Art Touches Life

by Laureen on August 29, 2012

Big Guy climbs Sandhills

How do you know when you’ve touched someone’s life?

On Saturday, my guy the Big Guy and I headed for the Great Sandhills, one of Saskatchewan’s wonders of the world. We stayed overnight in Maple Creek and had dinner at the wonderful Star Café. Next morning after a splendid brunch buffet in a tiny coffee shop near the highway, we set off for what was intended as a wayside stop at Sagebrush Galleries. It turned out to be a lot more than that.

Sagebrush Galleries is the brain and heart child of Dean and Fran Francis. On 20 acres of former pasture in sandy river hills north of the South Saskatchewan River near the Alberta border, Dean and Fran have built their legacy. With the application of love and belief and lots of hard work, they’ve created a haven of dryland gardens, a home for wildlife, and two galleries and a studio in three derelict churches they rescued one by one and moved onto the property, then renovated, over 10 years. Gently curving boardwalk pathways direct you around the grounds and into the galleries, where old wood shines, light pours in, music plays, and paintings and pottery can be seen at their best. It’s a pleasure to be there.

It was the first time I’d met Dean, though Fran and I had crossed paths 25 years ago. For two successive semesters in 1984 and 1985, in two different towns, I had taught her in University of Saskatchewan off-campus credit classes toward a BFA in art. A lot happens in 25 years, and it has to both of us. Fran gave us a lovely tour, and we covered decades as we renewed our acquaintance.

Then, the moment I didn’t see coming. As the Big Guy and I made to take our leave, Fran stopped us. She said, “I remember those classes you taught. I remember that you made us read things we hadn’t read before. You made us write things we hadn’t written before.  You made us think. It was your teaching, and those classes, that kept me painting, and working in art galleries, and having my own studio. You kept me on the path where I met Dean. I’ve never forgotten those classes. Thank you.”

How incredible to hear! To learn that I made a difference to someone. So many years have gone by. I said, “Thank you,” in my turn, and turned away with tears in my eyes. I hadn’t known.

But I do know this: It isn’t just me. That isn’t possible. It’s never just one person. So, somewhere in each of our lives is someone we made a difference to. Maybe you can identify who that is for you, or maybe you can’t. If you can’t, it isn’t because there is no one. It’s just because you haven’t found out who it is. You kept someone on his or her path. Let this knowledge keep you on yours.

The Great Sandhills were beautiful. Fran’s gift of understanding – stunning.


Jan August 31, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Great post. I think the things that resonate, that stay with us are rarely “important” to the person saying/doing them. I don’t mean that your teaching work wasn’t important. You would have said and done many things during your classes, not every word and action was deliberately crafted as “important” though. But some of it is received as “important”. And different bits by different people. It’s beyond your control. But how wonderful to have the opportunity to see the results of the inspiration you fanned!

Laureen August 31, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Jan, thanks. This was a post I was really nervous about pressing Publish on! I’m so glad to have your very positive feedback. And I love the idea that we don’t have to create “importance”. Just being there, doing what we do, is what counts.

Melissa Dinwiddie September 2, 2012 at 6:49 pm

Oh, Laureen, this is so beautiful, and so true! We all need to be reminded of the fact that yes, our presence makes a difference.

Laureen September 2, 2012 at 8:06 pm

Yours made a difference to me! Thanks again.

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