This post is part of an ongoing blog series “Artists and Parkinson’s.” As an artist with Parkinson’s, I was motivated to connect with other artists who have Parkinson’s and find out about their body of work, how the disease has affected them and what accommodations they have made as a result.
When asked, “If you could have done anything, what would have grabbed you?” Ontario, Canada lawyer/musician Peter Thompson answered without hesitation, “Music or art.” “Torn between making a living and enjoying myself, law practice gave me the opportunity to make money and then find other activities like photography and music. In 2002 I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. It’s been a way of focusing more and putting time there. Lucky that it has not progressed too far. I’m 61.”
The artist and musician side of Thompson has been active since 1965 when he first started to play the guitar. When asked about his art, Thompson replied, “It’s certainly been a motivator for me. Got to New York to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation Gala on two occasions. It has given me more confidence in painting, music, and photography.” Thompson’s website, flickr.com/musiknlaw, shows photos of his paintings and sketches, as well as his photography. “Often I’m attracted to water and nature. I’m in a city of 150,000 and I’ve got a cottage an hour north of here in Georgian Bay. I’m hoping to travel the world this year, taking photos and bringing my music.” Thompson is fascinated that he can go out and take pictures with 20 different people, and they will all have photos of the same things taken at completely different perspectives. Even his own images can be viewed from multiple perspectives, creating multiple masterpieces in one.
A third generation lawyer, Thompson’s family roots from Scotland took their course through New Jersey, New Brunswick, and then to Ontario. “I suppose a lot of my reason for following law was the family tradition. Probably not a good thing health wise. You were asking earlier if I had my druthers… Law is too hard on people.” Although he works as a district attorney focusing on motor vehicle accidents he finds the environment extremely stressful. “Stress is has the greatest deteriorative effect on PD.”
Diagnosed with prostate cancer and epilepsy, Thompson says,” I want to get healthy again and travel the world. I’m using crystals (necklace with quartz) as well as traditional medicine. Belief is important in health.” When asked to describe the place that PD has in his life, Thompson answered simply, “I would call it an annoyance or a nuisance. It’s inconvenient. When I get involved in work, I’m not thinking about PD. I’m not really affected by it.” He has gone through a lot of physical operations, and says that “it’s frustrating because I feel fine and look fine. Something has gone wrong in the body and it’s working away.”
Music has been Thompson’s number one interest and priority since he was a teenager. “I keep an electric and acoustic guitar on my bed.” And how does he feel when he plays? “It gives me peace. And when I have a crowd, I get a lot of positive energy from it. There is a lot of mitigation from the PD when I’m playing.” Thompson has found confidence in telling people about his illnesses, not shying away from what he has to face. “I think there is more fear if you don’t tell people. I’m a firm believer that I’m being tested.” says Thompson. “I love life; I love living, the changes of seasons, the sunsets.”