The Ramblings of Joy Laking

Nova Scotia Artist, Joy Laking, posts ramblings while she's travelling and painting in South America.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

March 30, 2019

Today, in the warm Indian Ocean,
 Our small boat smashed over waves for hours
In search of the elusive dolphins.
It was much like our safari ride, 
Where I tensed muscles or relaxed muscles
Trying to lessen the jarring on my back.
Neither worked.
All I could think of was
“When will this be over? “

And then we found them.
All of the discomfort was forgotten.
The dolphins were interested in us.
They crested in the sea.
They rolled over the surface
In ones, twos, threes.........
They gathered in the distance
On the left of the boat.
And when I glanced to the right,
They were literally beside me.
Every so often, I would gasp,
As a dolphin rose up vertically on its’ tail,
Or leapt into the air doing rolls and spins.
It was amazing.
Jim told me, I hadn’t  watched  enough tv.

The number of dolphins grew and grew,
I was still snapping out of focus photos 
And munching on my breakfast sandwich,
When we motored back to the reef for snorkelling.
The reef is huge,
Over three hundred square miles.
However most of the reef is dead.
Mankind is not kind.
We rolled into the water with our masks and snorkels.
Colourful fish in all sizes and shapes
Glided below and around us.
Tiny green fish, with yellow tails,
And neon blue side fins, striped with red,
Were my favourites.
I didn’t see the octopus, or eels or turtles,
But Pria, our guide, assured me 
He tried to point them out.
That the reef was dead was depressing,
And I was still dreading trying to get back into the boat.
Jim eased my discomfort by also feigning problems
Getting back into the boat.
 He was hauled and pushed
Until he eventually fell into the boat.
I did likewise.
It wasn’t pretty.

On the way back,
The boat stopped for tea and Palm sugar
 At a lovely beach.
Our boat driver, Tamila,
Kept patting the sand
And telling me to sit down.
Eventually, I obliged but
I knew I was in for problems.
Jim had a lovely swim
But I couldn’t join him,
Because I couldn’t get back up.
Thankfully, when Jim came in 
He hauled me to my feet,
So that I could get back to the boat!

Oh muscular dystrophy,
You have added an unwanted challenge 
To my life.
I hope, I can keep my joyousness
Despite this disability.



December 25 2019, a true Christmas Story


True story from Christmas 2019
Joy Snihur Wyatt Laking

Last evening I went up stairs to go to bed.
When I went into the bath room 
There was a bug on the yellow tile counter.
I don’t recall ever seeing a bug in the bath before.

This bug had long horns and  very long skinny front legs.
It’s shield shaped flat back was a mottled gray/brown.
It had big beetle-like back legs.

What to do?
I needed time to think.
I put a cup over the bug.

Do I just toss him in the toilet
To die a miserable death of drowning?
Do I squash him with tissue and pop him in the garbage
Never to be thought of again?
Do I put a paper over the cup
And go back down stairs and let him go outside?
It’s cold, it’s winter,
It’s Christmas Eve for goodness sake.
He might freeze to death.

I lift the cup off the bug
And he has crawled up inside.
I shake the cup and the bug rolls on his back.
All his little legs madly flail as he fights to roll over.

I nudge him back out of the cup onto the counter
Right side up.  

I think about the life of this bug.
What does he eat?
Does he have a family?
His life is not like mine
But he too is a visitor on earth.

I watch while my bug
Walks towards Jim’s shaving kit.
Then I turn off the light
And go to bed.



Thursday, December 19, 2019

Ode to our Library

Ode to our Library
A derelict old brick normal college
Has been transformed into
A magnificent community place;
Our new library.
It’s arched windows, roof top dormers
Domed main entrance, embellished fa├žade
Are all restored to glory.
No longer just a place for books
And hushed voices,
Now, the library welcomes everyone.
In winter, skaters glide around the rink in front of the library.
Children clutch pylons or parent’s hands
And feel like Olympic ice dancers.
In summer, families sit and chat in the outdoor space.
Occasionally, sound systems and signs
Fill the ramped and stepped entryway.
Crowds rally or protest.
On Saturdays,
The community market goers from next door,
Spill across the area.
Inside our library, books are still borrowed.
There are also clubs, activities, community meetings,
Book launches and art exhibitions.
Even Santa stops by to visit.
Architects have preserved some of the
Classic old walls and details
And blended them with spaces,
That are vibrant, welcoming, functional.
Building community isn’t easy.
The library didn’t just happen.
It was created because people cared enough.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

March 30, 2019


March 30, 2019

Today, in the warm Indian Ocean,
 Our small boat smashed over waves for hours
In search of the elusive dolphins.
It was much like our safari ride, 
Where I tensed muscles or relaxed muscles
Trying to lessen the jarring on my back.
Neither worked.
All I could think of was
“When will this be over? “

And then we found them.
All of the discomfort was forgotten.
The dolphins were interested in us.
They crested in the sea.
They rolled over the surface
In ones, twos, threes.........
They gathered in the distance
On the left of the boat.
And when I glanced to the right,
They were literally beside me.
Every so often, I would gasp,
As a dolphin rose up vertically on its’ tail,
Or leapt into the air doing rolls and spins.
It was amazing.
Jim told me, I hadn’t  watched  enough tv.

