“Buddhism teaches that joy and happiness arise from letting go… There are things you’ve been hanging on to that really are not useful and deprive you of your freedom. Find the courage to let them go.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Last week, this gorgeous handmade cedar box arrived at my door. It was made by a native artist on the West Coast. Pam Thurman and Barb Plested sent it for my birthday. How sweet is that? It smells so good, too. It really took me back to a cedar chest my mother had when I was little. I learned to play drums on it. That’s why she doesn’t have it anymore. Then, a few weeks ago, me and Sandy Davis had a long phone call. We promised to trade art works since neither of us had a piece of the other’s. Today, my new Sandy Davis arrived. It’s from her barn series, and I’m thrilled to give it a home. She’ll live on the cedar box for now where I can see it and count my blessings until I turn out the light at night. I really don’t know how I got so lucky to have such gracious, giving, compassionate friends. They make my life rich beyond measure.
“Sometimes we should express our gratitude for the small and simple things like the scent of the rain, the taste of your favorite food, or the sound of a loved one’s voice.” ~ Joseph B. Wirthlin
It’s been almost a week since we convened to hug Sandy Davis’ neck. I wish we could meet every Friday for dinner, or just laughs. Jeanne Marie’s phone says all that needs saying about my Kentucky tribe. I love them all so much, and I’m so lucky to have them as friends.
“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.
“May we learn to speak our truth clearly and without hate…
“Love wins” is a good motto; we should keep it.” ~ Landra Lewis
Gregory Scott Gross. We’ve been as close as siblings since high school. More than thirty years later we are still that close. He would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. I’ve watched him move heaven and earth for his family. I would trust him with my life. I keep his picture at work to remind me that there’s goodness in this world, and that goodness calls me friend. I really am the luckiest woman I know. That aside, the “Boils and Pimples Give Warning” ad might as well be in bright neon. My eye is drawn right to it; doesn’t matter what else is in the picture. Cracks me up. Greg would laugh, too.
“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.