Saturday, January 16, 2016

Mr. Cameron's Consevatory Novel Update

      I have, as editor, recently put the  22 chapters of Mr. Cameron's Conservatory in book reading order and have written the following introduction.

The characters and story line in this work reach back to the very beginnings of the author's writings in the fifties and his novel manuscript The Cruise of the Ballerina which underwent numerous rewrites and publisher's rejection slips. He later referred to it as the Yacht Novel. It was in the late seventies that he began his major work Contemplatives.
     His later studies of music instruction for beginners found its way into this unfinished novel which takes up the threads of the Yacht novel, weaves in the characters from Contemplatives, and sets down in fictional form his musical theories for beginners. It recreates, for the reader, the many music lessons and students he loved to teach and inspire over many years. 
 From the author's unpublished autobiography:
    After the initial terror of discovering that I was to be a writer, I who had never reaped much satisfaction from school composition assignments, quite quickly began to acquire a distinct mental pleasure in what I understood was the intellectual and imaginative preparation for the day I settled down to a story or two, and never until the rainy autumn Sunday afternoon that I began the first draught of the Yacht Novel did I have any doubts or complaints about my appointed vocation. Nor did I have any dark moments, as far as I can recall, throughout the year or so it took me to finish it, actually in two spurts many months apart. I knew, mind you, that it was only a draught, and would require much rewriting, although I could never have believed that this retelling and retelling would take half-a-century.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

First Impressions of the Sechelt Property

    In the spring of 1950, my father bought a summer home on Sechelt Inlet, three miles from the head of the inlet and located on the eastern side. The house - which it was, rather than a cabin - was one of three built on the shores, on or near a tiny bay. The road came no closer than half a mile from our miniature resort and there were few boats travelling that part of the inlet. so my father's purchase guaranteed what were literally weekend or longer retreats from the often tawdry environment of our city community. As it goes among those not yet fully integrated with the life of grace, I had been able - since a little child - to balance my life quite nicely between solitude and company, but as adolescence came upon me I was attracted to deeper silences, and the possession of the inlet hermitage guaranteed  an atmosphere for them. Only a monastery could have created a more solemn environment, or perhaps a very devout home, and the Spirit took every advantage of the lonesome geography, over the years, that I would allow Him.
    It was the second time that my father had bought property. A year after the war he bought a section of land on a coastal island for the purpose of logging it, but the timber business had not been kind to him. We left the island after a year-and-a-half and within another year or so he had sold that property. When the opportunity of the Sechelt house came up we were all excited, but no-one more so than myself, for in the various times during the first fifteen years of my life when I had lived out of the city I had been nourished by the forest and often longed for a home closer to it. My father's work, however, dictated living in or at least close to the city of Vancouver, so I had to leave my hopes of a less urban environment to my own adulthood, in the meantime taking advantage of any temporary occasions that arose. This is not to say that I ignored the opportunities provided by the city; in fact I took full advantage of anything I found attractive, exercising my intelligence and acquiring experiences to a degree that would not have been possible either on the island or on Sechelt Inlet, but in the midst of my activities: high school, sports, army cadets, scouts, a newspaper route, and frequent regular invasions of the public library, I often felt a distinct and powerful longing for a more solitary relationship with reality, and this although most of my near relatives, with all of whom I was on close terms, lived also in the city, or close to it.
    Some of my desire, of course, was the customary romanticism and outdoor attraction. At about the same time as my father bought the property, perhaps just a month or two before, I suffered my only real temptation to quit school. I was in Grade Ten, and doing well enough academically, undisturbed by any conscious frustrations, yet a book I read about ranching in the Cariboo literally inflamed my imagination with a desire to leave my home and my classroom and set out for a life of cow punching. I can recall having to deal with this desire all day long. Only in the night did it subside, to leave me at peace with my environment. When, six years later, I did travel into the Cariboo to work for a summer in the wilderness I fulfilled every image of my fifteen-year-old vision, but as a result not of a hasty decision to escape my rightful environment too soon, but following the unbroken years of study I had put in at high school and university, and particularly as a result of the months before the foray in the wilderness, when very intensive studies of the social sciences and modern literature had given me a profound sense of my own dignity as a person, my individual skill as a poet, and my right of searching in the best sources available for the concepts of absolute truth.
    There was another experience of that year - the Salvation Army, which is another story, but which I mention here because it is part of the total circumstances of that year. I tried out the Salvation Army Sunday School for three or four weeks, following my appointment as a patrol second of the scout troop. Unfortunately, and to some degree crediting my father's attitude, I chose Sunday school this time not so simply as a year or two before - for my own good simply - but just as much from a feeling that I should set an example to the other members of my patrol. I told my mother this and possibly I told my father. The original inspiration was simple enough - I can distinctly remember its purity - but the question of example was a self-satisfying bit of clutter and I think that my father knew it. Whatever he knew by the time I mentioned that they had asked me to join the band, he was all objections and that was the last excuse I needed to take back my Sunday mornings to myself.
    But as grace builds on nature, Providence got at me another way, and this time through my father, with the purchase of the Sechelt property.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Painting and Me

