“This is a timed exercise, starting as soon as the door closes.”
On a cool cloudy day gathered before a massive steel cylinder the size of a semi trailer,( once perhaps an oil tanker), my Captain stood with his stop watch in hand.
The huge tank sat purposely obscured from our view in the Search and Rescue training yard. My team and I stood at one end in front of a thick steel circular vault- like portal door.
Each member would be closed in the tank, alone, with a designated time allotment to find a way out, not using the portal door we entered.
We were told the entire interior was solid steel, obstacles, tunnels, walls, ladders, pathways and dead ends, all welded in place. We had no map or idea of where the other door may be. If it was a door at all.
We would not be equip with communication or a light. The tank would be completely void of light. “So dark,” “you won’t be able to see your hand in front of your face” our Captain explained.
If we didn’t make it out in the required time, they would retrieve us. “Remember in real life scenario, lives are depending on you. No one is going to retrieve you. You need to succeed.”
Oh, …and … we were dressed in full fire gear, including Scott packs/ oxygen tanks and helmets.
Familiar with wearing light weight fitted gear for fitness & running, it felt odd to be approaching a physical drill wearing cumbersome ill fitting weighted clothes that prohibited movement, like a jumpsuit of cement.
I was about 5th in line. One member made it out on time. They had to retrieve three, one didn’t make the time frame, the other two panicked. All were seasoned veterans on the team. Witnessing this before my turn was more than a little unnerving.
I thought about strategy. It didn’t make sense to stand at the portal looking back to my teammates and watch it close before me like the others.
I went straight in keeping my back to the portal, taking advantage of those precious few seconds of light before the entrance closed. The first 10 feet I could see a half wall and various items welded to the floor that could possibly trip me.
When the portal shut with a definitive bang, I felt a small trickle of fear. Enveloped in utter darkness, the kind of darkness eyes never adjust to, I would no longer be able to rely on sight. The only audible sound was my magnified breathing from the Scott pack. Mobility in the gear made it extra challenging.
Without sight, walking was dangerous, obstacles were purposefully created to trip and inhibit.
Unfamiliar with my personal body space, feeling and fumbling around, climbing, crawling, I kept banging into things forgetting I had helmet on and all this stuff on my back. Spaces I normally would fit thru, I didn’t. Passage ways weren’t where you would think, with dead ends at the top of a ladder, tunnels half way up the side of the tank. Nothing about the interior structure was normal or made sense.
We were training for natural disasters, primarily earthquakes. When a building collapses, everything changes, demolished interiors are filled with obstacles, the way out might be in the ceiling, basement, thru the side, a window. Or, we created an exit with our bare hands, using axes during exercises in real collapsed buildings.
Ability to visualize, keep calm and an open mind helped me to succeed that day. I thought about what my Captain said, it wasn’t just about me succeeding, other people would be depending on me. Stay the course. I visualized surroundings I had been thru and kept exploring forward, sideways, up, down and back. There is a way out, I told myself calmly, finally emerging bruised and battered into the blinding light.
These days it may feel a lot like we are fumbling alone in the dark with no light in sight, disconnected from our team.
Weighted down, unable to move in our spaces and lives as we usually do, unfamiliar with our limits and direction. How we move forward is unclear, and nothing feels normal. It may feel impossible to navigate this.
Few are immune to these circumstances. Personally, Marc and I certainly aren’t, with family and friends affected. Professionally, galleries and museums are closed, some will never open again. Some artists no longer have a career.
I have had a few moments I feel like I am in that tank again, in the dark, reaching blindly in front of me wondering “well, now what?”
These aren’t circumstances to be swept under the rug and bark out a ‘chin up.’ Its a time to be gentle, with ourselves and others, not afraid to ask for help when needed. Supporting each other, we recover stronger, perhaps a more compassionate mindful humanity with common vision.Knowing others are depending on us, helps to stay the course.
Regardless of distance, love supports and lifts. Love and kindness help dispel loneliness.
Presently, creative innovators, leaders, scientists are working tirelessly for solutions. Inspirational stories emerge, while fitness &, health professionals, nutritionists, councillors, therapists, musicians and artists thru the aid of technology help keep us healthy, safe, entertained, inspired ,motivated and connected.
No map of what is ahead is opportunity to create the kind of future we want to see. Instead of looking back how life and work were, How do we emerge into this new landscape?
In art, sometimes fumbling around results in the best work. We create in times of darkness, recognizing there isn’t just one solution, there are many waiting to be discovered.
“ Little D, you surprised me. I pegged you as one who would panic.” Assistant Captain. S&R.
~ and now for the ART. ..with Studio inventory high, and supplies low, I have been revisiting paintings in need of attention and consideration, sanding some down to begin again, and working on value/composition skills.
‘Autumn” 5×7 oil on board $400.oo
Rocks and Trees 12×16 oil on canvas $910.oo
“Boreal Canoe” 24×36 oil on canvas $2,390.oo
If you are able, please follow on Instagram, this week I posted a painting video, and keep updated with all studio happenings.
A shout out to Joshua at Hambleton Galleries in Kelowna, for continuing to serve clients online & by appointment, working so hard for we artists he represents. Yay Joshua!!