Art festivals are lessons in mindfulness

I sometimes get wrapped up in my own message. For me, creating artwork is a way for me communicate images and ideas to others via a particular medium. Sometimes people want to receive my message…and sometimes they don’t. My weekend at one of the nation’s top rated art festivals was a lesson in mindfulness.

The weekend started out auspiciously, because I avoided having my tent rolled by severe weather. I had a favorable site near a children’s activity area, and away from the talented yet resounding musical acts. The forecasted rain never materialized. It was staffed by numerous volunteers who wanted to meet my every need. Conditions were favorable for people coming to experience my message…

art festival tent
My art festival tent is set up to be peaceful and inviting. I wish I could bring a small settee…

Instead, I spent the first 15 hours — and evening and a 10 hour day — standing and smiling. I don’t know how sales people do this for a living. My lovely and patient husband was with me, and it became clear to me by noon on Saturday that I was going to need another strategy to the traditional panic and self-doubt that I sometimes indulge in when people do not appreciate my work.

Mental health takes effort

Maintaining good mental health is something that I think about almost every day. As I stood there smiling as people strolled by, I began to be mindful of my surroundings…

A few times, people did venture into my mini-gallery. The best part of this long day was visiting with a man in his seventies whose wife had died over a year ago. Determined to have a better second year without her, he had enrolled in culinary classes at two community college sites. That week, he had baked a German chocolate cake at one site in the morning, and a tiered wedding cake, complete with billowing pink roses, at another site. Talking with someone who has decided to embrace life once again was refreshing.

Look for moments of serendipity

On our stroll back to our car that night, we passed some couples sitting on tables outside a neighborhood tavern. They had two puppies lounging on the benches. When I stopped to pet one, the owner told me they were trying to socialize the puppies, and proceeded to place one in my arms. There is nothing so delightful as a soft armful of puppy — truly a balm to the soul. I think negotiators in peace talks should each have a puppy to hold while they try to solve the world’s intractable problems.

puppy in Belleville
There is nothing as delicious as the smell of a puppy’s head. Even better than a baby’s.

The last day brought more people, a few of whom were willing to come in, see my work, and talk with me. Finally a couple came in and wanted two unframed linocuts for their home. I reminded them of the need to hang works on paper in places without bright light. The husband remarked that they had a hand-printed ketubah — an artistically rendered prenuptial agreement that is part of Jewish marriage ceremonies — that had faded over time. “That means we have lasted,” his wife observed. Such truth from a conversation with people I had just met.

My Iphone can only capture the essence of the glowing sunset landscape.

Our drive home from this somewhat disappointing weekend was punctuated with colorful imagery. Fields of winter wheat — quickly moving from green to taupe – glowed in the rainbow-hued sunset.

We can choose to have our own expectations of life, and spend a great deal of time feeling disappointed. Or we can choose to embrace the unexpected breathtaking moments that flicker quickly by…


2 Replies to “Art festivals are lessons in mindfulness”

    1. Thanks Kathy! I spoke with an area furniture maker last night who has been doing shows for 40 years. He said he still has anxiety and questions his life’s path when he has a bad show. Being an artist means making yourself vulnerable I suppose.

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