Mural from Hotel Dieu St Joseph, painted by artist Bernice Beaulieu-Michaud
This week has been a bit crazy--my husband's relatives are here visiting so projects have been pushed to the side in favor of sharing coffees, stories, meals, and time together. It's always fun when they come as their English is limited--so I get to break out my Rosetta Stone Spanish (mixed with what I've picked up 'en la caille'). We talk and laugh and make fun of ourselves, and generally enjoy the time spent together.
I'm working on several half-finished projects that I have no time to photograph or otherwise document, so it's pretty quiet on the creativity front this week. I do, however, have a wonderful mural to share.
When I was young I took art lessons from a wonderful lady named Bernice Beaulieu McLaughlin. She was a very versatile artist who always had paint on her jeans and time to sit and talk about whatever her juvenile pupils found interesting. I loved my lessons in her drafty turn-of-the-century house, and marvelled at the beautiful colors she had painted her porch, the shelves full of antique books, the paintings leaning against the walls of our makeshift 'classroom' in the front room of her home, and all of the other curiosities that were always to be discovered within those four walls.
Sadly, Bernice left us way too early. She fell ill and was taken from us long before her time. Her art, however, lives on, and one particular piece was in a very unexpected location--in the basement of our local hospital.
Many of you will remember that my hometown was horribly flooded last March. It is still trying to rebuild, and many buildings (my home included) were completely destroyed. One of the worst-affected structures was the local hospital. The worst off were the offices and storage rooms in the basement of the original building, which laid completely submerged in water for three days last year.
Many years ago as a student I worked in the hospital laboratory--it was a magic summer job filled with interesting days learning much more than I ever did from textbooks in hematology courses, and I got to know quite a few of the medical personnel in that area of the building, as the lab back then was also in the basement. X-Ray was just down the hall, and there was a gentleman named Tony who was the nicest X-Ray Tech that I ever met. He always had a smile and a kind word, and was wonderful with children and adults alike.
Tony had an office in the basement that was little more than a broom closet, and it was a lifeless space without any window or natural light. He came up with a wonderful idea and asked if a mural could be painted on his outside wall... the powers-that-be agreed and Bernice came in and created the wonderful mural you see above. Simply the illusion of the outdoors and a wonderfully fluffy kitty to keep him company must have put an even bigger smile on his face!
Tony and Bernice are both gone now, and the hospital is only working at half-capacity post-flood. The area where that mural rests is no longer in use (in fact, it was probably ripped out after the waters subsided), and there is a new hospital in the works with construction scheduled to begin in 2015. I believe that anyone who went through the disaster could write a whole volume entitled 'The Things we Lost in the Flood', and this is certainly a loss for both the hospital and the town.
Today I am remembering Bernice... the wonderful person she was, the talent she shared with the world, and the many lessons she taught me.
You will never be forgotten, dear lady.