A SBAR Reflection by Alexander Carson
And rather like a dream, five days at the Stone Boat Artist Retreat drift together in my memory. A hazy mosaic, an oneiric collage. An unstructured meditation on the pastoral, and the possibilities of new friendship... Seated at the kitchen table, a warm stove at my back. Outside, the sound of chopping wood. In the next room, faint laughter. The house itself, a reliquary of souvenirs and family heirlooms, a curious museum that feels both carefully curated and utterly effortless. The walls of each room, lined with elegantly disused collections—guitars, baseball gloves, dusty books—remind me of the cruel beauty of time itself, and the irresistible guile of nostalgia. Upstairs, the VHS tapes of Hollywood movies beside my bed offer to unevenly chronicle a history of American cinema, while pointing opaquely at mythologies that have formed a family ethos—the Nostbakken family—a family I do not know, yet feel some propinquity with. Like them, my family hails from Ottawa, bastion of the federation. I’m reminded of the upcoming election. I’m reading Gore Vidal. Across the room a buzzing fly is throwing itself against a windowpane. I watch without compassion. I’m feeling political.
Another day slices together like an imagist poem. Alternating moments, crisp and languid—the wedding of opposites. My fingers thumb through pages in a magazine. My body ambles through a maze of wooded pathways that surround the farm. I’m a somnambulant protagonist, a willing subject to perpetual reverie. I look upon the valleys of Lanark County and I think about the likelihood that I will one day be buried somewhere in Eastern Ontario, this gentle and unassuming part of Canada from whence I came. All places are distant from heaven alike (I have been told). I glance around: the leaves are brown and brittle here. Autumn is arriving. I tend on mortal thoughts.
Evening approaches and whiskey is poured. The smells of cooking and wood smoke dance together in the kitchen. Amy is chopping large cloves of farmgrown garlic. I open my computer and issue a few perfunctory keystrokes—the sudden compulsion to salvage an hour of good work before dinner. As the sun sets the other residents drift in from various stations—the woodshop, the field, the porch, the parlour. The din of laughter beckons and I turn myself outward. Labour done and revelry begun, we trade stories from the day. We eat and drink and share work. We live out a Decameron tale. It is a tribute to the nourishing powers of communion and narrative. But will it be enough, considering what’s coming?
Sandy is a Film and Media Artist with North Country Cinema who came up this past Autumn to the Stone Boat Artist Retreat to work on a new screenplay and series of essays. 'O Brazen Age', his most recent release, may be playing at a film festival near you in the coming year. For more on his work, visit http://www.northcountrycinema.com/
Keep checking here for announcements about our next retreat, set for Spring 2016...