Ho-Hum But Still Happy

Sometimes I feel painfully different than my peers. I go to the auction at the craft school and everyone is in their truest form. Picture a dance hall with hardwood floors and metal folding chairs positioned around a level stage where thousands of dollars in artwork will be auctioned off in the course of about three hours. The auctioneer travels all the way from our capital city and works the crowd with finesse and genuine support for the school – all funds from the auction go to the scholarship fund.

But it’s not just the art that makes the evening, as this represents the culmination of two months worth of work by the 96 enrolled students we’ve had this concentration, plus work from instructors and local artists. We’ve all been pushing hard this season, me from one side of the counter – serving them as they need and humoring them as well. The students, from the other side of the counter, confessing their troubles, questioning their techniques, celebrating good kiln firings or enticing glass demos or a successful handmade dye. On Saturday, they will all leave and only our staff and core artists will remain.

And so it is that from the audience I watch the faces I will miss the most. They are caught up in the magic of the evening, the lull and rock of the auctioneer’s sing-song wooing, the heavy weight of keg beer in their blood, the exhaustion of the final week of classes behind their eyes. Johnny leans against the north wall of the hall, his classic features outlined by the auction lights, a dense five ‘o’ clock shadow accentuating his jaw line, his hair slicked back in style for the evening. His laugh is garish and gruff and his smile just the same. He’s a blacksmith who just left Seattle (his home for 15 years) and will move to NYC next week.

Nearby, Tess stands in the doorway, her blonde pigtails brilliant underneath the lights, a white flower decorating her hair. She gave up Hawaii, her home and paradise, to move to these mountains and train in the trade of blacksmithing. I watch her now, leaning against FamousArtist who has lately been her mentor, their laugher contagious to the audience as the auctioneer tries to coax them into pooling funds to outbid someone on an ornate five foot tall hand-forged candle stand that is up for bid.

Bright faces all the way around the room, and each one of them with a story. By 9pm I have been away for 14 hours and am beat. I have to call it quits and duck out a side door to walk back to my car in the rain, dive 15 miles, then hike up the mountain in the rain (hauling a croquet set on my back…more on that, later). Some friends are surprised when I say goodbye to them on the porch. They protest, But arent’ you coming to the party later? It’s the end of concentration? We’ve just gotten the party started! But my close friends hug me and wish me well. They know my ways and I wave goodbye.

For I moment I feel very alone. I am a single-ish twenty-something woman with a stated career and path, a spiritual practice, a smile on my face, and a lot of love to give. What on earth could possess me to leave such a party? Isn’t someone else feeling the need to go, too…to tend to things at home, to get back to business, to make more out of the day? It’s this twinge of loneliness that sometimes makes me feel sad because it highlights how different my day-to-day choices are from some of my peers. I was always warned that the writer’s life is a solo life. That the solitude is par for the course. That seriousness a symptom of such persistent introspection. And yet I am still surprised by this twinge when it haunts me, and slightly resentful of it.

I make it home in the dark and Cass has left me a message full of sweet things. The rain pounds on the tin roof and clouds block the wild light of the moon. I heave myself up the stairs and curse the desk, curse the keyboard, curse my tired mind and body…then sit in the chair and pray for the poltergeist of words with each peck of the keys.

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