The sun was just starting to peek through the trees surrounding Ellis Park when Sophie took her seat on her usual park bench. Coffee and sketchpad in hand, she tried to enjoy the early morning stillness. It was typical of her to start Saturday with some sketching; mornings were when she found inspiration. Only, for weeks, she hadn’t been able to sketch anything. Every face looked off, every scene wrong. She exhaled and grabbed her pencil, concentrating on the quiet of the park. Only dog walkers and joggers passed her as she tried to draw something worthwhile. Pencil in hand, she focused on things in the park that could bring her some inspiration — the slowly turning colour of the leaves announcing the changing season, the small shuffling of flitting birds in the treetops, and even the tiny squirrels galloping across the grass, climbing their way up tree trunks. Just focus, she told herself, and so she started to draw. Her pencil glided and curved on the paper, trying to get the shapes of her view right.

“Henry! Henry stop!” someone shouted. Sophie looked up from her sketch pad a moment too late to see a large German Shepherd charge toward her, tongue flapping out of its mouth. She didn’t have time to act before the apparent Henry had jumped on the bench, knocked her coffee and sketchpad onto the ground, and began licking her face. Henry’s leash knocked against the bench as he bounced around. “Henry get down! Now!” The voice ordered. Henry hopped down and lay on the grass, his front paws covering his eyes. Sophie couldn’t help but smile. Henry’s owner turned to her to apologize. “I am so sorry. He gets excited around new people. Are you alright?”

Sophie looked down at herself. She was covered in coffee, muddy paw prints and slobber. She began to laugh. “Yes, I’m okay. I think I’m going to need a shower, though,” she said light heartedly. Henry’s owner reached down and picked up her fallen cup and sketchpad. “Oh no, your sketch is covered in coffee. I am so sorry for my dog,” he said sincerely. Sophie wasn’t bothered.

“Oh, don’t worry. It was ruined before the coffee touched it.” She leaned forward and pet Henry, who was still very sad-looking from his scolding. He perked up instantly and licked her hand. The stranger flipped through her sketches.

“These are fantastic,” he said. “You can’t think they’re not.” He sat down on the bench next her, looking at her intently. “Do you do anything with them?”

“They’re meant for a portfolio I have to submit in December, but I’ve been blocked lately. Everything looks…wrong,” she sighed.

“I’m not very creative anymore — I work in accounting now,” he stated, as if condemned to be a robot. “But, when I was younger, I wanted to be a graphic designer. If everything felt wrong about a piece, I would try to just go with it.” He shrugged, as if it were that easy. Sophie’s brow raised in disbelief.

“Just try it; trust me.” He smiled and stood up. “Nothing’s perfect, after all.”

He handed the pad back to her. “I’m sorry again about the coffee, and good luck with everything.”

“Thank you!” she said as he walked away with Henry. She realized she hadn’t even asked his name.

Once home, and clean from any remnants of Henry’s destruction, she sat on her rooftop — another usual sketching spot — and focused, this time not on the things around her, but on herself. She focused on what she felt, how she felt; what she truly wanted to say in her pieces. And so, she drew. She didn’t take the pencil from the page, she didn’t stop to analyze a thing, and she kept going until she felt it was complete. She sat for hours, creating countless pieces until one felt right.

Once done, Sophie looked at her work. The sun had officially risen and was shining down on her. It wasn’t perfect, but then again, neither was she. And somehow, that was okay. In the corner of the sketch, she signed her name alongside the date. She called this one ‘Henry.’

Featured image by Lisa Cumming