While I may have finished reading all of the Emily Carr books, I have not finished my Emily Carr project. I plan to put together the quotes, my writing, some drawings and photographs, and turn it into something. I’m just not sure what that something is, whether it’s a webpage or if it’s a book.

For now, I’ve picked up A Gentlewoman in Upper Canada again, which is the journals and letters written by Anne Langton, a British woman who came to Ontario in 1837. That’s 34 years before Emily Carr was born in British Columbia. I went to Wikipedia to figure out what was happening on the west coast of Canada at that time. It wasn’t even part of Canada then. Yet the first piece of history on that page is this:

The first British settlement in the area was Fort Victoria, established in 1843, which gave rise to the city of Victoria, at first the capital of the separate Colony of Vancouver Island.

In fact, you have to scroll and scroll to even find the first mention of the Indigenous people who were here first:

First Nations, the original inhabitants of the land, have a history of at least 10,000 years in the area.

As we get closer to July 1st and the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Confederation, I’m thinking a lot about Canada. To be honest, I’m often thinking a lot about Canada. Our identity is so tied up in what we are not. We are not British. We are not American.

It may feel like a hard question for me to answer as a white person today, but I cannot know what it was like to be an Indigenous person then. To know this place is your home, to know who you are, and then everything changes when a group of white people arrive.

The better Wikipedia page to read is the full History of British Columbia. Tomorrow, I’ll be at the library, now that I know what I need to read next.

In those days a man did not fritter away so much time and strength in running to and fro.

Emily Carr, in a lecture to the teaching students at the Normal School in Victoria. That was in 1935, not 2017. There have always been “those days.”

The last Emily Carr book at my library is Unsettling Encounters by Gerta Moray. It’s 400 pages long. It’s a hardcover, 22.6 x 30.9 cm, and 1.8 Kg (according to Amazon). It basically lives on my bedside table, and I read a chapter a night. This is the second time I’ve borrowed it, and I’m gonna have to renew it again to finish reading it.

In the same time, I’ve read a half dozen books on my iPad.

I love books. I love paper. But I also love choice.

If one looked solely at videogames, one would think the whole of human experience is shooting men and taking their dinner orders.

Anna Anthropy, Rise of the Videogame Zinesters

Anthropy critiques something important in this passage, but I laughed reading this because I really love those video games where you take dinner orders, make the food, serve the food, then collect the money. My favourite is the Delicious series. These games are part of the time management genre. They’re also called “casual” games because they’re not about shooting men.

I love games. I grew up through the rise of video games. Though my mom forbid my grandpa from buying us an original Nintendo, we had an Atari 2600. We had games on floppy disks. We bought used GameBoys one year with our Christmas money. I have played years of Microsoft Solitaire.

But there are a lot of men who wouldn’t call me a gamer. It doesn’t matter that I do crosswords, love Scrabble, play Trivial Pursuit. In their eyes, those don’t count as games. I wrote and designed a game with my dad as a family Christmas present last year. It’s a card collecting game called Ingredients. The object is to combine foods into dishes and create a full six-course meal.

Another “casual” game about dinner.

As I was reading Anna Anthropy’s book today, I started a list in my notebook. It’s now three two-column pages long. It’s a list of games I loved to play, I used to play, I still play. I texted my brother to help me remember the name of the police game we played on PC. I found SIX HOURS of Lemmings on YouTube.

I’ve been thinking a lot about books lately. I will forever be a writer, but my ideal format isn’t a book; it’s a blog post. Besides, what is the internet but a giant text adventure game.

I’m getting to the end of my list of Emily Carr books to read. Today I finished reading the catalogue from the 2006 retrospective. Most of what I’ve read so far has been biography or Emily’s own words, whether true or not. I think it was right to read the criticism second because I’m finding answers to the questions that came up while I read the primary sources. Next I tackle Gerta Moray’s massive PhD thesis on Emily Carr and her cultural appropriation. It’s more timely than ever as Canada barrels towards the celebration of 150 years of confederation, as we wonder if anything has changed.

What I am looking for I must work out for myself. It is between God and me. Laziness made me desire to look at the pictures of the others, to try and pick up short-cut recipes that others have used…instead of going straight to the thing itself.

The more I read about her, and the more I look at her pictures, the more I love how Emily Carr painted the land and the sky, not the totem poles. She found herself very late in life. My favourite paintings are from the 1930s when she was in her 60s. It makes me feel good about the future, that it’s never too late for great things to happen, and I need more of that hope in my life.

I saw at my feet small black cat rubbing ecstatically round my shoes.

“Did you bring her all the way uncrated?”

“I did not bring her at all; does she not belong here?”

