My hand grasps a red sable brush, loaded with oil paint; I lean my pinky finger on the canvas for stability and apply detail to my landscape painting of Cape Cod. My paint brush was Frank Fretz’s, a great artist who passed about a year ago and was my long-time friend and mentor. I summoned Frank to be with me as I paint.
I was told to paint again by a psychic whom I visited two years ago. He said it will help me with my writing. Who am I to say otherwise. I did not invest the time in his recommendation until a strange thing occurred just a few weeks ago. I received a message from the other side and it wasn’t my first one.
A seemingly random e-mail came in by a young woman who was inquiring about an oil painting she said that I had painted- “The Window” in Big Bend National Park. Now how in God’s name did she know that I painted that image? When I asked her how she found me, she said she just googled “Painting of The Window in Big Bend NP” and my painting came up. That’s really, really strange. Our old website, http://www.RedMountainArts.net was no longer active, replaced by Todd’s new Squarespace, www.Toddgladfelter.com. Todd said, you’d better check. Perhaps the money has been taken out of your credit card all this time. When I asked my editor, Matt Holliday, the administrator and creator of our websites, he said that it was free and is still out there in the web world.
“The Window,” is an unusual place in this southwest national park which shares a border with Mexico along the Rio Grande River. The notch, or window in the stone is the only outlet/drainage/pour off for all the water in the massive Chisco Basin, which is surrounded by the 9,000-foot high Chisco Mountains. Chisco means “ghost” or “spirit” in the Native American language. My family went hiking there one winter, a half a dozen years back and this particular hike and place was special to our family too, and so I painted it.
My art lover and I struck a deal and I mailed her off the painting, Priority Mail. When I asked her why The Window, she said that it meant very much to her. Her parents used to take their family there when she was young and the happy memory has remained her power image- it gives her strength and grounding when she needs to call upon it. She has been having some serious challenges with depression and was communicating with me via a psychiatric hospital. It would mean so very much to her to have it on the wall and help her through this rough time. Oh my God. What a great gift this small, seemingly insignificant painting could do for her. It was time to paint again.
I received an even stranger message “from the other side” a few years back, pertaining to my writing. I was at the Pennsylvania Elk Festival in Benezette one fall to do a story for PA Magazine. I had my camera around my neck but no press badge. No way, that I could tell, said that I was an author working on a manuscript about alternatively raising and educating children.
A woman came up to me and said, “I’m here to tell you that you need to get that book about educating your kids finished and published. We need it.” I just looked at her and without questioning said, “ok.” And she walked away, never introducing herself, never revealing how she knew anything and I had no recollection of ever seeing her before in my life.
After that message, I kicked my manuscript into high gear. I am happy to say that this September 1, after many years of work, The World is Our Classroom- How One Family Used Nature and Travel to Shape an Extraordinary Education, will finally be published. That messenger taught me that I better heed the messages coming at me from “the other side.” I intent to do the same with my painting.
It has been nearly 30 years since I had my own one-woman art show at the Wyomissing Institute of Fine Arts in Reading, (now called the Yocum Institute). I had over 40 oil paintings from the Appalachian Trail and I sold nearly all of them. A few years later, I had a joint show with my fiance, Todd. I painted oils of flowers from the Pacific Crest Trail and Todd sculpted animals. Why not have another show, of paintings from The World is Our Classroom and why not share it again with my husband, as his chainsaw carvings are spectacular. What fun to revisit this endeavor thirty years later. It will give me something to work towards. After my new book is out for awhile and it builds visibility and interest and fans, I will hopefully have a show at the Yocum Institute with my groom of 35 years. The circle comes back around again and the messengers are heeded.