Sunday, November 18, 2007

Arts and Culture on the Island

I realize I never got 'round to writing about the opera last weekend, and now I have to admit that's probably not going to happen -- except to say that it was a "double bill" of Cavaleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci, that classic pairing of verismo operas, each short, colourful, and quite satisfying.

This was a busy weekend on our little island, in serious competition with our activities level in the city: on Saturday, my good friend, Alison Watt, had a show of her recent work in her gorgeous little "studio in the garden." Check out her website, but I see that she hasn't updated it terribly recently, so many of her newest pieces aren't there yet. Paul was very taken by a large acrylic, fairly abstract but also recognizable (once you're in the know) as a cross-section of forest -- we're testing it out on our living room wall right now and it's seducing us quite effectively.

We were at Alison's yesterday morning, checking out the paintings and visiting with neighbours and friends who stopped by. Then we had to rush off to another book launch for another book by my good friend and neighbour Carol Matthews. This book, Reflections on the C-word, is a memoir structured around the labyrinth Carol walked as a form of meditation in response to the crisis and change posed by her experience with breast cancer. I've heard Carol speak about the labyrinth in the past and look forward to reading more about its significance for her. Meanwhile, the book launch itself was full of significance -- one of Carol's vignettes is apparently about an aunt who died of breast cancer perhaps 50 years ago, when the disease was barely spoken of by name. Carol's memories of the aunt's home where tea was served and music played were recreated for us yesterday in the form of live harp music playing the same Londonderry Air Aunt Mabel favoured. We had tea and/or champagne punch, lovely cake, a delightful choice of fruit, and could sit with these at tables set with cloths, all very elegant.

Even more delightfully, we were treated to a brief talk by each of the three impressive women making the most of their seventh decade and giving clear indications of plans for the next several: First, Carol talked about the process of turning ideas, memories, and daily writing into a book (and after all, the woman's done it three times in just over a year -- she should know!). Next, the artist who created the wonderful prints which illustrate the book, Jennifer Waelti-Walters , spoke about the difficult task of trying to match a writer's words, and she also spoke of the dinner at which the collaboration began, a dinner which united, at the age of 65, all those women who, about fifteen years ago, were women in their 50s engaged in feminist projects at University of Victoria, as Waelti-Walters said. And finally, we heard from the publisher, Joan Coldwell, who began Hedgerow Press as a retirement project in 2004, and has an impressive, if short, list of lovely books which combine literary and visual pleasures with the tactile delights of satisfying size and shape, wonderful paper, and effectively-designed covers.

Not only that, but the women were first introduced by Thora Howell, longtime bookseller extraordinaire, now as ever a dynamic force in bringing writers to Nanaimo and getting Nanaimo out to meet and support those writers. Even more, when we popped into the grocery store to pick up fixings for dinner, we bumped into Shirley Goldberg, retired from her work as a College Film Studies Instructor, but still very active in her 80s viewing and writing about film and currently immersed in choosing documentaries for the Victoria Film Festival. So inspiring to think that I may have decades of possibilities ahead of me -- up to me to use them well!
And just in case you think it's all highbrow all the time on our little island, one of these days I'll tell you about an open mike night at our floating pub! Now back to the workweek, it's Monday!


  1. Howdy - Thomas here from The Sunday Best. I'm starting a little project and thought you might be interested. Couldn't find any contact info on your page. The basic idea will play out on my blog over the next three days, so if you have a chance have a look. If you'd consider being a part of it drop me a line.

    All the best!

    Also - knitting: so hot right now.

  2. Sounds like one amazing weekend! I hope you'll post a photo of that painting that's captured your interest.

  3. Ah, now that I wrote that, I notice perhaps that's the painting over the piano? What can I say, it's nearly midnight of a very long day and my powers of observation are limited! :)


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