This weekend, I participated for the first time ever as a vendor, offering photos for sale. These are photos I took because I thought something looked pretty cool, and apparently, others thought the same. So I was invited to participate as an artist. Really? Me, an artist? And so it was.
The venue was a brand new one, more geared to being a music and beer venue than an art venue. Each vendor made a few sales ~ even me! It was a two-day festival near Ennis, Montana, an area known for fishing and being a gateway to Yellowstone. It’s also known for being VERY windy, hot, and dry. The booths were set up on pavement, and the camping area was dry, rocky and filled with prickly burrs. Most of the vendors were in campers and RVs; some traveled home. I was camping the only way I know how ~ in a tent with a sleeping bag.
As this was my first outing, I really allowed myself to be a novice, in training, learning and open to whatever life threw at me. It was a strange place for me, as my usual modus operandi is to only do publicly those things which I already know I can do well.
For my equipment, I borrowed. I had a bamboo rug from Joe for the floor of the booth, a booth with sides from DG, easels from a fine establishment (which must remain nameless to protect the donor), a tent from Rob, and a lantern and pad from Lyndsay. I shopped locally for everything, from the tutorial on the use of Square for my sales to the tank dresses from Kalley’s Corner and the sandals from Miller’s; from the prints by Rose at InstyPrints to the framing by Shane at Buffalo Gallery. I was so honored to be asked and so excited to actually have something that people would want.
When I got the car packed up on Friday morning, I was ready to leave ten minutes ahead of schedule. I realized when I was getting my tea for the road that I had forgotten my business cards and my taller chair for the booth. So back home I went, putting me behind. When I took the exit at Belgrade to head to Four Corners to get the tent for the booth, I took a wrong turn and didn’t realize it until I was at a crossroads ten miles from the place I made the wrong turn. So backtracking I went, now even later. I drove Montana Highway 84 to Ennis, a breathtaking ride along the Madison River through a stunning canyon. In all my travels, I had never been on that road before. It was well worth the trip!
I arrived in Ennis and knew that I needed some lunch and to fill the five-gallon water jugs that I borrowed from Rob. Luckily for me, the bank had a hose and when I stopped to visit my cousin, Luanne, we had a good chat as I filled the jugs. I arrived at the Moods of the Madison and spent a couple hours getting set up, popping up the tent, attaching the sides, and securing it with the water jugs. I had a great spot, right across from the port-a-potties. My neighbors were setting up as well; to my left was an oil painter from Bozeman and to my right was Butte gal turned Harrison rancher, Nikki Edmundson with her Canty Boots. They were supportive, friendly, and compassionate, assisting with securing the tent and giving me pointers on vendor sales all weekend. I visited the Seasonal Montana booth, one removed to the right, for a grain fed fresh burger after set up then changed into my first tank dress and I was ready for the event!
The temperatures neared 95 with wind gusts that seemed to come from every direction at once. I did a lot of holding down and pressing back to keep the booth from collapsing~ which made me very grateful for the workouts I have been doing! Dinner was courtesy of Cousins Lori and Wally who had a booth from 20 Below Dining and the Longbranch ~ I wished it was 20 below a couple times. (Okay, maybe not quite that cold.) The sky at dusk was really cool and I found a heart in the sky and took a photo as it captured how open I felt my heart was that day!
The people who stopped by to see me admired the photos, asked questions, and wondered if I had painted them (which I took as a great compliment!) On Friday, one person purchased one of my photos and I put the money in my hat. (Gotta save the first sale, right?) The music was pretty great, with the night ending with Grand Funk Railroad! They played many tunes from my early teen days, from Locomotion to Some Kind of Wonderful to Walk Like a Man. They ended their set with We’re an American Band ~ and I was ready for bed!
The tent was not going to make it on the ‘camping’ ground so I placed it inside my booth and crawled inside for the night. Did I mention that I was directly across from the port-a-potties? Every time someone came out of one, the spring door slammed back to close, making a sound like a gunshot. Any thought of sleep would have to wait until that sound stopped. That happened at about 2 a.m.
I woke at 7 and took a trip into town for a little breakfast at the Ennis Cafe. After breakfast, I pulled off Main Street and took a photo of the fourth fish in town, behind the bank. When I got back to town, I changed into tank dress number two (the second time I have worn a dress in nearly ten years!) and relished a homemade cinnamon roll and an iced vanilla latte, compliments of Nikki!
