I cannot take a decent selfie to save my life.
Janice is a master in this art, and try as she might, even she cannot teach me this skill. I have come up with all sorts of potential explanations for it: My arm is too short. My head is too big. The button on my phone is too awkward to reach without jiggling the camera.
I have some serious selfie problems.
Consequently, this site is full of glorious shots of Janice on her travels, and I remain practically invisible, instead focusing my camera on the food, the wine, and the landscapes. Occasionally, in desperation, I include a tragic selfie like this one, this being the best I could come up with out of a batch of 37 shots. It even prompted a call from my mother, who said, “I really liked your post about the Rocky Mountaineer – except for that one photo.”
I had pretty much given up on being able to include photos of myself in my posts. Then, I traveled to Ville-Marie. Ville-Marie is situated on beautiful Lake Timiskaming in the western part of the Canadian province of Quebec. With a population of roughly 2,500, it's a pretty small place – but it is full of people with big ideas and personalities.
I visited Le Rift, which is an art gallery, theatre, and cinema housed in two buildings. Francine Marcotte, who seemed to me to be the heart of the artistic community, gave me a tour, while all around us was the flurry of activity of a new exhibit being set up. Her enthusiasm and passion for every creative endeavour in the area was inspiring. She literally bounces with excitement – you can't help but smile in her presence. When we checked out the theatre, which plays host to both live productions and films, Francine mentioned that she had choreographed a production that had been mounted there. That's it, I thought: she moves like a dancer.
During our conversation, I discovered that in addition to her work for Rift, Francine is a professional artist, and has a small studio at her home. I was thrilled to be invited to visit her there because, although she described it as just a shed behind her house, I had a feeling it would be much more. And, of course, it was.
The following day, I visited Francine at her studio, a lovely, bright space full of paintings both complete and in progress. As I wandered around, admiring the work and enjoying a cup of tea, Francine asked if I would sit for her.
What? Me? Really?
Apparently so. As I sat awkwardly in front of her, not knowing where to look, trying to stay still, fighting the urge to bolt for the door, Francine created a portrait of me. It is at once intensely uncomfortable and strangely exhilarating to have someone looking so intently at you.
After what seemed like hours but was, in fact, 15 minutes, the portrait was revealed. I was stunned.
“I love your crazy hair!” Francine said. “But I need more time to capture the spark in your eyes.”
Unfortunately, neither of us had more time that day. But no matter – to me, it's already a masterpiece. I felt, and friends have confirmed, that Francine captured something about me that no selfie ever has. Somehow, after only knowing me for a couple of hours, she created a portrait that communicates something essential about me.
So, to heck with selfies! This portrait is now framed and hanging in my home. Every time I look at it, I think of Francine and Ville-Marie, of the wonderful artistic community there, and how we came up with a creative solution to my selfie problems.
My thanks to Abitibi-Temiscamingue Tourism for their support. If not for this trip, I'd still be invisible.