Bring Joy Into Your Life With Art


I fell in love last summer, on a downtown street. The street was closed for an annual exhibition. A village of tents held pottery, jewelry, one-of-a-kind clothing, and handmade images of all kinds. It was, as they say, a feast for the eyes, and a painting stole my heart.

As I strolled past, keeping watch for the perfect pair of earrings (because one can ever own too many earrings) I was captivated by “Hill House”, by Peter Karas. It is 30” tall and 60” wide and it grabbed me with shades of cerulean blue, purples and vibrant yellow-greens that glowed in the sunshine. The only problem… it was expensive, not a spontaneous purchase. I chatted to the artist, asked to take this photo, and reluctantly walked on.

It Stuck In My Mind
The painting haunted me. Really, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I had the artist’s business card, so I looked him up on my computer. Peter Karas and his wife, Corinne Garlick, call themselves “The Dick and Jane Art Co.” How cute is that? Their painting styles are each unique, but they collaborate and are making a living with their creativity. It was admirable, enviable. I sighed, grabbed the image from their website and made it my computer’s background. That would have to do.

Now on my laptop I constantly saw “Hill House”; at work, at home, it travelled with me everywhere. Something about it made me smile. The colours were unquestionably happy. The scene vibrated intensely, like stained glass backlit by a sunny day.

There was something pleasing about the houses’ wonkiness of the shapes. Tiny homes slightly askew, leaning playfully and precariously on the hilltop. The clouds floated across a sky that was friskily spattered with turquoise and violet. Everything about it was delightfully unexpected. It was bouncy, and it made me smile, which is something I needed at that time.

Mother’s Last Days
I had no way of knowing that summer would be the last days of my mother’s existence. She was ill, had been for years. A hospitalization in June resulted in confusing adjustments to her medications. We had one day’s notice to move her to a facility with a higher level of daily care. All summer I helped with a stream of indignities related to her personal care and the ability to make her own choices. Day-to-day routines were stressful, not joyful. I forgot about the painting.

I changed my computer background and got on with the endless decisions required to ensure my mother’s comfort and safety. She was unable to get around with her walker so I fought to get her a power wheel chair. And it was a fight, because the consultant involved made a judgment of incompetence based on paperwork. They had given my mother a quiz to check her metal capability. Could she remember a list of five unrelated words, could she name exotic animals, or draw a clock face? Hell, her fingers were so crippled by arthritis she could hardly hold a pen. With reluctance the consultant brought a power chair for my mother to try. She had to physically demonstrate her ability. She piloted that chair around cones, backed it up without running over other residents, and pulled up to a table safely. Through dogged determination my mother earned the right to use a power wheelchair and thus regained the mobility that allowed her to engage in social activities.

Getting Business In Order
During those final weeks my mother became fixated on her legacy. The details of her Will were reviewed, personal items, such as jewelry, were sent off to loved ones. I didn’t understand at the time, but she must have known that she needed to tie up loose ends. In mid-September she suffered through a twelve-day hospital stay. When released, she asked me to “take her somewhere to die.” She spent the last five days of her life in a palliative care ward, where she received wonderful service. She was able to say final farewells to each of her children, then drifted peacefully into sleep. I sat with her as she took her last breath.

I had spent a decade as my mother’s caregiver. I was her companion, advocate, chauffeur, and personal support worker. Of course I was. I am the only daughter and the only child living in the same city. It was a no brainer, but being dependent on me made her feel guilty. She struggled to verbalize gratitude. She was unhappy. It was a dark time for both of us.

Seeking Joy
Once the details of my mother’s departure had been dealt with, I found myself in need of restoration. I remembered the painting and contacted Peter Karas. It had been three months since the street festival, but “Hill House” was still looking for a home. I believe it was meant to be mine. I drove to Peter’s home, in London, and met his wonderful family. The painting barely fit in my little car, but I got it home. It’s perfect. It brings me joy every time I look at it. Art is medicine for the soul. Bring art into your life and see what I mean.

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Marion Reidel, Upper Canadian Author with a wicked sense of humour. Buy her book, visit her on tour, and also get the tattoo.