You’re looking good, Creston

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Lorne Eckersley

Lorne Eckersley

On Saturday afternoon we stopped in at Calgary’s Midtowne Gallery to witness yet another show featuring a Creston artist. The amazing Alison Masters had a number of paintings on display, including ones from her Crowsnest Pass series and a couple made from sketches she did on one of her hikes on the Camino de Santiago de Campostela. In the last two years we have attended another three art show receptions at the same gallery, another featuring Masters, two with paintings by the incredible Sandy Kunze and a third to see the newest pieces by the always fascinating Maggie Leal-Valias.

We were welcomed with, appropriately, glasses of Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery’s sparkling wine. Nothing but the best here! I took some photographs and chatted with the owner, who seemed overly impressed to see me at yet another of his gallery’s openings. I explained that none of the events we have attended were specifically planned. Each has coincided with a trip to visit our sons and their families. Alison had earlier suggested that Midtowne Gallery has a direct link to my travel schedule, which would be creepy, because that schedule exists only in my mind. Also in attendance, coincidentally, was Creston Valley-born and–raised Meaghan Brierley, who is an artist in her own right. The mural she painted as a PCSS student can still be seen outside the Community Complex.

“I love photographing and writing about Creston people whose talents are recognized outside of our own valley,” I told him. “It’s nice to confirm what we already know—that we live in a very special place.”

I added that I also love to feature young Creston people who are doing well in their endeavours. I couldn’t help but think back over the summer, to stories I wrote about Shawn Bourgeois, who is now working on a Master’s degree after graduating with top marks at SFU, or sisters Miriam and Amanda Anderson, the former a Ryerson University prof who had just published a book and the latter a cellist in one of Germany’s finest symphony orchestras.

Also fresh on my mind was an interview I did last week for a yet to be published story about Victoria Tilling. Tilling excelled in her accounting studies at BCIT before completing her degree in Sweden, then had to turn down a dream offer from a renowned accounting firm, still suffering from the aftermath of two car accidents. She came home to Creston last fall and immersed herself in songwriting, and will be featured in a Prince Charles Auditorium concert this Friday night.

After listening to some demo CDs and spending an hour chatting with her, my heart soars at the thought. She is bright, talented, articulate, thoughtful and, as I said to my co-workers after our interview, “an old soul”. I use that phrase, rarely, to describe people who have an inexplicable depth and gentleness about them.

I am not alone in my assessment of Victoria Tilling. When my friend Mark Koenig, himself an accomplished singer/songwriter, spoke to me about her the week before I met her, he brushed a tear from the corner of his eye, voice breaking with emotion as he described the songs she has written.

My affection for creative people is well fueled right here in the Creston Valley, as further evidenced by the arrival on my desk last week of Luanne Armstrong’s latest book—her 20th in her stellar and inspiring career. Call me an unabashed fan. Sand, her latest of a half dozen books aimed at younger readers, is a terrific read, even for us world-weary old folks. This novel tells the story of a young woman injured in a traffic accident and left without use of her legs. She retreats into her own tiny world of fear and resentment until a new friend convinces her to give therapeutic riding a try. Armstrong has written about her own horse-riding experiences as a girl, and has become a participant and avid promoter of Creston’s own therapeutic riding program. The Advance has run dozens of stories about the program over the last decade, and I am well aware about the important gift it offers to participants and volunteers. But as I raced through Sand in a few hours, I learned a lot, and came away with a greater appreciation of its value, and how it works.

Living in Creston offers a remarkable education to those who will only open their eyes and hearts to what we have around us.