Monday, 6 June 2016

Keeping My Nose to the Joy Trail

My dear husband, Bill Stearman, has always been a fan of Buffy Sainte-Marie, the legendary Native Canadian singer, songwriter, musician, composer, visual artist, educator, and political activist. When Bill learned that she was performing at Kingston’s Grand Theatre on March 26 of this year, he bought us front-row tickets to the concert. What a great evening - at age 75, Buffy Sainte-Marie can still hold an audience in rapt attention for a 90-minute set. Wow!

A month later, there she was again, this time as a guest of Mary Hynes on Tapestry, the CBC Radio programme that focuses on spirituality and religion. In that memorable interview (CBC Radio Tapestry), Mary Hynes asked Buffy about her attitude towards life. Her response? “I keep my nose to the joy trail.”

What a grand philosophy. I wrote it down on a post-it note and put it in on the mirror in my bathroom, so when I shave in the morning, there’s Buffy reminding me about the importance of joy in my life.

Which brings me to the photograph above. This image brings great joy into my life.

The story:

I took it on Saturday, July 24, 2010, at Luna Park in Sydney, Australia, with my very modest Canon PowerShot SX210IS camera. My late husband, Spencer Brennan, and I were on our second great Australian adventure, having first travelled there together in 2007. In the 1970s, I had taught in Sydney and loved returning whenever my bank account could afford it. Alas, Spencer got infected by my love of Australia, and we both thoroughly enjoyed our extended vacations in that country. My memories of those trips are bittersweet, however: during our 2007 stay, Spencer first displayed symptoms of worrisome neurological problems; in 2010, he was months away from being diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis – ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. In retrospect, that 2010 vacation was our last glimpse of normalcy before the maelstrom of his diagnosis struck, ultimately leading to his death in Switzerland in August, 2012.

So – I look at this photo with a heft of emotional freight.

Luna Park Sydney is a time warp sited on one of the most magnificent spots on the planet, across the harbour from the Sydney Opera House. Connecting the two is the awesome ‘Coat Hanger’ Sydney Harbour Bridge. Opened in 1935 (Luna Park Sydney), Luna Park Sydney has all the kitschy carousels, tilt-o-whirls, candy floss machines, and studied tackiness of a carnival midway, but on a permanent location that is part of Sydney’s psyche. You don’t go there to experience anything new – you go there to immerse yourself in simpler times and simpler pleasures. And it has that glorious Ferris Wheel.

When Spencer and I prepared our bucket lists for the 2010 trip, Luna Park was at the top of Spencer’s list, so off we went on that chilly, cloudy July winter’s day for our Luna Park adventure. Instead of taking a ferry or a train, we walked across the bridge to reach the park. There weren’t many people in attendance that day – the park struggles financially – so we almost had the place to ourselves. I was snapping pictures left and right when Spencer suddenly grabbed my arm and said, “Look behind you! Take that picture!” I turned, and there it was – the Ferris Wheel juxtaposed in front of the looming Harbour Bridge, a symphony of arches and angles and art and artifice. And it was breathtaking. I simply stood there in gap-mouthed wonder. My inner photographer soon asserted itself, however. I cranked up the telephoto lens and started snapping away. When I was finished, Spencer said to me, “That’s going to be a fabulous picture. And I want credit for it.” And so he shall have it.

This photo, inspired by Spencer Brennan and taken by me, is part of my personal joy trail. Praise be.

It will be on display at the CLiC Photo Show at Books & Company, 289 Main Street in Picton, Ontario, July 23 to August 7, 2016.

Until next week,


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