The sun was setting on the last night of Main Street Marketplace as I strolled through the Show for a Show exhibit at the Artwell Gallery. I was alone, an unusual experience for me when not at the office, so I took my time viewing each creative work and appreciating how every unique voice added to a cohesive chorus of artistic expression. Outside the gallery, Robert Fullerton played an expert acoustic guitar to an appreciative crowd. In the Arts Desire next door, Jessica Stepler helped a steady stream of customers. I lingered for a few moments at the exhibit’s guest book as I had an additional ten minutes to myself and during that window of time I was not required to be anywhere in particular.
I stepped out onto Main Street to the lights and sounds of Torrington revelry and through the din and clatter I recognized Julia Sloan, my friend who is known throughout Connecticut as the artistic and entrepreneurial visionary behind “Brazen Betties”. She graciously shared a few minutes with me and in those few minutes, a powerful story emerged.
Julia had recently voyaged overseas and had found the adventure life changing and inspiring. She visited family and friends from early childhood and witnessed the subtle changes in landscapes from the distant past while savoring the moments and places where time had stood still. My friend found joy in seeing the play-sets of her youth still standing nearly a world away and yet not as distant as perhaps they once were to her. It seemed Julia had attained an awakening of spirit that relished a slower but more purposeful pace, still adventurous, still searching but interwoven in something greater than the self, for while she stood on Main Street in Torrington, there was a part of her still connected to that European village and to family and heritage beyond even those borders.
As she shared her journey with me my own perspective shifted like a kaleidoscope changing patterns toward the familiar. I recalled my own travels abroad, walks along the cobblestone streets of small Germanic villages and enjoying the charm of slow coffees in cafés with character. I had visited all too briefly that way of life and I recognized in our conversation that I had merely visited it but never lived it there or here. I am still very far afield from a life that is simply comfortable in “being” instead of always “doing”. I recognize I am compelled to be in the motion whether it is drawing, writing, creating…I must be doing something that is or gives the appearance of progress. I could tell from our conversation that Julia was describing the great benefit in staying still for a while, of “being”, of listening to the heartbeat of time and feeling the connections that life provides. Time being still and quiet provides a window of context and perspective so that when the choice to create is made, the work will have even greater meaning and purpose. Without context, life can’t be viewed through a clear window of reality, it is instead equivalent to looking through a kaleidoscope and simply calling it is a window until we believe it is one.
I thanked Julia for our visit and walked back to KidsPlay children’s museum where my father-in-law had his hands full watching my son move from the fire truck to the pretend car to the newly made “grocery store”. It was closing time soon and the Fire Performers would begin their final performance of the season. Before the evening was over my father in law purchased some heirloom tomatoes from a local farmer before their tent closed and when it was time, we made our way home.
What makes Connecticut so incredible is not the architecture, though indeed it is a treasure trove of Art Deco structure in New England, it is not the institutions though we have cultural institutions are the are envy of many, it is instead the people who live here or work here or provide their talents here who become part of the vibrant cultural canvas. I can participate by going to a theater production, an artist’s opening reception, a ballet performance, a concert, a poetry reading, a writer’s lecture or any of the countless opportunities before me and then, if I have learned anything, I should take some time to be still for a while and think about the experience and then and only then if so motivated, I can create something inspired that will have meaning for others, and so it goes. I am constantly amazed at what is done here and I am positive there will come a time three decades from now when we will look back and be amazed that so much talent and creative energy converged on this small patch of earth we call home.