Staying in the Lines

So, here we are with story #53, the last one of the year. I had expected that there would be 52 stories each year, but there turned out to be 53 Sundays in 2006, so I had a choice - take a week off, or do one 'extra'. You can see which I chose! This final story for the year should be something a bit 'special', so let me tell you about a 'life-changing' experience I had many years ago!

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A couple of months ago, I mentioned hobbies in one of these stories, and that reminded me of maps, and then talking about maps reminded me of an episode from elementary school. Like most of us, I had particular likes and dislikes back in my school days; I certainly had a distaste for the mandatory French classes, but balanced this with a particular liking for geography class. The dislike of French is easy for me to understand; I was a shy boy, and being made to stand up in front of everybody else and try to force my tongue to make those strange sounds must have been an unpleasant experience. Geography though, brought no such embarrassment; on the contrary, I'm sure I looked forward to the classes. Playing with maps - this was something I was good at!

I specifically remember one map I created in class - it had a base drawing consisting of the provinces of Canada outlined in dark black lines, and this was covered with a number of translucent overlay maps. These overlays each used colour shading to delineate areas of particular interest; I suppose they showed wheat production, or forest cover, or other such things.

Why do I remember this particular map? It is because of the visual appearance - it had heavy black outlines with smooth colour filling the inner areas, a pattern I found immensely pleasing. Exactly why I found this so attractive I cannot now say; perhaps I had a pleasant experience with a colouring book at a very young age, or something such as that. It is impossible for me to explain. But if I now close my eyes and think back, I can still see that map clearly - and I suppose this must be a memory from about 45 years ago!

As the years passed, I became interested in many other things; I spent a long time involved in music, trying to become a flute player; I dabbled in the construction of classic guitars; I worked as a business manager, became a computer programmer ... I tried this, and I tried that, never really feeling that I had 'found' my way. And then one day, purely as a matter of chance as I was walking down a street in Toronto Canada, I saw a sign on the sidewalk announcing an exhibition of Japanese prints in a small gallery. Something about the sign caused me to stop and look a bit closer, and then, I went into the gallery.

What happened next I didn't understand at the time; but as I walked around the tiny room inspecting the 'surimono' prints on display, a seed was being planted in my mind. I certainly didn't run out of the gallery shouting "Yes, this is it! I want to make beautiful prints like this!" but unknown to me, while I was inspecting those prints, some distant inner corner of my mind was thinking to itself "Hmmm, look at this; beautiful black lines ... with delicate colours filling the inner areas ... Hmmm ...."

Yes, Japanese prints obviously push that same button in my mind that my school maps did. All these years later, I still cannot explain to you just why I find such things attractive, but without doubt the connection is there. As I sit at my bench each day working on my prints, I'm not 'working' at all ... I'm ten years old again ... having fun colouring my maps!


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Thank you for a very full year of A Story A Week ... See you again next Sunday, I hope!

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