I ditched writing this afternoon for catch up time at the craft school. It was time for an artist’s date to fill my well. Winter rental students hovered over precious projects in their respective studios as I happily meandered from building to building in search of friends I hadn’t seen in months.
I began in Lower Clay, where I had a hunch I might find Viva, a round-faced, bright-eyed sculptress in her thirties with the soul of a mischievous young teen. I have never been so struck by a woman as I am by Viva. The first time she came into the coffeehouse I spilled the drink order I was working on. Ordinarily, this is a bumble reserved only for Carhartt-wearing mountain men with rustic hair and Old Spice deodorant. But without failure, time and again Viva’s energy hits me profoundly. I find myself locked into her aquamarine eyes, naturally rouge cheeks, auburn-magenta hair, and sweet-water voice and all common sense goes out the window. This afternoon, I told her she had sculptor’s hands and pointed out some wrinkles. This is a complement in the art world. We agreed on plans for next week, she smiled with a twinkle, as she had her first afternoon at the coffeehouse, and I left with a bounce in my step as light as her homemade lemon-mint water (which we shared last fall).
Next, I found Mark, a childhood friend and eternal crush who now resides in an urban activist artist community house in BigCity, NC. For my birthday, he brought me sauerkraut and only Mark could get away with this. I find him in the Wood Studio hunched over the DeWalt, where he is making twenty xylaphone chairs in thirty days. He turns off the machine, sets the safety, slides off his mask and earphones, and eases into my arms. Mark has always been a teddy-bear hugging man. His orange and black striped tee is covered in sawdust and I get a giant whiff of white oak and body odor as we embrace. There are some men whose body odor is completely soothing to me, and Mark is one of those men. It helps that I’ve known him forever, too. We decide to get-the-hell-outta-Dodge and take what ends up being a three-mile walk along the ridgeline and back. We end with a tour of his truck bed, which has been converted for winter sleeping and food storage. I sit on the locust pole fence and wing my legs at the edge of the llama field while he explains the ins and outs of his design. I mention Travels with Charley by Steinbeck and he is not familiar. I mention Andrew Bird and he is intrigued. We agree on a future meeting to discuss Bird’s Mysterious Production of Eggs and I meander back toward my car as the sun sets.
Heading back down the mountain, I stop at the core students’ house where I am hoping to find my dear friend Janna, so that I can invite her out to dinner. Janna is my only iced-decaf-(if it’s the afternoon)-with-room-for-cream-to-go order and from day one, she was the most welcoming, kind, sincere customer I ever encountered at the school. Of course, it didn’t take long for us to develop a rapport and I had her drink prepared, with one inch and a quarter room for cream, ready to go before she could get her purse out. Perhaps the most striking thing about Janna is her soft, full smile and melt-your-heart-like-butter laugh. Her eyes are a deep blue-grey and contrast pleasantly with auburn freckles and matching hair. Ever since her big show last fall, I have carried layered images of her encaustic paintings in my mind’s eye with admiration and awe. Her work is often layered and multi-media and one-of-a-kind. To me, the layers represent the complexity of her beautiful spirit, both the sorrows and joys, the goofiness and intellectualism, and so much more.
When all is said and done, I find that these friends have managed to turn what could have been a lonely Friday afternoon and evening into bright-shining date with beautiful, inspiring artists. Facing the empty house is not so hard when my heart is full of adoration for good people in the world.