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Dave and I were out for a drive in east Elgin. We were on a back country road taking shots of old mailboxes, not far from the bridge near Jamestown Line. I stopped the van on a slope. Dave questioned why I had pulled over here. He saw nothing of worth. I was attracted to some oriental poppies that were growing in the ditch amongst the weeds and pasture grass. They were so out of place.

When I took the individual photos I was captured by the movement and graceful lines of the petals; the striking contrast of the black centre and the vibrant colour of the flowers.

That night when I slept, I dreamt of vibrant poppies larger than life. I bought these big canvases and sketched out my poppies. I was currently Artist Director for the West Elgin Dramatic Society and director of the play “A Little Murder Never Hurt Anybody”. The set was an affluent home library. I pictured original art on the walls of the gray-blue set. My poppy paintings would add some much needed punch. I worked non-stop to complete the two canvases for opening night. I completed a portrait of the world’s ugliest dog for the play as well.

When the play was over the paintings hung in our gallery and drew much attention but not as much as November 2013 when I put one of the Poppies in the gallery window for our Remembrance Day display. So many people stopped to admire the painting and 

several came to tell me how much they appreciated the fact that we were honouring veterans. I heard time and again about their personal losses during different conflicts.

Veterans gave so generously so we could enjoy our freedoms and the lives we have today.

David Phillips, senior, my father-in-law, was a veteran of WWII and a past president of the St. Thomas Legion Branch #41, as was my mother-in-law S. E. “Tony” Phillips. My mother’s brother Donald James Milne is buried in a Rotterdam cemetery in the Netherlands. My grandfather Milne’s brother was killed by mustard gas during WWI. My nephew Tim Feick saw several tours in Afghanistan. So much to remember and be thankful for.

Enjoy the poppies. Life is short.

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