It has occurred to me that a calamity, like the COVID-19 virus, can result in something beneficial, compelling us to change our ways.
It certainly has put the spotlight on the appalling conditions in some homes for the elderly, creating a demand for change.
This has resulted in, one hopes, plans to provide better care.
It has also allowed people to get to know their neighbours better. For me, it has meant getting to know more about local Squamish artist, Chris Rice.
It seems apt that Rice painted bluebirds in front of a birdcage after getting news of the pandemic. The birds sit freely outside of the cage but hesitate to fly as they are encircled by gnarled tree limbs.
“When the virus hit, we weren’t allowed visitors,” said Rice, a tenant at the Squamish Senior’s Manor. At the moment, Rice can have a visitor or two. But everyone is talking of a second wave, she said.
“Regarding COVID, what scared me the most was how quickly our liberties were taken. Maybe for our own good but it still scares me that they can be reduced so quickly, even simple things. The art supplies are gone. I had to order from out of town to get it.”
Initially Rice lost the will to do any artwork.
“Because of the virus, I was worried for my friends, my family and for the others in the home. Like many people, I struggled with the recent changes in our world. The loss of some freedoms, and fears of how far this loss of freedom was going to go caused me to stop being creative.”
Then, she said she remembered her granddaughter yelling to her brother at a hockey game to get moving.
“I used it to motivate myself out of the doldrums and back into the joy of creativity. When I started working, I got my mojo back,” she said, with a laugh.
Rice was born in Keighley, England, near Leeds. Her family came to Canada in 1957 and eventually moved to the Lower Mainland. At 20 she took a basic folk-art class at Lacomb, Alberta through the Arts Council there and hasn’t stopped painting since. She continued to take art courses through business travels all over the world. Exhibits include showings at galleries in New York, Seattle, London and the Sea to Sky Art House here in Squamish.
When travelling, Rice used watercolour because it was easy to transport. And, she said travel allowed her to take courses and meet other artists around the world. She was enchanted by the different qualities of atmospheric light in different cities and countries.
Rice works mostly with acrylic now and is working on a number of paintings including ‘Hydrangeas in a vase’, and a cougar painting. She is also a wildlife photographer.
“With my art, I try to bring the outside ‘nature’ inside,” she said.
She is a proud mother of two children, a daughter- in- law and son- in -law and four grandchildren. She moved from Red Deer to Squamish 15 years ago to be closer to her grandchildren.
When asked her philosophy of life, she said:
‘If you’re going to set goals in your life pay attention to your peripheral vision because when you see opportunities on the side, they might not look like your goal initially, but they may end up being better. I try not to live my life by any set that I have to do this or that or be this or that, leaving myself free for opportunity that may come along even at my age.”
That is good advice anytime, COVID or not.
Squamish’s Melody Wales graduated from Ryerson University and has worked as a columnist for various publications.