Part One

Wow. It's gonna take a few posts to process the last week appropriately. Thanks to all of you who've been following my Instagram Stories. I want to use the momentum to write down my feelings while they're fresh. I'm not at full Anthony Bourdain level yet, where I can sit down and bust out six pages of thoughtfully written reflection, but it's a start. 

My time in Tennessee was unpredictable and spectacular. If I was intending to have a life-changing experience, the Great Smoky Mountains more than delivered one. Like the best adventures, none of it went according to plan.

I arrived in the south with an open mind and little expectation. Even the accents caught me off guard. I didn't know I'd love them. Just two weeks ago this trip didn't exist. I took the opportunity when it presented itself, based on a strong hunch that I would be grateful I did so. There was no way to imagine what came next.

I hadn't realized the funk I'd gotten myself into until I'd flown away from it. My life for the last month has been awkward to say the least. A few of my "big plans" for the year had fallen through, and though I was working on a lot of new stuff, none of it was getting finished. Worse, I was at the mercy of the weather. Living 15 minutes from the coast means that sometimes the marine layer rolls in thick, which it did for the entire month of May. Though a blessing for my lungs, it makes clear layers and final varnishes a bit iffy. Some of my little tester paintings were fogging up -- a risk I was not willing to take with my larger work. So there it sat, basically finished, waiting for the clouds to break.

Which is also a good description of what happened to me. Add in a little politically-fueled depression and we've got all the makings of emotional paralyzation. I started down that cycle of wondering why I was even making art. What my art was for. What I was even accomplishing. Isn't there something else I should be doing?

I don't allow myself changes of scenery too much. I take comfort and wallow in my studio, which is inside my house, which means I spend a lot of time here. It's like being trapped in a mental spin-cycle.

When the chance to do something spontaneous and different came to me-- to meet friends in a state I've never been to, doing things I'm not normally inclined to do-- I jumped on it. I honestly had no clue what I was getting into, but knew I was meant to be there. Traveling has always lit me up inside. I love the experience of newness. I love to explore.

I thought a lot about Tony while I was there. One of the last things I'd done the day before he died was look up shows he'd made in the deep south. It's been a travel ritual of mine for years to get Bourdain's opinion of the place I'm going in the days before going there. I didn't end up watching them this time, because I was still in shock he was gone.

So instead, I carried his spirit with me, in the best way I knew how. I let the experience lead me, and opened my eyes as wide as I could to see whatever the universe intended to show me. 

I just had to climb a mountain with a broken foot to find it.

...to be continued...

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