Remembrance day today.
this sketch is of the Cenotaph here in Guelph. It was done while waiting for the parade of soldiers and Vets. I mistakenly assumed there would be a ceremony there. Instead, after the ceremony at the sports arena, the Vets, the cadets, the police and fire fighters marched by. It gave me time to sketch and think.
Earlier, on my way to the Cenotaph,I was in the city square when 11 o'clock struck. I would not have known it for sadly no bells tolled nor traffic stopped, that is except for a lone bus driver standing beside his bus with head bowed and hands folded in front of him.
It made me stop. I checked my watch, saw it was 11. At that moment a lone 1st WW biplane passed overhead. As he flew over square, past the cathedral he banked his wings in salute. I imagined my grandfather long ago seeing the same sort of sight, and wondered what thoughts might have gone through is mind as he stood in the trenches. My skin was goose bumps and my eyes filled with tears, I was overwhelmed by emotion of the moment. Whoever the pilot who made this tribute with his plane, I must express my thanks to him: it was a beautiful tribute to those who must leave home to sacrifice their lives. Sadly, it would also acknowledge the sacrifice of those who did return, scarred for life both physically and emotionally.
I admit I had to think hard about leaving all the work I had in front of me today and go to the the Cenotaph here in Guelph. It wasn't out of lack of respect, rather life can be very busy, and having been away in Calgary at Kaleidoscope and schools since last Tuesday, there was a lot to get caught up with. But I went and am glad I did. I owed it to the veterans to be there, just as I feel we all should made the effort if at all possible.
Those old vets who marched by must carry incredible stories in their head and hearts. Some will be of adventure and loves, most of tragedy, carnage and sacrifice. I am sure many were silent heroes. One could not see their medals but I am sure each told a story that should not be forgotten.
One thing that I struggled with as I stood there watching the parade: it was the young cadets. Some seemed so young I was surprised that they even could join those ranks; the others made me think that war always takes the young and destroys something in them. In Calgary I heard the esteemed illustrator Ted Lewin tell us of his brother joining the Marines at 15 and fighting in some of the worst battles in the Pacific before he was 18. I think too of the soldiers in Afghanistan who are the ages of my sons.
I am not in favor of war. I was of the age that had I been an American as fate almost made me, I would have had to serve in Viet Nam. Being Canadian I did not have to worry, but I always worried that other conflicts that seems to simmer and boil over in far places in the world would put a uniform on me. I cannot understand war, yet respect and thank those vets who marched past this morning for giving a part of their young lives to allow me to live and thrive here in Canada in peace and freedom. To the old soldiers who I knew but no longer are with us, like Gerry Moses and Jack Spicer, thank you.
To those who never came back, who's bodies lie in cemeteries far from home and those who loved them and saw them leave, thank you.
As a last note: it was cold today with a biting wind. As I stood there waiting and sketching, my fingers went numb, feeling thick and unresponsive. But I couldn't help but think that while it was uncomfortable for me with a pencil, for some had been far harder holding cold metal in their hands and a question of whether they would see tomorrow. My greatest respect to their dedication and resolve.
I should end with one more note: the memorial was created by a Canadian sculptor by the name of Alfred Howell. After writing the note above I thought I should find out more about him and came across an interesting site by a gentleman by the name of Lawrence Hayward. He made it his task to find out as much as possible about sculptors such as Howell either by direct interview or research. Find out more about Alfred Howell and Lawrence Hayward at his site: http://www.xeroid.150m.com/index.htm