Where do you start when you absolutely hate
talking about yourself? Enough of that BS so
here it goes.
I was born in Montreal June 17th 1953. I was
adopted and named Mary Anne McNea at two and
a half. Raised as an airforce brat, with only
two major moves during the period of growing
up, (from adoption to adolescence) which is practically
a miracle for someone in the service? Trenton
Ontario and St Hubert in Montreal were it.
My dad loved sailboats and for the last two
years before he retired a major in the forces
he began to build a Samson Design concrete sailboat.
It was 45ft at the waterline and aprox. 53 overall.
Three years after the start, the boat was launched
in Montreal. With the masts securely placed on
the deck, my parents, myself and a friend traveled
intercoastal to Miami, where my dad could do
the rigging in the sunshine, which was more agreeable
than another freezing winter in Montreal.
A few years later my dad was killed in Miami
in a freak accident, and as tragic as it was,
I have peace in knowing that he actually saw
his dream come true by sailing, even if only
a few times, in the boat that he built. Living
your dream, now that’s an accomplishment.
My mother and I moved to Burlington Ontario,
where my brother and his family resided. I got
engaged and married a little over a year of arriving
there, which then changed my surname to Butler.
I was married at twenty-one, wow that seems so
young when I look back. Coincidence or not, I
was divorced twenty-one years later. It was a
great marriage, and three wonderful girls came
out of it all. Andrea who is now almost thirty,
Amanda who just turned twenty-seven and last
but not least Linn-Jung, who we adopted from
South Korea turns twenty-one this year.
When the divorce happened I believed that my
life was over. I mean a mother I knew I would
always be, that goes without saying. But if not
my ex’s wife, who the hell am I? Obviously
somewhere in there I had lost, or at least felt
that I had, my own existence. So then began the
journey, that led me to, who Iam today.
In the beginning of the so called end, my divorce,
some pretty strange things were happening to
my body. I believed that it was just the stress
of my life at that time, but I was soon to discover
that many different challenges were ahead of
me, ones that I never could have imagined.
When I look back strange events were taking
place long before my ex left. I had constant
jerking leg spasms when trying to sleep at days
end. Any light that came into the bedroom at
night even from the crack under the door would
keep me awake. A breathe of fresh air means a
fan on, even in the dead of winter with snow
coming in the window. The final draw for me was
when my eyes started seeing double, and then
one day I walked into the grocery store and the
floor the shelves, everything started moving
in a wave. I thought the wild sixties were catching
up with me, except I was in my mid forties at
this time and was not enjoying it as I would
have in my teens. To make a long story short,
after a battery of tests I was diagnosed with
Multiple Sclerosis. I went from not wanting to
live at the thought of being alone to wanting
to live more than anything in the world. Its
amazing how ones outlook on life can change at
the drop of a pin.
I moved twice before I found my passion. It
was a small three bedroom house with an attached
garage, and I would spend my days playing at
re-finishing old furniture. I had not too much
of a clue at what I was doing, all I knew was
that I somehow enjoyed it, even though it was
a tad dirty and messy for me to do these things.
The garage walls were plain white, painted drywall
and I started to ponder one day of what I could
do to it. Went to bed one night and woke up knowing
exactly what I wanted in the garage, because
I dreamt it. Now that’s corny. All I knew
was that I wanted to bring the outdoors inside.
I wanted a tree on my garage wall. So I started
drying tons of japanese maple leaves in pages
of old books, trying to figure out how I was
going to do this.
Oh I forgot to mention that up to this point,
seriously, I had absolutely shown no site of
craftiness in my entire life. My poor girls had
to go elsewhere to friend’s houses to do
neat crafty things because it did not interest
me in the least, and let’s not forget the
mess, for the mere thought of it would mentally
have my broom and vacuum going. God I was such
Now where to start, so hence a garage corner
was re-born. I figured that I could actually
nail a large bare branch into the corner of the
wall for the trunk of the tree, and then it was
off to the races gluing the dried leaves to the
wall. I went as far as putting some on the ceiling
and floor, to make it more realistic to me. I
absolutely loved going in the garage to work
now, for in some strange way the tree seemed
to give me life.
Dare I mention my girls, for at this point they
thought I was losing it, or in the least going
through that thing a women in her late forties
goes though, the dreaded change of life. Little
did they know that if this was the so called
change of life, I was excited about it.
Anyway reluctantly I started showing my tree
to friends that would drop bye and to my surprise
they seemed to honestly like it. In fact one
friend said something that threw me for a loop,
not only did they seem to like it but suggested
that I put one behind glass in a frame. Oh right,
like I know how to do that, and I can’t
even paint, so how is the background to get done?
I mean I’m even a disgrace to drawing stick
Obviously it all got worked out; I started collecting
throw away frames and re-finishing them, have
even made one small frame. Not fancy but hey
you have to start somewhere. I use old door skins
or paneling for the back of the pictures so that
I have meat to screw the tree trunk to. As far
as the actual leaves, flowers, grasses are concerned
I either collect from friends and neighbors,
or grow them myself. Not everything dries well
so it’s a constant learning experience,
but one that I love. The pictures themselves
can take anywhere from weeks to at least six
months from start to finish. The hardest is getting
the background the color, that I see in my head,
and messy oh my god. I’m definitely not
a neat freak anymore, now it’s the vacuum
that gets dusty. I like that. I’ve learned
since I started, about five years ago, that doing
the tree pictures are my absolute favorite. I
could look at them forever and I keep them hung
in my house for some time before I look into
other avenues of showing them. I hate to see
them go; it’s like a member of the family
as dumb as that must sound.
I feel like the luckiest woman in the world
with this passion of mine. I mean think about
it, I am constantly inspired by nature’s
ever changing beauty. Wind, rain drought, why
I just love mother nature, for she keeps changing
the picture in my head daily, until that moment
when the picture is done and can last behind
glass for a lifetime.