An Excerpt from My Novel
I'm in the midst of a novel. Here's a short excerpt. Angela is the main character, she's an art student at Emily Carr in Vancouver. She's just had a fight with her boyfriend Gary, who was jealous after he saw her talking to a guy (Joshua) from a meditation workshop she had just been to. Sneak peak! To be published in Spring 2021.
Back in her apartment, Angela poured herself a cup of chamomile tea and went out on her deck. Her tired feeling was mixing in with an inner restlessness and she didn't feel like sleeping right away. Like the dream-call to paint, she knew whatever was bothering her was not going to go away just by hitting the pillow. The fight with Gary had shaken her up, had brought back that uneasy feeling she had when she woke up from the dream in the lab. She needed something else, something to banish the mixture of loss, sadness and looming fear. She cupped the hot tea in her hands for comfort. It was a warm and almost cloudless night, but she felt as if there was a storm coming.
She smiled a little as she settled into a comfy chair pushed over to the far corner of her little apartment deck. Her and her roommate Gail called it their 'million dollar view' chair - they lived 4 blocks from the beach, on the 3rd floor of an old walk-up apartment building, the type that students could just barely afford. If you pushed the chair into the exact right spot, you could just see through the buildings and trees in front of them, a little window of an ocean view. Enough to see the lights of the city and the moon shining off the water, to watch the large ships floating in Vancouver harbour, the cruise ships coming in, the goods going out - small, but enough. Like her apartment. Like her life.
She put down her tea. Pulled her knees up to her chest, hugging herself, hoping for a stillness that just wasn't coming. "I do landscapes" she said out loud, the tears she'd been half holding in all day beginning to flow down her cheeks. "Landscapes" she whispered again, as if trying to justify it. She thought of Joshua, of how for a split second, she'd wanted to paint him, as if to capture his essence, understand who he really was, his heart, his spirit, how the lilt of his voice made her feel, the hand on her shoulder, the steady presence of him. She rarely wanted to paint a person. The last time she'd wanted to paint a person was 12 years ago, after her mother died. Even at 12 years old, she had been an accomplished young artist, but every time she picked up a brush and tried to remember the tilt of her mother's head, her red hair in a perky bob cut, her soft features and gentle smile lines, she blanked out, a couple of times throwing an empty, or smudged up canvas across the room. The painter who can't paint. The daughter who can't remember. The fiance who doesn't wear her engagement ring. It was like people were something just beyond her reach, something she could never quite grasp.
Like her stillborn twin sister, she thought, the tears really coming now. The one person she longed to capture, to understand, to love. And the one she never would touch or know, but who called out for her in her dream time. "I don't know you" she said out loud to the night. "Don't ask me to know you, I can't find you and I never will".
She thought of her art show tomorrow. Her paintings had been chosen for a special exhibit tomorrow at the college. "Essence of the Land" her teacher had named the show. She had gone to the meditation class to help with how she was feeling about the show, but now found herself even more agitated about it. She took a deep breath, started rocking slowing back and forth. It was people she didn't understand. It was explaining to people about her art that she was dreading. Why can't they just appreciate it for what it is, for the emotions behind it? Why should she explain? But her teacher was adamant that this was part of learning to be an artist - dealing with the public, explaining yourself. Showing up.
It wasn't that she couldn't talk in front of people, or even that she was shy, she had gotten over the worst part of the shyness a few years back. It was when they started asking the deeper questions, the personal ones. How did she seem to know about the true essence of the land, how did she see things that others simply didn't see? How does she capture both the past and the present in her work? What was her inspiration? Does she bring herself into the painting? Why does she only paint landscapes? It was hard to talk about those things. Talk to me about brush strokes, paint styles, process questions, just leave the rest out. Essence of the Land. It made her cringe.
How can she explain how she saw things? She hugged her knees a little tighter. "I am large. I contain multitudes" Joshua had quoted the poet Walt Whitman to her tonight. She had smiled at that because a local writer for an art review magazine had just used that quote to describe Angela's paintings. Large paintings with multitudes of meanings. Layers upon layers of not only paint but emotional depth. If she was painting a tree, she could see not only the tree as it was, but as it used to be, a sapling emerging from the mulch, the eagle nest that once perched in its branches, the insects that used it as a home, how it would one day lie rotting on the forest floor, eaten into mulch, with saplings emerging from its crumbling edifice. Multiple overlapping patterns of time, form, shadows and colours. She could see the lines of the land, how the patterns of the sea lined up with mountains and the hills, and the meadows. Perhaps Essence of the Land was a good name.
She just wished she could grasp the essence of people, see and paint people the way she could see and paint the land. See and paint her lost sister. Put up the painting in her house and tell the world - this is who she was, what she would have been. See her? This is who I lost.
She slowed down her breathing, relaxed her arms, felt the tears washing away the tension. She wanted to let the lull of the mini ocean view calm her down. She didn't want to think about Gary, about the show tomorrow, any of what was long gone, she just wanted to let her brain flow into the patterns of the sea. Even blocks away in the darkening night, she could see and sense the ocean waves, the sand patterns, the way the coastline framed and reflected the north shore mountains. Here's where she was truly home, in the patterns of the land, the timeless sea, in the light and waves. She closed her eyes, rested her head on the side of the chair, and let the patterns take over.