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Saturday, 27 August 2022

When Life Hands You Lemons, Drink it Up, Plant the Seeds, Tend to Your Beautiful Garden

Hello Friends,

You may or may not know that my Mother, (immigrant, prairie landscape artist, hippie, single mom to me, the woman I share a birth day with, and whome through much of my life was my best advocate) passed away 2 summers ago after a year of general health decline. It has been a difficult few years for all of us who cared for her. People lovingly describe her as, 'quite the character!' 

Here's the story as I know it. I want to share with you, because I carry on her story. I hope you will read to the end.

In the early 1950's, her mother snuck her and her older and younger sisters with my grandfather to Canada when mom was 7. They came emptyhanded, with hundreds of people on a ship that was on it's last journey. Once landed, they travelled across Canada and fell in love with the Prairie: the open land, the river valleys, the unobstructed skies, the grasslands and lake life. This is where they unpacked their bags and settled. Settlers. Uninvited. Grateful. I was born here, a first generation Canadian on Treaty 6 Territory.

My eldest Aunt and carpenter Uncle bought a double lake lot in Saskatchewan in 1958. They had three children and built a cabin there by 1961. In 1964 they moved on west to the coast, and so my Grandmother (Oma, Marianne Kinner) bought that property with cash. The tell me SHE was, 'quite the character!' She apparently did this transaction on her own while my grandpa was at work, and told him about later that day. Wow.

My Grandmother passed away when my mother was pregnant with me, in 1970, so I never met her. People reassure me, however, I too am, 'quite the character!' Gotta love outstanding women, right?

When I was 11 or 12, we found ourselves homeless. That was when my grandfather gifted the lake property to my mother. She always loved it more than he did and we had already lived out there every summer since I was in diapers. I'm told he had a German phrase for it that meant, "shit lake". That's how much he didn't love it. And so this became Mom's. Eventually she added an old winterized building to the property about 25 years ago, and that's where she lived for the rest of her life.

The original cabin... decades later.

This is an important part of my story. My 20+ yr marriage came to an end in 2018. I happily stayed single for a year as I resettled into a rental with my children near their highschool. (Yes, highschool! When I started my career, they were 3, 6, and 9 years old.) As we lost the house, I lost my newly built studio. For those that followed me, you might remember? That loss took a big bite out of my career and my spirit.

Then my Mom passed away 2 summers ago during covid, and the lake lots were handed down to us, her 3 kids. I now share this land where I grew up with my brothers. My portion includes the original cabin my Uncle built.

When one door closes... you know what they say? One of my brothers suggested, 'You know, the last few years, Mom used the old cabin as her summer studio. That's all she used it for, was to make her art.' Hint, hint. My new love, a carpenter & bushman, took one look at the place when we were out there after Mom's burial and said, 'I can restore this.'

MY HEART AND MY EYES AND MY SMILE grew three sizes that day!

The planning began. A year later, we started. I've been the funder/designer and he's been the muscle/contactor. I dreamed it up and he made it viable. I did some fundraising through I Fund Women which helped a buy shingles and second hand windows, as well as pay for dump and hauling fees and he removed rotting siding, a sunken roof, and walls full of mice nests.

Last year, the original structure was leveled, siding removed, rotting floor joists replaced, new windows reframed. This year, the roof is redone. The walls are reframed. The outhouse is useable and we stay in tents when we're out there. When I grew up here, we had electricity and hauled drinking water. That's the level I'd like to bring it back to.  There's 2 wood stoves back to back - one for cooking and one for heat. This place will getting winterized so I can go make art any time of the year. Without water, there's no pipes to freeze.

I'M SO GRATEFUL. I'm so grateful that this is happening. Designing it so every window and space feels creative and good and right has been just amazing. (My childhood dream was to become an Architect.) Paul, my Carpenter is outstanding in muscle and perfection. He likes things done right and above code. He's been amazing and really has his heart in the place as well.

Eventually, my dream will include bringing mom's garden back to life, adding perennials in the yard, creating the perfect little kitchenette, adding a covered porch on the North East side where a very fallen addition was finally removed. A wood pile is started.

It's a place that calls you to create. It can feel like a chore to get out there, but once you are there, it's extremely difficult to get in the mindset to want to leave. Being back returns so many childhood memories to me. The sounds in the air, the temperature of the breeze, the steady roll and break of the waves on the rocks below. Fall is my favourite season out there. Most people pack up for the winter but my mom would keep us out there until it got too cold to sleep at night. The whole place would fall silent except for the birds, the mice, and the falling leaves. I can't wait to make art out there.

  ~ Monika


Anonymous said...

Soooo happy to hear you are returning to your roots, your amazing art will just flow ! - Georgette fr MB

Anonymous said...

Hi.....it's Edda but it says anonymous!!! LOL What a BEAUTIFUL story you blogged....and it's so true. I loved our summers at the cottage too......so many awesome memories!! Can't wait until it's all redone and you have your amazing studio so you can go crazy! :)

Michelle V. Alkerton said...

Oh Monika. Your story brought tears and smiles. Sending all good thoughts to you and your new life.

Stay inspired!
Love Michelle

Lin said...

Thank you for pulling your story into one post, having followed you for some time now it's good to have a recap! The new art space is going to be just wonderful and in such a beautiful setting too. So pleased for you. I am looking forward to following along some more. xx

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