Several years ago I lived in a lovely old house in Qualicum Beach which had many old trees in the garden. At the front of the house stood a beautiful lilac tree and one day when it was in full bloom I suddenly had the urge to paint a wild and exuberant abstract rendition of the blossoms.
A few days later one of my friends came by for tea and asked if she could pick some lilacs. It turned out that lilacs reminded her of her father who had passed away a few years before. He has spent several years as a German prisoner in Russia during the second world war and never spoke of the horrors he had endured there. He eventually escaped. Travelling for weeks, evading capture or being shot, starving and exhausted, mile upon endless mile. When eventually he reached the border, there were lilac bushes in full bloom and heavy with scent. At last he crossed over to safety. Forever after, he would associate the smell of lilacs with freedom.
I got up, went to my studio and returned with the painting. I knew now why I had painted it. It wasn't for me, but for her.
I never took a photo of the painting. I didn't have to. I just need to enjoy the lilacs each year, remember the painting, my friend, her father... and how truly precious is the smell of freedom.