They remind me of another place, as much as another time.