It was hump-day, Wednesday, probably the hardest day of our 125-mile (171 km), week-long, Beyond Borders Walk from Saint John, New Brunswick to St. Stephen, the last Canadian border town near the tip of Maine.
Today, there were 23 miles of walking from St. George to the Chamcook Forest Lodge near St. Andrews. Ken, our fourth team member was out with a back spasm. We started walking country roads which eventually turned into highways. It was not quite like walking an Interstate, but close. By mid-afternoon, the temperature reached the high 80’s, only made hotter by the asphalt, so much so you could feel heat through your shoes. The only relief was an occasional bay breeze near the top of a hill.
This is a relatively undeveloped area of the Provence of New Brunswick just a few miles from the shore. St. George’s lush woods soon gave way to a desolate area with few houses and no commercial business for miles. Even traffic seemed rare. The only thing interesting out here is dead porcupine roadkill.
As the day heated up, I realized I had made a rookie mistake. A long hot day walking requires more than a couple bottles of water, especially when there is no place to refill. About 18 miles (6 hours) into the walk I find myself light-headed and completely empty in every respect. I’m in that state where you watch the heat create mirage waves on the road and begin to wonder “How am I going to make it to the end?”
Miraculously, while heading up a long stretch of highway there appears a sign in the road saying, “Taylor’d Art” an “Open” flag waving underneath. This area was dotted with lakes with a few homes set back. This one though could be seen clearly. Although, we did not come this far to see and appreciate local art, we had no choice and no willpower left to pass this by.
Theresa and Burl Taylor are about as happy couple as I ever met. Married just 52 years ago they were most welcoming to the three of us as we asked (we would have begged) for water. Theresa has maybe 200 natural setting paintings here in a small shed which she had created. She has experimented with various artistic methods from watercolors to oils, flock to canvas and many other methods I had never heard of. Being efficient walkers, we opted to buy a few beautiful refrigerator magnets that pretty much exemplified her work in miniature.
Burl came by with a big pitcher of water and we began talking about life out here as we began to revive. They had moved into a smaller version of this home 50 years ago and discovered this was the place they always wanted to be. Years went by and Burl expanded the house, built a garage, chicken coop, workshop and swimming pool. Much of this prior to his retiring as a forestry engineer. His property and projects look like he put a lot of thought into them.
Theresa is a self-taught artist. As she describes it, one day she just started scribbling and copying things until she began painting a scene, going over and over it until it was right. She presented it to Burl and said this is what she wanted to do and he agreed. Decades later she continues to paint, mainly for the pleasure of it. She painted so much they needed to move some out pieces and Taylor’d Art was born.
They had a son who Theresa mentions often as he developed into an talented artist who’s paintings she still sells. Unfortunately, he passed away a while ago but you can tell he’s very much part of their lives.
There are no other children but a very large extended family. Theresa was one of 21 children! Her mother, whom they speak about with reverence, gave birth to all 21 children individually, no twins or triplets! And, she passed away at the age of 46 due to cancer. Theresa said she spent a great deal of her time with her many siblings and keeps in touch with them often. We are in awe. Can you imagine what a family reunion must look like?
After much water and talk we had to go. Time is very unforgiving when you are walking. I think they enjoyed our company as much as we did their’s. We could have easily stayed for hours learning more about how Theresa and Burl share what they do together – their art, building, hunting, fishing, getting by in the winter and the life between them.
When you are out here you have to be flexible, forgiving, innovative and self-reliant. The Taylor's have figured a way to make the most of their lives and offer an oasis to others.