Fast Write, 5 a.m.: Threads

Putting on an art show in my home is a bit like being on the RAP Home Tour. Twice a year. Every year. Forever.

It’s so much work!

I remember the second year I was living here in Riverside in this historic cottage and I got a call from Joy French Walker asking, Would I be on the RAP Home Tour?

I’m not ready, I said! How bout next year?
How about this year? she asked, gently.
OK, fine. Let’s do it.

Secretly, of course, I was thrilled. But then the work began: Transform the She Shed! (thanks, Dianne). Replant the garden! (Thanks, Sven and Leslie). Powerwash the driveway and touch up all the trim! (Thanks, Anthony!) Drywall the hole in the SHeShed ceiling. Order flower arrangements. Clean out the closets. Hang a new live wreath of succulents on the front door because I wanted the fresh flowers vibe.

Plus I wanted to upgrade my art. So I asked Mindy Hawkins to help, who provided her own art and art from other artists. And I asked artist Carol Rothwalk Winner to sell her fun wordplay pieces (which people apparently loved). I got a taste of what it’s like to have an art show in my home, and I liked it.

Then Dad got sick.

So I couldn’t be there. Not to attend the preview parties. Not to view the other houses. Not to meet 2,500 of my new best friends as they toured my house and She Shed.
But I did get to see my Dad go from Death’s door to a miraculous recovery under the diligent care of my two sisters, Ruth Anne and Liz, and myself. Thank you, dear sisters!

Growing up on a farm, my sisters and I lived in the middle of a laboratory experiment, 24/7/365. We often did six impossible things before breakfast. Light the coal fire in the kitchen in the unheated farmhouse. Feed the orphan lambs stashed in the house during deep winter and clean up the urine puddles they left on the kitchen floor. Walk up the snowbound lane in knee highs and a short skirt, carrying a French horn.

Yes, that is all true.

My mother, the consummate teacher but also the consummate learner, was always trying something new— long before anyone else was doing it. Organic farming. A CSA. Farmer’s markets and fabric arts. Spinning, weaving, and shearing the sheep at the huge Pittsburgh Arts Festival, where I learned to be a bit of a barker and we taught the crowds the business of making art out of life on a farm.

I both hated it and loved it.

So now it seems I’ve followed the thread and turned my Riverside home into some sort of laboratory, a platform for community voices, an experimental garden of sorts, an ongoing project of limited resources and unlimited dreams—albeit on a smaller footprint than 148 acres of rolling hills in Western Pennsylvania.

And it’s not unlike my years as a journalist: Impossible deadlines. Constant work to do better. Lack of a personal life! Though, fortunately, I don’t find myself sleeping on the production floor with a newspaper over me, as I did in my start-up magazine days! (remember, Foster Barnes Jr?)

And then there’s imposter syndrome. I sure hope the brilliant Hope McMath does not think I compare myself to her in any way, seeing her only as teacher and mentor for this work of building a more conscious community through the power of art, writing, and human connection!)

But as I stare down this last week before my next art show, BLOOMS, opens Friday at 6 p.m., I’m thinking of all the impossible things and hoping my mother would approve—and that I don’t burn out myself or anyone else with my creative desire to do more, be more, learn more, teach more, write more, talk more.

It’s just that the risk seems important.

In the garden.

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