“I am sorry to inform you that the jury convened to adjudicate the applications did not approve your project for a grant.”
I read the line over twice to make sure I understand it. Wonderscape didn’t get the grant from the Saskatchewan Arts Board. The proposal I had spent days writing had failed! I had wondered, while crunching numbers, requesting testimonials and writing motherhood statements, is this worth it? Does it make sense to while away time when I’m not sure of the outcome? Shouldn’t I be working on my own writing projects, or something valiant like scrubbing the bathtub?
I call my sister, which is what one does in these kind of situations, when I find out about the refusal.
“Should I still try to form a non-profit now that the application has been rejected?” I ask her. “It’ll take so much time and paperwork,” I moan.
There is silence on the other end so I keep going. “Plus, I know nothing about bylaws or articles of incorporation.”
In the end I decide to incorporate. This means filing paperwork with the government, multiple meetings with the director of the local art gallery, writing articles and bylaws, finding board members, scheduling an AGM, printing financial reports and budgets and preparing agendas. It’s all overwhelming, mostly because I keep ruminating over the same questions: What’s the point? Is this worth it? Do I have time for this?
Anne Lamott tells the story of when she went shopping with a dear friend who was dying of cancer. The friend brought along her six-year-old daughter to help Anne buy a new dress. Anne stepped out of the change room, adjusting the neck line and pulling on the skirt, while the young daughter skittered and skipped around her mom who was in a wheelchair. Anne tugged on the fabric and complained about looking fat. She wondered, too, whether the dress made her arms look flabby.
Her friend, who would die three weeks later, looked at her from her chair for a long time. Then she said, “Anne, you don’t got time for that.”
A teacher from Susanna’s French immersion school emails us asking if Stan would be interested in making a snow sculpture outside the school for French Education week. I read through her note and think about all the electrical work in the basement, the flooring that needs to be installed and the ceiling tiles we ordered last week. We definitely don’t have time for that, is my immediate thought after reading her request, but I wait to ask Stan before responding.
I bring it up as soon as he comes home from work and he immediately says, “Sure!” without hesitating.
What one person ain’t got time for, the next person does.
The morning of the first Wonderscape AGM I wake up at six with a feeling of dread. I had been dreaming about Robert’s Rules of Orders and my inexperience chairing formal meetings. I get up and review the stack of papers I’ve prepared for the new board members. Some of them, who are coming from over 100 miles away, will soon be on their way.
Hours later, when we sit at my table, I remember how I had met each one of them:
I found Shannon in 2016 at the Kenosee Lake Kitchen Party, where I spotted her wearing her dark-rimmed glasses. I knew I had to get to know Shannon and had a hunch by the way she smiled, sang, talked and moved that she would know a thing or two about arts and connecting people. I asked her to meet me one afternoon outside my cottage in the forest where I had set up my laptop on a make-shift table to work on the first Wonderscape retreat. She listened to me talk for a long time. Then I listened to her. And I knew I had found exactly who I needed. Now she’s here, taking minutes and reminding me what I wanted Wonderscape to be in the first place.
Marea sits beside her. I met Marea on the side of the road. Well, not exactly the side of the road, but in her pottery shack, which runs on an honour-system, at the side of the road. She came out to meet us just as we were about to leave money in her cash box in exchange for a beautiful bowl. We started chatting and laughing, which is easy to do with Marea, and that’s when I felt another little nudge. Should I ask this stranger if she wants to come to Wonderscape? Finally, right before I left, I got brave enough. “I’m trying this new thing,” I said, faltering. “A creative arts retreat… you might be interested?”
Rebecca is next to Marea. She invited our family over for a bonfire the first day we moved to Saskatchewan almost 10 years ago. We ate hummus and stared at the flames and I thought, What are the chances that someone who likes the outdoors and art and neighbours lives just down the street?
An acquaintance gave me Sarah’s name. They said she was an artist and even had her own TV show. I called her immediately and told her she had to come to my house. She did.
Twila and I spoke in Spanish the first time we met as she had recently returned from a decade of living in Guatamala. We’ve since become family friends and raise each other’s children.
Gillian is here because Sarah thought she would fit the Wonderscape team. She’s a pianist and vocalist and though I’ve only met her once before I already agree with Sarah.
These are the people who traveled through a January storm to get here. Who bring their experience and talent to the table. We establish quorum then spoon coconut chickpea curry over basmati rice. We make motions, second and carry them. We eat brownies. We talk about creativity and artists-in-residence and vision and values and fund-raising and nature and painters and writers and photographers. The snow accumulates on their vehicles while the candle flickers before us. Surrounded by these woman I am infected by their enthusiasm and decide it is already worth it.
Life is short. We may have more than three weeks left, but we still have to pick and choose how we’ll spend our minutes and our mental energy. The next time I look disapprovingly in a mirror I’ll hear Anne Lamott’s friend say “You don’t got time for that”. I’ll hear it when I wonder if I should do the dishes instead of write the next paragraph. When I languish on Facebook instead of going outside. When I stay on the beach instead of swim. When I organize my closet instead of planting my garden. When Stan rummages around for his snow-sculpting tools and I wonder when he’ll run the wires. When I start complaining about the hours I put into Wonderscape.
I don’t got time for that.
We don’t have time to pass up on the things that make us flourish. The things that might overwhelm us, make us cold, exhausted or even unavailable to do other things, but that make our life richer and wider and deeper.
When will you hear it?
*Thanks, Katrina, for always being interested. I wrote this in response to your FB message asking me about the AGM.
*I heard Anne Lamott tell the aforementioned story to Kelly Corrigan on this podcast as I was priming our basement walls.