“Remember when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received only what you have given: a heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage.”
~ St. Francis of Assisi
Deb Chenault (right) is responsible for a lot of happiness in my life. She included me in her Happiness Project gang years ago that has since shaped my social calendar quite joyfully. More importantly, however, are the women Deb brought into the group who have shown support of my work, and me personally, in a way that’s nearly indescribable. My love and appreciation for Deb’s friendship, artistry, and heart have only grown over time. She shared with Stacy and I tickets to attend this weekend’s art fair in Berea where I met her kind friend whose name I no longer remember (it’s a problem I’ve always had). Deb has many friends, and many loyal customers. Her work is beautiful like their maker. It seems one can never say ‘thank you’ enough to friends like Deb. She’s a keeper.
“Consider becoming the type of energy that, no matter where you go,
you always add value to the spaces and lives of those around you.”
This was a big, nervous day for me. If you’ve been following the outhouse, then you know I’ve been working on a series of photos called Sacred Spaces. The first exhibit of the work was scheduled to hang today at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Lexington. Because God and the Universe love me, it just happened to coincide with Sandy Davis’ first return to Lexington since moving to Boston. Sandy has been a big supporter of my work and she always had my back when it comes to all the things I’m horrible with, like marketing myself. I’ve leaned on her artistic senses to put this exhibit together, so it was only right that she should be there when it went up. I trust her eye, and I trust Marlon Hurst, so I stepped aside and let them hang the show. It was a huge load off my shoulders, frankly. I get too close to the work sometimes to know what’s best. I’m indebted to them forever for helping me. And while they did the heavy lifting, Harriette Swart and Stacy Yelton talked to me at length about the work itself. Their conversations were so cathartic, so soothing, that my nerves calmed and I felt more confident about the work, and most importantly, the impact of the work. It was a truly special time that I will never forget (Sandy insisted on the Kopana style selfie, and Sandy gets what she wants!).
My day wasn’t done. No, this great day was meant to be a spectacular day! We left the exhibit and met our Happiness gal pals at National Provisions for a late brunch. This was the first time we’ve all been together since Erin had moved before Sandy, Annie, and Jeanne Marie joined us. Plus, we’ve added Harriette Swart and Marcie Christensen because they are meant to be here. We’ve all had a big year, but most of us have undergone big life changes; from moving homes to changing careers to adult responsibilities, and so on. I just can’t believe how lucky I’ve gotten to find these friends. It’s mostly thanks to Deb Chenault for putting her Happiness Project out there and letting us be part of it. Every one of these women is talented, unique, big-hearted, and smart. I’m just happy and in love with all of them. And Marlon, too, because he’s cool enough to be a gal pal… if he was a gal. I mean that from the bottom of my heart.
“Remember that your natural state is joy.” ~ Wayne Dyer
I met Annie Bassoni at the Woodland Art Fair today. I had so much fun, and ran into so many people I love. It really did my heart good to hug all their necks. My favorite photo of the day, however, has got to be this little girl asking Bangaly Savané for ice cream. Or maybe she was just staring because he’s a totally beautiful human being inside and out.
I was crossing the street to meet Annie when I very nearly ran into Lori-Lyn Hurley, one of my all-time favorite people ever. She is such a light to the world, and just a joy to be around. She walked with us to Elaine Heis’ booth by the Christian Church where they met for the first time. Annie wanted to take our picture, and well, we had a good time with it (below). I love these women so much even though it’s obvious it’s time for me to drop some weight. I don’t care. I love the pictures anyway. Thank you, Annie, for taking the camera away from me and letting me be with my peeps.
The next people I ran into was Bangaly and Mamadou Savané. They had the brilliant idea of an ice cream booth at the fair. Sav’s Chill serves homemade gourmet ice cream, and what better for a hot summer afternoon than Bourbon Chocolate ice cream from these two sweet men? Not much, except talking to them, too. I’m so proud of them.
And then there was all the other favorite people I saw and hugged (apologizes to Deirdre Scaggs for not having the good sense to whip out the camera to photograph her with the awesome door wreath she’d just bought). I spotted Elaine’s daughter, Crystal, from a ways off. Mr. Boyfriend, aka Ken Trainor, saw me but played along. The surprise shot wasn’t worth posting, but their shot together was cute. And surprise, there stood Marlon Hurst. More hugs, and what a sweet, happy smile he gave me. I was honored to meet his girlfriend, Cathy, too.
There were three exhibitors I intended to see at the fair. The last to be found was David and Rebecca Campbell. We always joke about my stealth photo ways. I manage to catch them unaware, the results of which are not always their best looks. They’ve become pretty attuned to my sneaky ways as a result, but I caught them anyway (above). And I thought I was going to have to resort to a telephoto lens – guess not!
