Bits and Bites of Everyday Life


Slow down and smell the roses (literally!)

True North Perspective

Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more

I gave some thought to the things that please me and give me a natural high last weekend and realized it was time to slow down and smell the roses.
So I slowed down and did just that!
Roses are in full bloom so I went around my property and enjoyed the fragrant beauties. I also checked on my garden. It’s up, except for the peas which seem to have forgotten to germinate.
  Detail of a painting of poppies by Beata Jakubek.

Big Red, despite severe pruning, is still producing beautiful fuschia-coloured, single-petal roses. My pink clematis and my peonies are also flowering. Pale blue irises are opening up as the purple ones end their life cycle.

That made for a lovely start to my day! Then, I visited Wendy, my massage therapist, who was officially opening her new Earthly Essentials location in Embrun. Clients and friends were there to share her pride and enthusiasm, to cheer her and to wish her well.
I love going to Wendy’s store because of the gorgeous and often exotic smells of essential oils and incense, the peaceful atmosphere and the interesting products available for purchase. After booking a massage and enjoying some cheese, crackers and fruit, I said goodbye and drove to the Rendez-vous des aînés where a flea market was being held. I wasn’t there to buy but to browse and chat with friends.
From there, I headed to Place d’Orléans to have some photos processed and indulged in a Chai Latte and muffin while waiting for the photos. Only then did I realize how rare a leisurely Saturday is for me. As chance would have it, I crossed paths with a former neighbour who detailed a complicated, eight-hour surgery to have a tumour removed from inside his heart.
Wow! Reality check! Slow down and smell the roses!
Angela Verlaeckt Clark displays one of her sculptures.  

Sunday, as planned, the feature was the Orléans Art Studios Tour which featured 24 artists at twelve different studios in Orléans and Blackburn Hamlet. We chose to visit Angela Verlaeckt Clark’s studio first.

Angela’s sculptures were strategically placed here and there among the various flowerbeds of her magnificent backyard garden. Tall trees shaded the area while gravel paths lead the visitors from one exquisite corner to the next.
I inquired about her seven-foot, 2000-pound Carrara marble piece. She explained it had been quite a challenge as it was trucked cross-country to her Canotek Park studio on a flat-bed and required a forklift to unload it and then roll it over solid ramps and load it onto a massive dolly used to carry it in. Standing the heavy stone was another feat that required skill and careful handling. She promised to invite me for a peak preview this summer.
Our next stop was Aline Joanis’ studio. Aline is a well-recognized artist who takes immense pleasure in painting landscapes, farmlands and nature at its finest using oil and acrylics. She also teaches painting at Orléans’ MIFO and at the Shenkman Art Center. She admits becoming an artist was a dream come true, a passion she shares willingly with her students. I left her studio inspired and looking forward to painting the cover scene for my next book Muses from the Blue Shack.
The last stop was in Blackburn Hamlet at Beata and Zygmunt Jakubek’s studio. Despite the fact it was late in the afternoon, they welcomed us warmly and talked about their art and a life spent in different countries around the globe.
Beata is a mixed media artist who enjoys working with watercolour and acrylic. A nature artist, she uses bright colours in her paintings because she wants the viewer to “feel the scenes she freezes on canvas”.
A retired medical researcher and medical technologist, raised in Poland, Beata and her husband are seasoned travelers. Beata’s experience with Asian art forms taught her to arrange her scenes to achieve harmony and balance. Her compositions have won her awards in both watercolour and acrylics. She has exhibited her work in several solo and group shows and is an active member of several arts groups. I really enjoyed her large paintings of poppies, a tribute to her European roots ...
Zygmunt, her husband, is a scientist and a photographer. His photography focuses on the interplay of shape and texture. I was impressed by his experienced takes of buildings and structures as well as the aesthetic quality of his nature scenes.
We chatted with Beata and Zygmunt for over an hour and I came away inspired and awed. Beata and I have promised to meet again to discuss everything under the sun, including art.
I not only smelled the roses, I experienced a visual symphony last weekend. Art is as essential to man as breathing. I truly believe this!
Whether it is gardening, painting, sculpting, photography, writing or knitting, it is primal ... To be able to express oneself is fundamental and must be encouraged from an early age.
Blessings to all! And, don’t forget to smell the roses!


What a wonderful weekend you had Alberte, wish I had been with you!!

It was such fun to read all you saw , all you admired, I could almost smell the flowers myself!

I had a lovely experience in my garden, last fall, a lady was throwing out many of her Peonies plants, as she had way too many. I asked if I could have a few, "Sure", she said, "But most likely it will take years before they bloom, if at all"

Victor, Barbara's son, came with me to pick them up, and planted them in spot I had chosen.

Today all of them are in bloom, large white and pink flowers, in spots that used to be boring, as nothing would grow there. These bushes seems extremely happy to be here.

Three cheers for Peonies!!!!!


What a great article on the Orleans Studio Tour! I enjoyed everyone's visit and the lovely comments about my garden.  Of course, today,more flowers burst into bloom and I wished everyone would return, if only for a few moments to relax in nature. One lady who comes faithfully every year said 'I get goose-bumps, when I step into the beauty of your garden with the sculptures everywhere, thank you!'  What a beautiful comment and how great it makes you feel! 

Thank you ever so much for getting people to slow down and smell the and beauty are needed in this life, but, as one who has a terminally ill member of the family, we must take the chance to enjoy it, or everything becomes ‘what if’.

I continue to read your articles faithfully, they are inspiring and simply wonderful 'Bits and Bites' of everyday life, written in a way everyone can see themselves as part of the larger picture.

Thank you, merci Alberte,

Angela Verlaeckt Clark 

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