Day two brought visits from several Butte friends, some Ennis family, and even some more sales. I flirted with Mike, a retired police officer from Anaheim, and we shared war stories about our work with the FBI. He took my number; I didn’t get his. But hey! I flirted! As my neighbor the oil painter was preparing to leave, she gave me a plein air painting she did during the day that included my Jeep. It was such a generous offering ~ I wish I would have had the presence of mind to offer one of my photos to her.
Tearing down the booth was almost as challenging as putting it up was. I had the help of Paul who had been having a few beverages during the day (okay, he had more than a few.) We got everything repacked and I loaded the Jeep and drove to Robin’s house where she had pulled out the couch bed for me. As I started to settle in, I remembered the oil painting which I had set on a nearby vehicle to dry. I dressed and drove back to the grounds and retrieved the painting, repeated my good byes and headed back to the quiet haven on the other side of town to sleep. After curling in again, I remembered that the tent stakes were left on the side of the road. I texted the numbers of the people I hoped were still there and sent them searching (in the dark) for the stakes. Cell phone coverage in Ennis is not the best, and I lost reception for the evening after sending the first pleas for help. So I went to sleep.
On Sunday morning, I returned to the booth site and looked for the stakes. They were nowhere to be found, so I made my way back through the Madison River Canyon to the studio at Four Corners to return the booth tent. And it was back to Butte the return the rest of the materials from the weekend. I made my traditional pit stop at Wheat Montana for a chocolate croissant, and I learned that the supplier for one of the ingredients for the chocolate went out of business and since they could not find a suitable replacement, they took the chocolate products off the menu. I ‘settled’ for a cherry turnover and made my way west on I-90 home.
Upon arriving, I returned the easels to their rightful home and headed to brother Rob’s house where everyone was converging. I was just in time for breakfast and Kristal (a GREAT cook) was preparing it. I spent some quality time with the three youngest of the family, had some breakfast, and learned of the death of a friend and the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer of a family member and a prediction of three months to live. The roller coaster of emotions was on and I am pretty sure that the sleep patterns, the heat, the sun and wind burns and the original feelings of angst about the vending experience combined to get my attention. In an instant, the context shifted from the failure to the opportunity. Instead of being disappointed about how things went, I was thrilled that I am alive to have the experience.
It was a good setup for the rest of the day. I took a long, cool shower and was grateful for the shower head from my old home on Quebec Street in Arlington (provided by Natalie many years ago!) because I could adjust the stream to be gentle on my sunburned back. I dressed for Geno’s 85th surprise birthday party and headed to Divide. Those same Ennis family were there, and they happily took all the photos I had of Ennis to put for sale at the Longbranch and 20 Below Dining IN Ennis! Happy dance! I loved seeing all the great people there to honor a great man and fine neighbor. He sang a couple songs in Italian ~ I ate a couple pasties ~ and in the midst of the party, I learned that MacKenzie and her team won the State Championship in softball! The emotional roller coaster was taking another spin!
We all packed up the place after the party and headed home to be there in time for the fire truck ride through town for the state champs. Seeing the huge smiles on all the faces of all the kids AND their parents was awesome, and even the little brothers and sisters got to pile on the truck for the cruise through town. Mom and I joined MacKenzie and her family for dinner and ended the weekend with a celebration at Mack River.
And today I collapsed. At the suggestion of my accountability buddy, I scheduled a massage and took the day off. I even logged off Facebook for the evening.
There are so many lessons to be learned; there are so many opportunities in every day, every moment, to celebrate life, to give and receive, to infuse love and life into the moment. And it can shift in a New York minute, leaving us with the choice to be thrilled and honored or annoyed and frustrated. We can choose love and passion for life; we can be present to what life is throwing at us and when we allow others to play, we extend the field, growing an exponentially magnificent world.
When I allow you to play, I get to be in a bigger game. When I can express glee AND sadness, I can have compassion for myself and for you. When I look for the best in every happening, I open myself to love. I become a clearing in which love can appear. And I am most fully alive ~ whether I am bolstering a tent against a 35 mph wind gust or getting a massage. And that’s the world I prefer to occupy.