I was walking alone along a path on the waterfront of Catania. I stopped at the kiosks and sifted through rows of fresh fruit and pails of snails for escargot until I was distracted by a lone man on a bench by the sea. I wandered over to him with a forgotten peach in the palm of my hand, drawn by the way he looked sketching the scenic panorama before him.
I sat next to him and watched him execute perfect strokes of lead across the page, envious of the way he could perfectly transcribe what he saw. We performed the traveller’s handshake of telling each other who we were and where we were from, and he showed me his book of sketches. Some of the drawings I recognized from the sights that lay before me but deeper into the book was a visual guide to his home in England. I gazed at expertly composed pages of streams and cottages and felt truly transported to the countryside.
He asked me what Canada was like and I, lacking his artistic skills, instead described the way that pine trees look dusted with snow, and the mountains that cradle crystal lakes between them. I detailed how my city looks split down the middle with a twisting river and deep valleys of green juxtaposed against the cold concrete of the city sky line.
He closed his eyes and said, “Ah yes, I can see it.”
There were two things that I realized in that moment:
The first being how well you can truly appreciate the beauty of home when you are miles and miles away from it. The seemingly mundane things that you would not notice in the day-to-day become features you feel compelled to describe perfectly to do the scene justice to a stranger.
The second was that everyone creates in different ways and being jealous of another’s ability to construct reality is like (as a dear friend would say) counting others’ blessings when you should be counting your own.