#Pace Day 7 – Harley and I.

THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE ENTIRE TRIP – MEETING UP WITH HARLEY BROWN

IMG_6826-1It was a beautiful Wednesday morning in Tucson.The sights and sounds of the convention gave way to the quiet of man in an Airstream Trailer getting ready with the nervousness and anticipation of a teenager before his first date.

The truth is – I was about to go to meet up with a man who decades ago gave me words of encouragement regarding a still wet painting I had brought into a gallery in South Calgary – rubbed his finger through the back edge of a house, and showed me in simple words and a small very precise blending stroke of his finger that being an artist was what I wanted to do.

Harley Brown

Harley Brown

His name is Harley Brown, who is an icon in the western art world. An incredibly talented portrait artist and a member of the The Tucson Seven which included Duane Bryers, Donald Crowley, Tom Hill, Kenneth Riley, Bob Kuhn, and Howard Terpning – many of them hanging on the walls of Settlers Gallery, a Tucson legend unto itself.

I hadn’t seen Harley in oh, 38 years and and as I waited in the gallery, that encounter so long ago was about to be brought full circle. I was nervous, I’ll admit it as I really didn’t know what to expect and I only had one hour before I would have to leave to catch my flight.

 

I waited anxiously pacing around the gallery looking at the magnificent works and then, through an opening in the back of the gallery he appeared.

“Grant” He walked toward me, hand up.
“Harley” We shook smiling and after the normal niceties, and how are you’s, began to get reacquainted.

I won’t go into detail about the next hour but suffice it say we talked nothing but art. The great works on the walls of the gallery, his history, and my reintroduction into painting after a 28 year hiatus. I chose photography, my second passion as I didn’t feel I could make a living as a painter. 
Terpning BookHarleys BookDuring our conversation, Harley mentioned how he liked to write and that he had written four books and also how he was the author of a book about the art of Howard Terpnings. Before I left, he had given me his signed Confessions of a Starving Artist book which is Harleys “How I did it” as well as Terpnings book. It was very gracious and I didn’t know what to say. Thank you obviously among many other things.

FullSizeRender-3Sadly, the hour had passed far to quickly I had to go. After getting a photo with Harley it was time to say goodbye. It started with a handshake and a deep heartfelt thank you. Harley bowed his head and I could feel myself getting emotional. I told him how much this meeting meant to me and I could feel the meeting I had with him so long ago connecting with the present – a full circle. I started to really get emotional (not full out blubbering but tearing up) and Harley noticed and gave me a hug and simply said to me “Friends” I couldn’t speak and the moment seemed to hold for a very long time although it was most likely only a few seconds. I gathered myself and thanked him again wishing I could stay then headed out to the car to begin my journey back to Calgary.

I often find that there are events in our lives that don’t fully reveal how influential and important they are to us at the time they occur – somewhere in a place deep within ourselves these events resonate in ways that we may not fully realize until what has stayed hidden reveals its nature and insights just when we need them most.

It’s important that we encourage these encounters. Get out and meet people, take chances and understand that no matter who you are or where you are in life, that simple innocent exchange in a dry creak bed in Arizona or in a gallery in Calgary or a Walmart Parking lot may plant a seed that someday you’ll look back on and realize what a wonderfully simple but powerful gift was given to you.

My visit with Harley so long ago like I said earlier, had a deeply profound effect on who I became as a creative, and my latest visit with Harley has had a profound effect on who I hope to become as an artist.

Thank you so much Mr. Brown!

 

Random Act of Kindness…

So, today I went about my usual routine. I went to Cafe Beano for coffee. The wonderful part of my recent visits is, I have been adopted by a wonderful group of seniors. They have been a fixture at Beano for a very long time. Always laughing and having great debates about politics, religion and anything else that comes to mind. Moira and Tets just got back from Scotland where they visit for four months out of the year and were giving out presents to Peter and Damla when I arrived. They didn’t know that I had been joining Peter and Damla over the past couple of months and were pleasantly surprised when I sat down. Beano U is what Peter calls the morning discussions and this one was about Scottish independence.

Well, the next morning I sat down, coffee in hand and Moira reaches into her bag and hands me a gift. She has a wonderful way of wrapping them. As a former librarian, she came across a pile of maps that were going to be thrown out and now uses them for, well, wrapping paper. She takes twine, and apparently it has to be linen twine as all other twine is crap, and ties it around the gift neatly. It has a wonderful heart felt simplicity that is classic and not pretentious. You know that the gift is meant as a gesture of friendship. It’s pure class. I was a little taken aback as I didn’t expect this. I thanked her and within thirty seconds they were gone as it was 9am; the time they have to leave.

