Encounter Last Day of Year 2013
It seems not a particular or special day of the year this New Year's Eve as I work in my studio. There have been few tourists in our Canyon Road shop. Those visiting the numerous galleries on Santa Fe's Art and Soul walk seem primarily interested in the ambiance, not serious study of works on exhibit. I note their interest in the adobe structures, the gardens, outdoor displays of seasonal holiday decorations, and, as always, the colorful transients, dog-walkers, skateboarders, cyclists and exhibitionist-strollers who come from all over town to Do The Road. We're not in Kansas anymore.
Out studio/gallery being the one longest in business on the Road (founded 1956), and I at 90 likely its oldest artist-owner, I'm accustomed to its various moods and changes, adept, I think, at evaluating interest or sales possibilities from the out-of-staters and foreigners who cross the threshold. One of the biggest challenges is not to give too much time to the many people who want to speak to the artist him/or herself, not a gallery director. Especially one so long in the tooth who can spin stories of an unpaved residential Canyon Road before it exploded into the famed Art Colony of today.
A few uninterrupted hours this afternoon furnished hours for considerable paper work, including the start of year-end reports for inventories, gross-receipts taxes, etc. Tasks resented for the time they steal from creative stabs at drawing, clay-modeling, manuscripts. And the tasks today, paging through calendar months, inevitably had me reviewing sober events of 2013 -- Ben Ghazi, the Obamacare debacle, our divided Congress, my own painful convictions that the news media cannot be trusted, that our politicians, indeed Washington itself, has betrayed us. Refuge from such drear thinking came as ever in the arts -- I opened streaming music on the computer, listened to opera as I worked, and was delighted to hear my canary Giorgio lustily accompany the tuneful arias!
Shortly before closing time, a man and woman came into the shop and I immediately detected an accent. Not Italian, French, Spanish or anything that I could determine. Risking conversation about anything other than exhibited work, I asked the gentleman if he were from Europe. Yes, Belgium. And of course I had to add that I'd been to his country, liked it very much, had made friends with its citizens. He wanted to know which areas I'd seen, and when I mentioned the Ardennes, studied me attentively. I saw his youthful eyes take in my silvered hair, the shawl giving warmth to bent shoulders, the cane on which I leaned. "World War II? The Bulge?" he asked. When I conceded, he impulsively crossed the room, swept me into his arms and muttered "Thank you, thank you very much."
Not much more was said before he and his companion departed. But I've wondered since how a person so young -- he couldn't have been forty, and was trembling with emotion as he embraced me -- would have exceptionally strong feelings about the horrors in his country which he'd never seen. Stories told by grandparents? History teachers? A fine farewell to 2013, afterall, this spontaneous gesture to we elders who often feel that the indelible world events of the 20th century which we experienced are irrelevant to today's youth. I am grateful to the stranger from Belgium who ended my year with the recognition and acknowledgment we frail humans desire.