Finally, we found Deb Chenault at her booth, Twelfth House Designs. Like Annie before her, Crystal grabbed my camera and popped a shot of me with my peeps. Annie did not want to be in the picture, as you can plainly see, but she was very quick to show her disapproval of kale. I can’t say I blame her. I can’t acquire a taste for it myself. It was a great day. I loved seeing so many of my favorite people. I’ve included many photos in today’s post because I started my day having coffee over the phone with Angie Bliss Fanning. She wanted to see the festival. I wish she’d been here to go with us, so I hope the photos help bring her a little closer to The Bluegrass for a while.
“If your love for me requires that I hide parts of who I am, then you don’t love me. Love is never a request for silence.” ~ DeRay McKesson
Sandy Davis is going back to Boston. We – Stacy Yelton, Annie Bassoni, Deb Chenault, Harriette Swart, Marcella Christensen, and myself – met for the final time tonight. It went way too fast. I’m going to miss Sandy. We’re all going to miss her: her laughter, her warmth, her smile, her enthusiasm, her smarts, and most of all, her great big giant compassionate sweet heart. I’m not worried, though. Kentucky, Lexington in particular, is like Hotel California for many people. You can check out, but you can never leave, not really. Sandy will be back. I will cherish the memories we’ve shared, and I will light a candle to her good life until she returns. It’s not goodbye, just so long.
“There is so much about my fate that I cannot control, but other things do fall under the jurisdiction… I can choose how I’m going to regard unfortunate circumstances in my life-whether I will see them as curses or opportunities. I can choose my words and the tone of voice in which I speak to others. And most of all, I can choose my thoughts.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert
One of my favorite things about the traditional Derby Day cookout is seeing John Lumagui. I never get to see him enough, so any opportunity, however long or short, is a joy. He doesn’t say much, but when he does, it’s usually something that makes me howl with laughter. John met Wally for the first time today. In fact, Wally was the official greeter, and he loudly announced each new guest. This, of course, was not what John was expecting. He was one of Sadie’s best friends who, like John, was very quiet. Wally is anything but quiet, but he and John bonded by the time the party had ended and that was a good start for me.
As is often the case, the crowd changed throughout the day. Early arrivals, Deb Chenault and Marcella Christensen (below), had obligations that took them away before the race. Meanwhile, The Brereton-Stewarts and The Davis-Olivers (both relative newlyweds) arrived later in the day to help ring in the race. Watching his bride from across the yard, Greg Davis remarked, “You know, it was two years ago at this party when I first saw her in her Derby Pants.” That was the first any of us had seen of Vanessa’s Derby pants. She wore them again this year. Some things are tradition.
I almost cancelled this year’s party because I’ve been sick with what I can only assume is a horrible case of allergies. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I especially couldn’t do it because Sandy Davis is moving back to Boston in a few weeks. She has been a mainstay in my Derby Day tradition, and I’m hoping she’ll make this a reason for her annual return to Kentucky so that her smile will always grace our cookout. I’m so glad I didn’t cancel. Even though I couldn’t say much – literally – I enjoyed seeing everyone’s happy faces; hearing their jovial banter and gentle, steady laughter; and feeling the kindness they each possess for one another, even the people who were just meeting for the first time. That’s what the cookout is all about for me: being with people who are kind and happy. I’d have to be on my deathbed not to have it. Luckily I’m not.
“There are two paths of which one may choose in the walk of life; one we are born with, and the one we consciously blaze. One is naturally true, while the other is a perceptive illusion.
Choose wisely at each fork in the road.” ~ T.F. Hodge
I had the great fortune to spend the afternoon at the estate of Marcella Christensen (she’s laughing at the ‘estate’ part I’m sure). Deb Chenault, Sandy Davis, and I took a beautiful drive through the rural countryside for an afternoon with Marcie. It was a time of delicious food and inspired talk fueled by, and through, art. Marcie turned us on to Daily Afflictions: The Agony of Being Connected to Everything in the Universe by Andrew Boyd. He’s very witty, and his book offers inspirational daily affirmations in a most unusual way. Our hostess gifted each of us with something wonderful. I got a hand whittled, two-seater outhouse, and to Deb she gave this book. Deb then regaled Sandy and I with affirmations on the way home. In particular, “Living As A Work Of Art.” “Many of us imagine living as a work of art, but few consider the difficulties. First, you must dig down deep to where your inner artist lies trapped in a spirit-crushing day job.” Deb stopped reading to add, “Kopana!” We laughed. Of the four of us, I’m the only one currently employed by someone other than myself, doing work that is neither artistic nor personally galvanizing. Nevertheless, my artist colleagues tolerate my weekend forays into the right brain. Even for them, the full-time artists, there is a need to be with our own kind. To talk about process, which is at the very heart of the matter. This was a day of artistic affirmation; of communion amongst right-brainers; of standing in the spring sun and letting its warmth ignite ideas. And it was all thanks to Marcella Christensen and her endless patience, welcoming smile, and open heart. It doesn’t get more inspirational than her.
