Representation: I am honoured to have my work represented by these well-respected professional galleries:
Darrell Bell Gallery located in the Canada Building in downtown Saskatoon
Assiniboia Gallery in Regina, 2266 Smith Street- a vibrant, bustling part of town.

November 10, 2016: I was interviewed by Daily Paintworks as their Spotlight Artist for a week! Read my interview on the DPW News blog!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A Crack In My Heart

  River Dance
24 x 36"
acrylic on canvas
© Nicki Ault, 2012

*Written Wednesday evening, September 20, 2017

I've been procrastinating writing this because I know I will cry, and I have already cried so much. My eyes were quite puffy and swollen yesterday morning from the tears that were shed over news I heard on Monday. I got through today in one piece... it was very busy, not much time to think about anything but the task that was at hand at any given moment. But now my house is quiet and I am sitting here with a nice glass of wine and a beautifully scented candle thinking about the loss of a good man who left us too soon on Saturday, September 15.

I met Paddy O'Rourke about four and a half years ago when we both joined a handful of others to form Keep Kenderdine, a grass roots movement intent on strongly encouraging and pressuring the University of Saskatchewan to reopen the historical Emma Lake Kenderdine Campus which it closed in the fall of 2012. Paddy was absolutely, unequivocally passionate about the importance and necessity of the role of the arts in our communities and our lives. He loved the English language; when he spoke in his delightful Irish accent, his words were like music to me. He could recite lines of poetry like no other. After visits with him I would often feel the need to refer to a dictionary to check the meaning of the words he used - his vocabulary was much more significant than mine!

He invited me out to his acreage once for a lovely lunch he prepared. Five courses! He took me on a tour of his extensive art collection through his beautiful home, which took two hours because he had stories about everything! I actually had to phone my mom to pick up my kids from school because I knew I wouldn't be done lunch in time! We had such a lovely visit and when I left I possessed a bottle each of red and white wine and a big Ziploc bag of garlic from his garden! I told him he made me feel very special and he replied by saying that I was a queen. What a treasure; what a gentleman.

Paddy was a retired high school English teacher and one of the early founders of the independent Canadian publishing company called Thistledown Press. He loved authors and poets and musicians and artists and craftspeople. He appreciated a written thank you card, he loved his garden and his beautiful acreage and his cats and his dogs. He really loved his truck. He was proud of his son and adored his granddaughter. Paddy deeply missed the love of his life whom he lost to cancer about twenty years ago. Anytime he spoke of her, the longing was palpable.

photo © Nicki Ault, 2016

Paddy and I would meet at the local coffee shop once in awhile for a good catch up session. Somehow we always got the same table; it became our spot. I would hear about his family, see photos of his granddaughter, learn about his recent travels and find out a bit more of his life story. I would bring him a care package of my home-made Skor bars which he loved so much. I honestly cannot quite come to terms with the fact that those visits will never happen again.

In July I had heard, through a mutual friend, that he was very ill. He had gone to England (in June?) to visit his brother and while there had received a devastating diagnosis. I could not believe it. Upon hearing the news, I came home and emailed him even though I knew he would not want any fuss. He emailed back and said he would call me, which he did on a Sunday evening. The connection was bad and he sounded far away. With his beautiful accent, deep voice and the crackling phone line it was a bit hard to catch all he was saying, but the bottom line was clear, things didn't look good.

Towards the end of the call, I asked him if he could send me an address because I would write to him, I knew he loved a hand-written note, and I asked if I could help with anything here in town since he was so far away. He got all blustery, I think to cover his emotion, and the conversation ended soon after. But thankfully, not before I could tell him I loved him. I am so glad I got those words out. I hope he heard them. 

I thought he would get back to Canada. I thought I would see him again. He never sent an address to me, but I should have emailed him again. And I meant to. I kept thinking of it and I had a reminder written on a sticky note by my day planner. I wanted to tell him about all of the developments in my little art world. He was such a supporter. He bought this painting from me, one of the few abstracts I have painted, and displayed it proudly in his home. I had often invited him to come visit me at the studio, but he never wanted to interrupt my limited and valuable time to create.


The entire time we worked on the Keep Kenderdine committee together, his priority was that we act classy, professional and dignified even though we were all so very angry that the University of Saskatchewan had closed the beloved and historical campus. In my email to him when I heard he was sick I wrote, 

"Paddy, I am so very grateful we met. It is the only good thing that, for me, came out of the closure of the Kenderdine Campus. It has been an honour to work with you on the committee. You have reinforced everything my parents ever taught me about being classy, taking the high road and fighting for what you believe in with dignity, intelligence and grace."

And it was true.

As much as I feel heart-broken, I feel worse when I think of the loss this must be to his family and his very closest, life-long friends. They were his Canadian family. He loved them fiercely and they, him.

Now I sit and stare at the note on my day planner, my reminder to email Paddy which I kept moving to the next day, and it makes my stomach turn. I have to live with the reality that I never did email him again. I never did follow up. I was not the friend I should have been. And now it is too late.

Rest well, Paddy, yours was a life well lived.



Sheila Krueger said...

It the lifetime relationship that is important not the last acts done or undone that matter. Do not be too hard on yourself as you grieve that loss of an amazing man who gave so much to our world. Sheila Krueger

Nicki said...

Sheila, thank you so much. I truly appreciate your words. I still can't believe he is gone.