    I basically ignored painting for a long time, for two reasons. One, that I had encountered very little of the real thing, real painting and painters, and two: that I looked at what paintings I did run across for the wrong thing, action instead of being. The items of a scene are in act, but we miss the point if we look for them to be in action; the adventure in painting is that the matter at hand is lifted out of its merely temporal story line, it is, from a purified intellect, that most exciting vision, that of the angelic, that is, a view from beyond time.
    I loved stories, as should be clear by now, from the bottom of the bottom of my heart; I had no objection to the quietest and stillest scenes in movies; I loved the sketches and engravings, in story books and also the water colours that showed up in some. For years, I'm sure, had anyone asked me, I would have said that illustrations were the highest kind of art, just as I would have said that sound track violins and horns were the best kind of classical music. But a painting by itself was a hard pill to swallow, unless it was a landscape or a pretty girl, and both of these had to conform to my standards of exciting landscapes and feminine beauty.
   Painting has to put us in touch with our own inner kingdom, or it has nothing real to say to us. But this means that there be an inner kingdom, and for painting to work that kingdom must contain the province of silence, of stillness, of the sense of being.
    Sechelt Inlet had a lot to do with changing this predicament, although the outward effects, that of my establishing a permanent relationship with the art, would not take place for some years. From my father's first announcement that he was buying the place we were excited, but the all important spiritual depth, the more important result, came with the first encounter. Our isolated little bay, three water miles from my grandmother's, was a retreat or it was nothing.
   The best thing about Sechelt Inlet was not the fishing but the silence. The fishing was good, because we could usually catch a cod on one kind or another, but the silence was very, very deep and it taught me something.
    I think I noticed it when I went up there for the first time, to sleep in a tent for three weeks and help my new grandfather build his house, when I was nine, the summer that the War ended.
    Thanks to the watchful and loving eye of God, all our instants are eternal; the temporality of the moment disappears in the ocean of infinity. Yet our consciousness is not always aware of this dissolution of points of time; some extra element of grace is needed if our awareness of a particular point on man's clock vanishing into eternity can mean anything to us; we need even the further use of time to destroy time, we have to wait on the passing of time before our eyes before that gap in the ranks of the changing moments appears and we perceive through it a glimpse of a stillness that can only be called divine.
    It is not that our eyes lose their sight, or our ears refuse to hear, nor that our sense of smell fails us, indeed, their operations are heightened, infused with a spark of divinity, granted for a moment a power of command over all they behold as a flood of grace and perhaps a flash of glory tells us that not only is the moment eternal, but that we are sharing it now as we will comprehend it as without change.
    This quality suffuses the greatest acts of our memory, sometimes in recollection, sometimes in the moment of perception. One of my earliest adolescent encounters with this whispering of the Holy Spirit took place on Sechelt Inlet in the summer following my first year of high school, a metaphysical intuition was presented clearly for itself. To be precise, I did not know the expression intuition of being but I knew something of the philosopher's operation.