“Not a cat in the village.”

Wherever she belonged, the cat claimed me. It was as if she had expected me all her life and was beyond glad to find me. She followed my every step. We combed the district later trying to find her owner. No one had seen the creature before. At the end of my two months’ visit in the Cariboo I gave her to a kind man in the store, very eager to have her. Man and cat watched the stage lumber away. The man stooped to pick up his cat, she was gone–no one ever saw her again.

Emily Carr, GROWING PAINS (244-5).

She didn’t just love animals–dogs, parrots, rats, monkeys. Emily also had a black cat familiar.

First we pretended that Epping Forest was our Canadian woods, but it was no good, there was not one bit of similarity. We gave up and sipped England’s sweetness happily. Here were trees venerable, huge and grand, but tamed. All Englands things were tame, self-satisfied, smug and meek—even the deer that came right up to us in the forest, smelled our clothes. There was no turmoil of undergrowth swirling round the boles of trees. The forest was almost like a garden—no brambles, no thorns, nothing to stumble over, no rotten stumps, no fallen branches, all mellow to look at, melodious to hear, every kind of bird, all singing, no awed hush, no vast echoes, just beautiful, smiling woods, not solemn, solemn, solemn like our forests. This exquisite, enchanting gentleness was perfect for one day, but not for always—we were Canadians. (179)

Emily Carr, GROWING PAINS, her autobiography. She wrote it in the last years of her life, but didn’t want the book published until after her death. She wanted to write her life in her own way, as she lived it, but she didn’t want to hurt any feelings either.

This passage comes from a story called “Martyn” about Emily’s time studying art in England in her early 20s. Martyn was actually Mayo Padden, a sailor she had met in Victoria. He had fallen in love with her there and followed her to England to ask her to marry him. She said no. He asked her every day of his visit, and every day, she said no. She asked him for just one day when he didn’t ask. This day, when they explored the Epping Forest. Emily said it was the best day.

Even though Emily went to London to study art (earlier: San Francisco; later: Paris), she resented how the British saw Canada as a backwater. She had grown up in a deeply British house; her father had chosen Victoria exactly because it was the most British city in Canada. But to the people Emily met in England, she was a poor country cousin.

She went there to study art, but what Emily learned in England was how much she loved Canada. She saw Victoria differently when she went home. She didn’t stop painting totem poles, but she started painting more trees. After being elsewhere, she knew now our forests were better. The British said the west was unpaintable. Emily Carr went home to prove them wrong.

I took an accidental vacation from everything over spring break. Even though I took three Emily Carr books with me to my parents’s house, I didn’t read any of them. Granted, one of those books is a hardback catalogue sized beast called Unsettling Encounters by Gerta Moray. It’s the critique of Carr’s cultural appropriation I’ve been wanting to read, but it’s definitely a couch book. I’m almost wishing for an epub.

As I continue importing old blog posts over here, I’ve been finding a lot of songs on YouTube to replace dead links. Out of curiosity, I searched Emily Carr, wanting to see the Heritage Minute, but also whatever else popped up. This 15 minute NFB film, directed by Graham McInnes, is what I found. Directed in 1946, the year after Carr died, it shares many of her attitudes. It presents the aboriginal people of BC as a “dying” culture.

And then there’s this, the closing paragraph:

The canvases of Emily Carr are themselves an inspiration. They show that if an artist feels overwhelmingly the urge to paint, it matters little that he works alone, for from the images of his land, he can create paintings that will always arouse deep emotions in the hearts of his fellow men.

Like, are you fucking kidding me? It matters a lot that SHE works alone, because women didn’t do that in Emily Carr’s lifetime. It matters a lot that HER paintings aroused feelings in the hearts of HER fellow WOMEN. When we’re talking about Emily Carr, who did everything she could to remain independent, it matters a lot that you give her that credit. She’s the most famous artist from BC, and she is a woman. Don’t take that away from us.

In week four of The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron asks you to give up reading. To be honest, I’ve been looking forward to this. I quit Twitter last summer because I wanted to focus on creating instead of consuming. But I’ve fallen into some bad habits lately. I’m still reading books, but I’m also looking at the Internet too much. More than I want to be. I’ve been using television as a distraction. So I’m using this week as an excuse to do a media blackout.

No Internet no television no music no reading. I plan to go to work, write at Starbucks, get outside as much as the weather allows, do yoga, meditate, just be. If I like it, I might even go to the end of March. I’ve been reading Emily Carr since December, and I want to write a book.  The 72nd anniversary of her death is in March, but a more likely deadline is June, halfway through the year. If I can write a book for June, then a book for December, that’ll feel like a good year