“You’re only human. You don’t have to have it together every minute of every day.”
~ Anne Hathaway
I want to talk about just how awesome Sandy Davis is. First, her photo bombs of Josh James at last night’s Gallery Hop are a scream, the bottom two especially. Not the top one, though we three agreed it is an excellent photo of Josh. In any case, Sandy’s got mad photo bomb skills, but that’s really not my central point. The point is, she is a great example of how you pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get on with living the good life.
We’re all faced with challenges along the way. Some of us face small incremental tests. Some of us get way more than our share. Some of us face enormous tribulations at birth, or early in life. Some of us get lucky and go without a big hurtle for decades. Whatever the case may be, as I see it, nobody gets through this life without events that test our fortitude, and build our character. Thankfully, there’s art. There is exceptional healing value in the creative process, regardless of medium, or the challenge at hand. To create is to be in a state of meditation like nothing else. “Be Here Now,” as Ram Dass said. You have to be in the moment to make art. Cross that meditation with the dedication/determination to do roughly the same thing every day for a period of time – 100 days, a year, whatever – and the energy and power that’s created in and around you is transformative. Good vibrations are real, and this is one way to manifest goodness. Sandy’s been on a rough patch for a while, but just look at her now! The 100 day pastel challenge transformed her, in much the same way the outhouse brought me through, and out of, the worst period of my life to date. What a beautiful thing it is to watch someone come back to life as Sandy has done. It’s like watching the first rose bud in spring open; fragrant, delicate, alive. Just look at all the fun and smiles (except for Sandy’s heil Hitler shot – that’s just funny to look at): Sandy made that happen, and that is a glorious thing to behold. A strong and mighty woman she is. I’m so proud to be her friend.
“You only have control over three things in your life:
the thoughts you think
the images you visualize
the actions you take.”
~ Jack Canfield
It was the first Gallery Hop of 2015, and Sandy Davis was square in the middle of it. For the past 70+ days, she’s been creating one pastel a day. It’s a 100 day challenge. Creating the same image every day, she is allowed only thirty minutes in which to create; no more, no less. Tonight, alongside artists Marianna McDonald and Anne Kindle, who also took the challenge, Sandy displayed her results. I barely got to say hello to her because she was so busy selling her beautiful works. Success is a good reason not to talk in this case.
As Sandy was dazzling Lexington, Deb Chenault was introducing me to a host of spectacular art people that I had never met before. One in particular stood out. She is Marcella Christensen (above with Sandy, below with Deb). She’s a sweet, gentle soul. It’s written all over her face, and in the kindness of her words. When I learned that, on Deb’s urging, Marcella made a visit to the outhouse, I was nearly speechless. She didn’t just read that day’s post. She started at the beginning, and read every single post right up to yesterday. No doubt she will read this one, too, as soon as it’s published. That she would take precious time out of her days to read about my life, and all the people who walk this journey with me, to enjoy the photographs, and let the positive nature of each post brighten her day is incredibly touching. What a gift that is to me. I’m still speechless, really. I marvel at what a wondrous world this is.
“Your soul doesn’t care what you do for a living, and when your life is over, neither will you. Your soul cares only about what you are being while you are doing whatever you are doing.”
~ Neale Donald Walsch
While yesterday kicked off the holiday season at home, today kicked it off with my peeps. It started with an enjoyable lunch with my Happiness Project gals at a place called Crust off Richmond Road. Stacy Yelton, Sandy Davis, Annie Bassoni, Jeanne Marie Hibbard, and Deb Chenault were as delightful as always, and it did my heart so good to laugh and talk with them. Then, it was off to party #2 with my mUsiKcare family where we played and sang and laughed and ate even more delicious food. I’ve had to miss class a lot during this semester. Fortunately for me, they’re very forgiving people, though I’ll need to practice extra hard over the Christmas break to catch up. The holiday season has begun in earnest now, and I’m as happy as I can be having spent my day with such special friends.
“If you want something you never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.”
“Do you remember the 21st night of September?” The Earth, Wind, and Fire hit has been rolling around in my head since last Friday when I heard a great NPR story on the song’s origin. It’s just so darn happy. Everything about the song is happy; lyrics, melody, instrumentation, everything. Happy. Seems only fitting that I should share this 21st of September with my Happiness gal pals. I’ve been suffering serious writer’s block for over a week, while also trying to cull photos into an exhibit going up in February. I desperately needed their opinions, and good ideas, and sweet, gentle natures. They did not disappoint. Our little waitress offered to snap a shot after seeing me do it myself, like I am wont to do. So, why not? Happiness complete.