‘We can’t just stop seeing the beauty’: Portapique, NS artist finds comfort and solace in natural surroundings

Surrounded by a lifetime of art she’s created herself, Joy Laking has found another outlet for her creativity – a poem she penned at the beginning of the month.

“Our Portpique” is an ode to the place she’s called home for nearly a half a century.

Posted on her Facebook page, the work explores the history and natural wonder of the area, beginning with the words

“Cada dia,

twice a day,

The moon pulls the salt water

From the Minas Basin,

Up the Portaupique [sic] River

Until it spills over the salt marsh….”

Later, a warning, and an acknowledgment of the terrible events that unfolded in Portapique, NS April 18 and 19, 2020.

“Nature is not kind

But neither is it punitive.

Only people have the choice to live in harmony,

Or not.”

The prolific and well-known artist admits the harmony in Portapique was irreparably shattered two years ago, when a gunman went on a rampage that would ultimately leave 22 people and an unborn baby dead.

“I knew the people,” Laking told CTV News Monday.

“They were neighbors and three of them were friends. And I spent my whole life – my adult life – the last 48 years – painting the beauty of Portapique. And then, all of a sudden, this would happen here? It’s just unbelievable. “

Answers about what happened are slowly emerging from a public inquiry, but for the people of Portapique, healing remains a work in progress.

I’m still really traumatized,” Laking says.

“It’s been a really, really hard two years.”

Ever inspired by her surroundings at home, Joy says the endless cycles of nature have brought her some comfort in the last couple of years, although for a time, she couldn’t bring herself to pick-up a brush.

“Initially, I couldn’t paint because I couldn’t see beauty anywhere.”

Then she decided the events of those two days would no longer dictate her life.

“I think we have to embrace both the bad and the good, and we can’t just bury one, and we can’t just stop seeing the beauty,” she says – a theme reflected in the poem.

Now, with signs everywhere of a new season beginning in earnest, Laking remains hopeful others will begin to find healing and comfort.

“I mean, history is cyclical. But it seems to me that it’s humans that really have the power to work together or to pull it all apart.”

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