Metchosin is a geographical muse.
The land is brimming with retired couples, farming families, artists, writers, crafters. A herd of laying sheep napping under the shade of trees. Stretches of road that have willows like walls on either side, peering over the top like a whimsical tunnel.
The ocean is a short walk away, and even a shorter drive. The view, including far-off snowy peaks in the United States, rocky islands along the coast, a peacock farm along the trail, is the kind of view that makes you feel guilty if you don’t bring a camera or a set of watercolours.
And if you were ever to become isolated in the Metchosin area, you would never be lonely for the wildlife is excitingly abundant. Busy ants are welcome by my toes as I write or sketch. Snakes bask in the humid sun along the garden wall. White butterflies and fat bumble bees dance around violet lilies and magenta lupins. There is a lovely birdhouse seated on the garden gate, where a family of Chickadees, two new parents and a whole litter of babies, going back and forth from their house to feed the children. I like to sit and watch them while the parents hurry away speeding into the trees. Coming back as the children cry out for food. To my aunt’s dismay, and Midnight the cat’s pleasure, bunnies by the happy dozen run around the thick trails. And more than once, as I paint in the studio, I look out at the cooling evening to see families of deer nibbling at the grassy hills, stress-free.
If you are an early riser, this is the place for you. Although I would not quite identify myself as an early riser, there was the occasion of getting up to pee around five am, where I was literally stopped in my tracks by the sunrise, just beginning along the horizon. The July morning makes the farthest stretch of the sea a misty turquoise. Birds wake up and begin their music, while the grass glistens with morning dew. Sunlight peeks through arbutus and oak, making you lay in bed with coffee until the sun rests finally in the sky.
To be an artist in this environment is to have total freedom. There is a liberating feeling when you start three separate canvases in one day. I’ve played around with watercolour, small landscapes, little Italian villages by the sea. I made an acrylic of lime green faces, a witch, a spooky, borderline erotic acrylic painting inspired by Sci-Fi/Horror art that came out of the 1970s and 1980s.
I also wrote A LOT of the first draft of my play. When I first visited the island, I wrote a large chunk of my first play, Quiet Water. I knew that I was going in the right direction when I looked up from my writing to the high treetops and saw an eagle perching on a branch right ahead of me. And to even make me more confident, when I opened the door to go grab my notebook from the studio, a doe stood less than two feet away from. Dancing Doe is the name of my first character Kimberly. So it’s safe to say I felt pretty good writing in the next couple of days.
Perhaps the most fun was the first Saturday here. Auntie Heidi took me to the studio and we did our Viking Ruins. Mine was quite accurate. The Viking spirits told me of soul relaxation, growth, new opportunities.
Auntie Heidi is a yes person. Well, a yes with context person. I know that whatever I want to do, with limits, she will facilitate. She is a natural organizer and go-getter. I look up to her badass, take no shit, take no prisoners, loving life and all it has to offer attitude. She is unwavering and sure. Talented and excited about what is possible in the future.
And Michael adds to the experience as well. He is always trying new things. Wanting everyone to try it with him. While I have been here, he has rented out a cello and guitar. Not knowing how to play either one. That level of dreaming is wildly entertaining and inspiring. He is a man of experience and travel. A book of tales. We went kayaking one day with his friend Brett (who hilariously cannot swim but insisted we should paddle out to the open sea) (we did not). That was one of my favourite days. We saw so much wildlife, the water was beautiful, and it’s such a great gift to be able to experience the island in that way on the water.
We have fun cooking just as I enjoy whatever Michael makes. One night we had the Vietnamese experience. Traditional Vietnamese music playing in the background while I rolled mint and shrimp into rice paper. Another night he grilled several kinds of meat and asparagus on the fire. The three of us sat around the fire drinking wine, talking into the night.
And of course the 908ers. Jean and Martin. Martin and Jean. The lovely British elderly people that live down the road, house number 908. Not only are they both incredible artists with a lifetime of talent and wisdom, but they are sweet and hilarious.
I have never seen someone have such a passionate, irrevocable, exciting relationship with their garden as Jean does with hers. As we walk through every nook and cranny, up and down the hill, and everything lined up in the greenhouse, it seems like she knows every leaf personally. As gardening has inspired her work, I am not surprised that she cares so much. And how impressive it is! I don’t know half of the stuff she grows, but boy is it beautiful. Colours, textures, vegetables, vines, blossoms all along the grassy rocks in the Metchosin landscape is perfect for any painting.
And Martin. What a man! Always referring to me as “the playwright.” His abstract paintings make me scratch my head and want him to teach me everything he knows (which he will not because he is retiring even though I begged) (still not giving up though). I love to hear the way he critiques things. Always wondering if he is joking or if he is really making a statement about Michael’s watercolour as a “manifestation of spirit” ( a moment in the studio where I hurried to scribble that quote on a scrap paper”. I have a few other golden quotes from this lovely couple. Shall I share? (please apply thick and kindred British accents when you read)
“These people drive like they’re driving wheelbarrows” – Jean complaining passionately as we drive into town. I choke back laughter.
“Be the mistress of frustration”- Martin highlighting how to utilise frustration into productive painting.
“They were so excited about me making inquiries” – Jean telling a story about a university. This might not be funny to others but the way she said it has been cemented in my memory forever.
If you want to paint bamboo, paint bamboo, paint bamboo, paint bamboo, paint bamboo. Paint bamboo until you become bamboo. – Martin sharing that quote he remembered from the “practical painting bamboo manual” while he showed Michael and I some of his works in the garage.
I really do love these people and I hope to continue learning from them and hearing even more hilarious stories. Definitely going to immortalize them someday in a play or movie.
When I left the first time, I immediately wanted to retreat back. Now that I am in my second year of university, I have realised how drastic my attitude to going back “home” has changed. When I was younger in Squamish, I just wanted to leave. And now that I am gone I don’t want to go back. Of course, I do go back to see my family. My sister understands my anxiety walking through the streets. How much pain I have tied to the town that comes up not all the time, but a lot of the time. But I appreciate how it fostered me as I grew up. And how grateful I am that I knew and utilised the opportunities Squamish offered. Which is why I went a second time this summer. Of course, Auntie Heidi said yes. And I happily escaped back to the beautiful island.
Going to Metchosin reminds me of what I have yet to experience, and of all the beauty in the area I grew up in. It inspires a desire to travel and experience. To be able to tell my Auntie Heidi of different adventures beyond the coast. And I know someday I will. What a beautiful thing to be able to go somewhere to create art, enjoy nature and hang out with my family.
As the weather gets colder, and school gets harder, I know that Metchosin will always be there to explore and enjoy. And I cannot wait until I make plans with Auntie Heidi to do another residency.