I sat with the gift for awhile and though about opening it right there but decided to wait till later that afternoon. I wanted to let this random act of kindness linger for as long as I could. It was amazing to me to have someone that I don’t know very well at all, take the time to pick one of the items they had brought back from overseas and wrap it with a simple intent.

To make my day a little brighter. She succeeded.

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The Walking Dead…

I was watching The Walking Dead tonight and Michonne who plays a sword wielding Zombie killer, was having a dream about a normal life. Maybe from her past as a flashback or maybe not. She was in a beautiful white kitchen making dinner for a friend and her “lover” Mike . They discuss not staying in camp or going out “there” and Mike says, “Where is the happy ending here? “This isn’t life”. Then asks “whats the answer?”, and his friend replies back, “whats the damn question?!” Michonne tries to ignore the comments and her dream turns nasty when she looks up and sees the two men sitting with there arms hacked off like her “pets”. She screams…

I sat there with my ginger ale, thinking, heres a show about a bunch of people who used to have lives with families, friends, jobs, houses, chores, hobbies, and pets. A show about the loss of everything they thought important and the simple struggle to survive. There have been others who have written about this subject, Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” comes to mind. No zombies but the struggle for survival and the loss of familiarity.

And, without much effort, my inner voice said, “hmmm…Thats depression”. That same loss of the familiar coupled with little if any hope. And I thought about what Mike said “This isn’t life”. As in, the loss of what we all consider the normal experience of happiness through the way we interact with our surroundings, families and friends that we find comfortable and/or meaningful. I mean, imagine taking away everything that you work for everyday? The reason you get up in the morning and there are no other options, no other jobs, no cars, houses or resorts to visit in the winter. Once you remove the trappings of our modern world and the constant way we are taught to achieve this dream at all costs, what’s left? Do you suddenly have no reason to live? Of course not, but it really made me think about our purpose, and how the dissolution in the belief of that purpose can cause disparity. 

What is life? Well, I guess life is what we have since we have a beating heart. Living is a different thing; it’s what we do while our heart beats. When you distill it down, we human beings are all all the same. Our blood is red and our bones are white.  We live, we die.

So whether you live in a beautiful condo with a giant mortgage, an apartment on a small subsidy, or are running around in a post apocalyptic world trying to find a safe place to live, or are inside the walls of your troubled mind, it’s simply survival. 

What makes it bearable, and has the ability to bring us real happiness are the connections to each other that we make along the way. Our need for love and friendship. Everything else means… quite literally, nothing. 

So, where’s your happy ending?

The Window…

Star Banner

“I believe we all receive glimpses into the mystery, and are simply not tuned in to that  frequency within our world. We’re much more aware of that, which will never matter”

I sat quietly in one of the two Adirondack chairs that sat on the small wooden porch. Part of a cabin built in the 1940’s on Jackson Lake at the foot of the Tetons. I couldn’t see these magnificent mountains not only because night had fallen, but also due to the simple fact that the cabin faced the other direction, towards a black asphalt driveway that wound it’s way around the Signal Mountain Lodge Resort.

The forecast called for rain. there was a dampness in the air, a chill that I welcomed.  I sipped my rye and coke slowly, scanning left and right looking and listening for what, I wasn’t sure, but it must be out there, somewhere.

I could feel it…

I could sense it…

Waiting…

I let my thoughts wander. Time passed and the rye, sweet, slowly left, leaving nothing but the last sip. It was time to go in.

I leaned forward and felt a calm drape itself over my tense shoulders. I looked down at my glass, resting on the broad arm of the chair which held nothing, except cold ice. My right hand wrapped softly around it.

Looking up one last time, I cast the ice out over the inky black of the driveway and it scattered in a broad arc before me.

I sat mesmerized by what I saw…

I stopped breathing…

Reflecting the porch light behind me, the ice became a thousand stars against the black of dark bituminous pitch and gravel. It sparkled and shone in the silent night. It was beautiful.

And in a second, I felt like I could see pure understanding. It seemed to breath knowing into my soul. As if this small fragile universe that had opened before me was the answer to every question I had ever had. Like I was staring into a mystical world that very few people had ever seen. The truth.

I was in awe, and I watched this fragile gift slowly melt into small pools, and fade gently into memory. The window closed. I sat for a while longer, thinking, and wondering if what I had felt was real. It was. I wondered if this had happened countless times before and I had always ignored it. Not present enough in the moment and let it slip by, not knowing how precious it was,

but never really wasted as it just is.

We choose to see it or we don’t.