Main Street is a sight to behold. The first ever Art of the Heartland Festival is set to begin. Over night a stunning transformation, from the Coast to Coast Store to the Clock Tower on the corner of Main. Crisp white canvas tents line both sides of the street. Just outside of town, trucks and trailers sit empty of their wares. Artists from all over the world have descended on the town. After a long drive, they trudge across the parking lot, arms full, or pulling carts piled high with boxes and crates. They set up grids and tables. Build shelves out of plywood or bales of hay.
One by one, each tent takes on its own particular personality. These are the creatives, the doers, the hands-on-I-made-it-myself crowd. The artists. The original thinkers. The painters, potters, jewelers, weavers and sculptors. No two are alike. Yet they fit together to form a magical maze of artifacts. Flowered tablecloths and paper butterfly garlands swoosh and swirl. Wall art carefully placed. Wind chimes tinkle on the edge of a carved wooden pole. Beaded necklaces draped over headless mannequins. Painted furniture, once abused and neglected, now newly new and dressed for success.
And each tent, stamped with ownership. A title. A business name. A brand. A design. Or a logo. For while the art displayed is the result of deep passion, to remain an artist requires money in the till. The artist’s journey begins with an idea. A seed of an idea, which if it takes root, may grow into a business. A traveling show. An exhibition. A sharing, if you will, or perhaps simply, the beginning of a conversation.
On one end of Main, the local Farmer’s Market opened early in the day, at dawn, just as the artists, tucked into warm jackets clutching cups of coffee, pulled onto the outskirts of town. The smell of fresh cinnamon buns wafts on the breeze as the farmers bag lettuce leaves and pulled-this-morning green onions. Farmers belong here as they are artists of nature. They too start with a seed of an idea, cultivate it, nurture it, wash and sort and carry it to market. When the farmers and the artists shake hands, both feel the blisters and the roughened skin, the marks of kinship for those who DIY.
Mayor Yoo Hoo, himself a DIY aficionado, an avid fan of HGTV, ordered a gazebo to be built under the Clock Tower. A proper place for proper announcements, a mini amphitheater for the local high school band, and combination first aid station and central location for emergencies, manned by Officer Dewey.
Pepper and I are across the street from the Flickering Flame. The restaurant is closed for the day, but outside they have set up enormous BBQ grills, with card tables stacked with buns, relish, chopped onions, ketchup, mustard and rope after rope of fresh Italian sausages and slabs of spare ribs. The air is smoky and sweet.
Pepper and I do not have a tent. We do not have wares to sell. No vegetables, nor bratwursts. No pottery or photographs. No paintings or watercolors. No fancy title or logo or brand.
We have a card table and two chairs. Well, actually I am sitting in a folding chair and Pepper is lounging in a leather Barca Lounger he found at the dump and we dragged across town in the middle of the night, because I was too embarrassed to be seen with him. He is wearing a beret and an ascot tied around his throat, tucked into his crimson silk kimono. Oh and spats. Really. Spats. With his talons hanging out. And a Mai Tai within reach. At 8AM. In the morning. On Main Street. I, I am wearing a T-shirt I made myself. On the front it says:
“Are you a Yard Yeti...Yet?”
On the back is a picture of Gladys Gerbera...Yard Yeti Extraordinaire. I have my microphone, but I left my crate of CD’s in the studio, as we have live music today, but I am feeling anxious as I forgot the bleep button and I just saw Pepper tighten the belt on his robe and take another belt of Tequila. It could be a long day.
Customers from the Farmer’s Market are slowly edging down the sidewalk and Mayor Yoo Hoo
is sounding the trumpet call. Let the Show Begin. I thought I would broadcast the festivities on air live...as it happens...so to speak...but I just can’t. Someone just passed my table and muttered under their breath, “ I saw that T-shirt in Wal Mart”.
No, I swear silently to myself.
No. You. Did. Not.
I. Made. It. Myself.
But even I acknowledge the empty table. Pepper is making conversation with a French accent and taking selfies with the crowd. I am invisible.
