Last night my husband and I went to a wine and cheese gathering at the MacLaren Arts Centre in Barrie.

I’m not one for marketing myself at snobby gatherings, so I was nervous about the event. Twelve artists whose work had been selected by the MP for this year’s local calendar had been invited. I thought there might be an odious ambience of self promotion in the room. Wasn’t I surprised!

Guests were real people – down to earth, easy to talk to, and likeable. I met a lady whose tiny paintings sell at the same boutique carrying my work. I’ve wanted to meet her for quite some time. Another guest told me where to buy (locally) sheets of Fabriano watercolour paper (my favourite). I got to sit with an elderly woman and her daughter – new friends. It took a little prodding, but as we crunched on Melba toast with goat’s cheese, this sweet, humble, mature artist told us, haltingly, about a lifetime of artistic involvement.

Then the MP said we would each come up to the front – one at a time – to talk about our work.

I think my heart rate jumped from normal to dangerously high in the seconds following this announcement, so that, by the time it was my turn, there was no way I was going to stand up in front of that little room of people.

I’m not really scared of public speaking. I know I can do it. But I’m terrified of the fear of public speaking. In grade eight, I had to present a science project (that my dad pretty well did for me), and I gulped and gagged my way through it. Prior to that, I’d competed on behalf of my school in public speaking competitions and generally felt perfectly comfortable at the front of a room. After that, the terror of a repeat performance made me supremely avoidant of all similar situations.

“I’ll just talk from here, because it’s less terrifying,” I told the MP. And I did.

It was a sweet evening. The setting sun slanted rays into an atrium area where we ate snacks, met new people, and looked at art. Just goes to show that when a small group of nice people with a genuine interest in others get together, the feel in the room is inviting. Comfortable.

Thank you, Doug Shipley,  for a lovely evening.