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The Way I See It ...

In Honour of a Friend (November 2022)

“There must be a reason why I’m lost.” I spoke to myself with conviction as I drove back and forth over the same country roads, just north of Sauble Beach, trying to find the entrance to Bruce’s Caves, where I planned to do some hiking. Only minutes later, I drove up to the entrance of Paul Duff’s gallery, Paintings of the Bruce.

I had first visited the gallery, and met Paul, two days earlier, and had felt an instant connection. Not only was I mesmerized by the beauty of his work ... I was also drawn to this very fascinating man, and spent close to an hour talking with him about a wide range of topics. I had planned on returning to the gallery before I headed back to Guelph, but the time had escaped me, and today was the final day of my vacation.

“I knew you’d be back.” Paul’s words of greeting confirmed my suspicions that this was no random meeting. And when I happened to mention that I was an editor, and Paul stated with a mixture of astonishment and enthusiasm that he needed an editor for his autobiography, the reason for my being lost became undeniably clear.

Paul's autobiography, entitled My Life, My Art, was the first book I ever published, and I got to know him very well during the months we worked together on that project. He was a wonderful man, and an incredible painter. He also became like a second father to me. Sadly, he passed away in October 2014, quite suddenly.

It is fitting that I think, and write, about him today …. in between Thanksgiving and Remembrance Day, because I will be forever thankful for having him in my life for as long as I did, and I remember him often.

The following poem, entitled In Search of Bruce's Cave, is known as an ekphrastic poem, because it is a response to a work of art (in this case, the painting shown in this article, which Paul painted as a gift to me).

The painting hangs

in my front hall

A place of honour

in memory of you

The colours are vibrant

golds, reds, and yellows

Sunlight streams through the leaves

on the trees

There is a stark contrast

between those leaves on the trees

and the stones of Bruce’s Cave

Autumn has always been

my favourite season

I met you in autumn

while I was

in search of Bruce’s Cave


I could not find the cave

but kept ending up back

at your gallery

and so I went in

perhaps I was not lost at all

What would possess a man

to live in seclusion

for so long?

The Bruce Trail

a Canadian treasure

with 250 miles to hike

Many take it on as a life goal

“I will, in this lifetime, hike the entire trail,” they say

and many have

On that trail

is Bruce’s Cave

You are the man behind the brush strokes

the painting, you did for me

If I look closely

I can see you smiling at me

through those vibrant

golds, reds, and yellows

I will always be grateful that I went

in search of Bruce’s Cave

because it was that search

that led me to you.

When Paul passed, I promised his wife that I would continue to do everything I could to spread the word about him. To that end, I have (with approval!) left copies of his autobiography in the Greeting Place. Please feel free to take one, so that you can get to know him, and learn about the incredible life he led.


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