So I take a stroll. Down Main. Peering into tents. Eavesdropping on conversations. Dreaming. Wondering. How do they do that? How do they make that? Who taught them how? When did they learn? Where did the talent come from? What can I do that is special? What can I create? Make my own. I don’t paint. I can’t draw. I was never any good at Play Doh let alone clay. I’m afraid of machines with moving parts like lathes and electric saws and sanders, as I struggle with instruction manuals. You know, Part A fits into Phalange B. I am all phalanges and digits and there is usually some accidental bleeding involved.
But I do love stories. Telling tales. Words thrill me. Tickle me. Keep me company. Make me smile. Bring me to tears.
Is there such a thing as a...a...
Whoosh! I hear it and look around to see if anyone else did.
Nope. No one even looked up.
Whoosh! It’s the Wind and it is talking to me. I swear. Can you hear it?
The Wind is telling me a story. Right here. Right now.
A Wild Yard Yeti Wind is blowing up a storm.
“That’s right. I am full of hot air, cold air, air that rises , air that falls, soft summer breezes and harsh winter gales, dry thirsty wind blowing across the desert tossing about bleached out dried animal skeletons and prickly thorns, humid moist air across the ocean and on the floor of the rain forest.
If the air is still you can’t find me. Air must move for me to be seen...on the flags, clothes drying on the line outside, fluttering sails on boats, leaves tumbling down the sidewalk. clouds rolling across the sky...who do you think does all that pushing and shoving about, Me, the Wind, that’s who.
When I do jumping jacks and push ups, I become very pumped up and will blow the hat right off your head. I can bend trees till they touch the ground. I shatter windows and churn up the ocean until it erodes the sand from the beach. When I am really worked up I transform small storms at sea into hurricanes and wrestle thunderstorms into ferocious tornadoes. That’s me. I am the Wind.
Sometimes I get restless and change direction. See... I’m like this big can of hairspray. Put me under pressure and I stay put..open me up just a little bit and out I come....Whoosh!
Our old Earth is spinning around. That makes me a little crazy. I blow to the right in the Northern Hemisphere and to the left in
the Southern half. Sometimes I bump into trees, mountains and hills. Sometimes I brings so much rain it floods or none at all and there is drought.
I am capricious. Unpredictable. Fascinating. But most of all...
Out of the corner of my eye, a flutter. A tent flaps. Then another. The sky overhead is dark and the clouds look like tiny pillows of cotton balls, lining up white, then melting into shades of grey and in the distance a rumble of thunder.
It is over in a few breathless minutes. I grab hold of a tent pole and try to hang on, but the tent lifts and carries me across the street as I dangle a foot in the air, landing with my nose pressed up against the window of Ace Plumbing and my knees scraping across the cement. As I glance back I see grids crashing to the ground and hear the sound of glass breaking. Advertising flyers float like confetti around us as we huddle near the ground, hands over heads. Waiting. Waiting for it to stop. Waiting for the Wind, to blow itself away.
I anticipate the yelling, the complaining, the fists raised in anger at the unfairness of it all. Instead, I see hands reaching out, helping me up. Brushing me off. Smiles. Whew! Wow! Checking. Is everyone okay? Anybody hurt? People caring about people. Not people caring about things.
So we sweep and pack and sort and toss. Together. Salvaging what is yet in one piece, folding up tables, tying up loose ends. Packing up boxes and carrying crates.
Then I hear it again. The Wind. Only this time it is singing. Carrying a tune. The notes of the High School Band and we are all singing along. The BBQ is ready. We gather together side by side on hay bales and give thanks for our blessings. I look around me and I see the hands that make Art...are the same hands that Help Up...and for the first time..I am a part of a community.
I am Not A Yeti Yet, no doubt, but a seed of an idea stirs at the edge of my consciousness as I close my eyes that night. Between eyes closed and the coming of sleep, I think about what I can do, what I love to do...and I reach for a pencil and write...
“Wherever the Wind blows”...no illustrations for this story...yet...but I’ll think of
And the Wind whispers..."I believe you. I do."
Chapter 21 | Chapter 23