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Cameo: One with the landscape

What would Annora Brown’s expressions of art have been like had she not been called back to Fort Macleod in 1930? It was as if she was connected by umbilical cord with Mother Nature and delivered into the local landscape.
She always insisted on being part of the action, and wanted to learn all she could about where she lived. She did that “by drawing, painting, reading, listening, thinking . . . and developing a sense of oneness with creation.”
Her resolve was to be outdoors, doing a sketch every day that the weather permitted . . . and she gathered sketches she could work on in the extremities of winter.
In Sketches from Life, written in her retirement, she could still feel the wind, hear the sounds, and be awe-struck by the light. “The wailing of the wind . . ., the barking of the coyotes . . ., the honking of the geese . . . My world!” Her battles with insects, gophers and grasshoppers were mere inconveniences.
The flowing of the cloud currents, the dust storms, the clear-cut chinook arch “over a transparent sky,” the violence of the rolling tumble weed — to her all were spectacular!
“Going driving in a 60 mph wind was not sensible . . .” Gusts were impossible to stand against. But look at that sky! The whole experience “was like a Beethoven Symphony.”
“Light was the greatest painter of all.” She watched the way it molded, blended, cut out silhouettes and changed patterns — always creating!
In the beginning her frustration was that no one took notice of the wild flowers which had been her friends since childhood. Where they grew, who their neighbours were, what purposes they served . . . she mused on how this “magnificent accomplishment of nature was snatched back each year . . . and started all over again (in the spring).”
“When I look deep into the heart of a flower I feel as if a presence surrounds me, as if the spirits of the earth are coming out to share this moment with me.” They invited her to see beyond what she was seeing as she tried to capture their music and poetry. “That is why I paint.”
Returning from a trip to the mountains, she marvelled at “their patience in face of eternity.” Their stalwartness “put my small problems into perspective.”
Annora is remembered as a quiet, introverted, a home-grown artist. But with her pen and her paintbrush she has preserved for us vital secrets, many unheralded in today’s world.

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