The number of dolphins grew and grew,
I was still snapping out of focus photos 
And munching on my breakfast sandwich,
When we motored back to the reef for snorkelling.
The reef is huge,
Over three hundred square miles.
However most of the reef is dead.
Mankind is not kind.
We rolled into the water with our masks and snorkels.
Colourful fish in all sizes and shapes
Glided below and around us.
Tiny green fish, with yellow tails,
And neon blue side fins, striped with red,
Were my favourites.
I didn’t see the octopus, or eels or turtles,
But Pria, our guide, assured me 
He tried to point them out.
That the reef was dead was depressing,
And I was still dreading trying to get back into the boat.
Jim eased my discomfort by also feigning problems
Getting back into the boat.
 He was hauled and pushed
Until he eventually fell into the boat.
I did likewise.
It wasn’t pretty.

On the way back,
The boat stopped for tea and Palm sugar
 At a lovely beach.
Our boat driver, Tamila,
Kept patting the sand
And telling me to sit down.
Eventually, I obliged but
I knew I was in for problems.
Jim had a lovely swim
But I couldn’t join him,
Because I couldn’t get back up.
Thankfully, when Jim came in 
He hauled me to my feet,
So that I could get back to the boat!

Oh muscular dystrophy,
You have added an unwanted challenge 
To my life.
I hope, I can keep my joyousness
Despite this disability.



Friday, March 29, 2019

March 29, 2019

This morning, I gave a two hour art class to this gang of grade nines at a school in Kalpitya, Sri Lanka. They have a wonderful art teacher. What a difference it makes when kids have a an art teacher, who loves art and is trained in art!  Such should be the case everywhere. The man on the right is the school English teacher as well as the computer teacher. He was a terrific translator. Jim, as always, was my moral support and gofer. It would have been great to have known the age of the group as well as the length of the class before I arrived at the school, however when you are a volunteer you just have to wing it. I loved my time with them and I think the kids did too.  I invited everyone to Canada!


Monday, March 25, 2019

March 25, 2019

I have just finished reading the wonderful book called Mad Enchantment by Ross King ( available on line from the Halifax library). It is an amazing biography of Monet, and perhaps even more of interest to me because being a fellow artist, I suffer from the same anxieties.( hopefully I am not quite such a beast). Also two years ago, Jim and I finally got to Giverny, Monet,s home and garden in France. When I stood and sketched in Monet’s dining room, the guard was agreeable, but when I pulled out my purse paints to add a little colour, it was forbidden. Since then I have completed a studio watercolour of Monet’s dining room and I have the underpainting done on a large oil.  While working on this oil I have suffered a similar problem to Monet’s after he had his cataracts removed. Before the operations, I could always trust my eyes, now I have a distortion that I have to work around.  Monet got very very special glasses that took eight months to make.  A passage in  the Monet book also discussed Monet insisting that he worked only on location, but in fact he built three increasingly bigger studios at Giverny.

I was encouraged to write this because of Annie Bennett’s comment about plein air or on location painting. She is a former painting student, a wonderful artist and a friend. She said that she was encouraged because of my Facebook posts to try on location painting.  First of all, usually when travelling all of my work is done on location. This year, because of my chest condition early on and now because of the extreme heat, ( and also some fear about getting up) I started doing some little sketches isolated on white paper of people from photos on my iPad that I had taken that day. So some of what I have been posting has been studio work.

That being said, I want to encourage every artist out there to paint on location. It hones the talents, develops ideas and sometimes has an immediacy or freshness that a studio painting can’t achieve.  The biggest barrier to on location painting, are the painters own fears and emotions. Be brave. Try it. Stick with it!
Add caption




Sunday, March 24, 2019

March 24: 2019

The first three of these have been finished up or the tones have been adjusted. That is the best part about watercolour. People think that you can’t go backwards and to a small extent that is true.

For example in the little painting of the man collecting toddy, I had inadvertently made a splotch on the white background. I gave the blotch a good scrub and it lifted out but the mark still showed.  So I thought about it and added some palm fronds over the splotch. (Definitely to work over a scrubbed spot the painting has to be totally dry).

In the second sketch, I felt the person had too much light on her short black top and it looked like she had breasts on her back. To this one, I just added shadow.

The third one was an unfinished quarter sheet watercolour started in the market of Trincomalee. I finished it up.

Then,I did the little painting on smooth paper. I like the smooth paper because it holds the line beautifully but it is a bit more unforgiving than the rougher, cold pressed paper. I use a little essential brush called a fitch scrubber, for going backwards. ( a worn out small oil painting brush would work as well). I put the brush on my palette for the scale ( and the Lion beer cap, well it is after noon so time for a cold beer)
Second sketch

The fitch scrubber

The first sketch

The quarter sheet watercolour now finished

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