It's difficult to put into words just how much I love my community.
I arrived in North Bay in 2013 as a vagrant with no fixed address. Fresh off of the plane after spending four months backpacking solo through Southeast Asia, I came to the north in search of a new beginning. I thought I'd spend only 8 months in North Bay while working on my Bachelor of Education degree, and when it was over I'd have a better idea of where I'd go next. I never planned to stay.
After only a few weeks, I felt in my heart that North Bay was home. That feeling has never left. Before moving to the Gateway City, I'd lived in nine different cities across Southern Ontario. That led to a sense of constant restlessness; I became bored with wherever I was living after only a few years. I'm coming up on seven years in North Bay, with no desire to ever leave.
If anything, I am fascinated, I am enamoured, and I am inspired by where I live.
One of the many reasons that I believe that people are drawn to the north is its untamed and wild beauty. The trees here are not orderly or soft; white pines shoot upwards with reckless abandon, twisted into arched silhouettes by an unforgiving wind that soars across Lake Nipissing. The Canadian Shield bends roads and infrastructure to its will, marked by granite outcrops and miniature waterfalls that appear and vanish with sudden rainfall or ice melt. Human control here is tempered; nature is still very much calling the shots.
The people who live here are, in essence, extensions of the landscape. They are fierce. Loyal. Resilient. Stubborn. Perhaps it's due to the fact that we are somewhat geographically isolated from the rest of Ontario. Or, perhaps it's what happens when you live in a town whose social culture was founded on making the most of our natural surroundings, forging a community strong enough to outlast the coldest of winters.
Summer seems so far away at this moment, and the winter we are attempting to outlast is unlike any I've faced in my lifetime.
We've been fortunate so far with our social distancing. I have transitioned into the full-time caregiver of my twin 20 month old boys on top of managing my work commitments, and we're managing. Has it been easy? Absolutely not. Like many, I've had dark days. But we remain healthy, we are able to buy groceries, and our basic needs are being met. We have so much to be grateful for.
One of my greatest sources of gratitude has been the community of North Bay, and the online community on my Facebook page that has grown and stretched to double its previous size in the past month alone. I could never have predicted that my paint classes would have reached as far as the United Kingdom and Qatar...but they did.
I never would've thought that organizing a fundraiser for the NBRHC foundation would've raised $2,565.00 and counting...but it did. This, of course, is purely thanks to community support. I will never take credit for the collective actions of the many when I am only the few. I will, however, take this time to offer my sincere and heartfelt thanks.
Thank you to anyone who has had the courage to pick up a brush for the first time in years, and for your trust in me to help guide you through the artistic process.
Thank you to the children who remained focused and committed, and who created dazzling paintings as a result.
Thank you to anyone who uses the videos as a form of self-care; knowing that I am helping in some small way pushes me to keep going.
Thank you to those who gave to the NBRHC foundation, or to other hospitals in their home communities.
Most especially, thank you to the City of North Bay and its citizens. Thank you for staying home. Thank you for choosing to make difficult sacrifices. Thank you for all you continue to do for the most vulnerable; the food drives, the grocery runs, the knitting of hats for citizens in shelters. You make me want to be better. You deserve the best that I have to offer.
This means re-entering the delicate dance I have with the north; attempting to paint the wildlife and landscapes whose very spirit resists capture. Once Ontario begins scaling into a new normal, and my boys are back in full-time care, I intend to throw myself fully into my painting practice. Will I continue teaching art virtually? Absolutely. But you can also anticipate a rush of new works exiting the studio. I want to experiment, play, and improve. I am anxious to get started.
Until then, my family and I continue to wait out this winter of discontent...knowing that its end will herald the most glorious of summers.
Link to the foundation's fundraising page: https://www.nbrhcfoundation.ca/paintclass
Link to Campfire painting fundraiser class: https://www.facebook.com/artbymariannevanderdussen/videos/686879845188658/