Saturday, June 1, 2013

Chance Encounters

On the way home from Colonial Beach (taking Mom to her doctor appointment), I couldn’t resist stopping by the Salvation Army on Lafayette Boulevard.  I pulled through the stacks of free books just outside the front door. I spotted a great find, a book of pen and ink flower illustrations, The Flower Family Album, by Helen Fischer and Gretchen Harshbarger, copyright 1941, published by the University of Minnesota.

red daisy on vintage book

As I continued my search, I spied the real treasure. Out of the corner of one eye, I noticed another savvy shopper. He was an older gentleman, wearing khaki shorts and a simple white t-shirt over his tall, slender frame. His shirt was spattered with paint.  Not the big splotches of paint of a house painter, but the small dabs of paint here and there of an artist. My eyes traveled from the palette of his shirt to his kind face, framed by white curly hair and wire-rimmed glasses. I was awestruck.  Could it really be him? Yes, I was almost certain.  It was Cliff Satterthwaite, local plein air artist.

I have admired Mr. Satterthwaite’s work for all the years I’ve lived in Fredericksburg, Virginia. So many times, I’ve spotted him, set up along a city sidewalk, easel standing tall before his inspiration, brush in hand, immersed in his work. I always wanted to stroll alongside him.  I wanted to watch him work, to see him swirl paint on the canvas, to see what or more importantly how he sees.  I wanted to hear his stories.

But I was always too intimidated, or perhaps too self-conscious.  I didn’t want to interrupt his work or disturb the creative process. But here he was today – right in front of me!  I spoke before I could think, before my fear could get the best of me. 

“Mr. Satterthwaite?” I ventured. He turned toward me, and a sincere smile spread across his weathered face.  At once I was at ease. “I’ve admired your work for years. I love the painting of your mother, who as I recall was a teacher, surrounded by little children.” (The Outing)

Mr. Satterthwaite was as pleased as I was. “I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to hear that. ” Words of praise bubbled from my spirit of joy.  I gushed like a teenage girl meeting Justin Bieber. In gallant style, Mr. Satterthwaite politely asked, “May I kiss your hand?  You just made my day.” And just like that, he gently took my hand, raised it to his face, and tenderly kissed my hand. He held onto my hand as we talked of art and shared our book finds.

I asked if his paintings were on display anywhere locally these days. He shook his head, “No, but I have many at my house.  Stop by any time – if you don’t mind a little clutter.” He seemed to be trying to reckon with a world where art appreciation is fickle. We talked about how most people seem too busy or so fixed to their devices that they don’t seem to have time to stop and enjoy art. We joked and shared a laugh because he doesn’t own a cell phone, and while I have one, neither the phone nor the owner is very “smart.”  I complimented him on his traveling work of art – his old station wagon the canvas for color, with line and texture depicting local scenes.  In the laid back manner of an artist that is comfortable in his own skin, he said, “Yeah, I’m working on my truck now.” From any other man this would likely be the addition of more power or perhaps a repair, but for Mr. Satterthwaite, working on the truck means painting the truck – not makeover style, but scenic view style.

As we parted ways, he asked my name and invited me to stop by for a visit, and I surely will.  Meeting Mr. Satterthwaite made my day.

painted truck

I hurried into the local coffee house, Blackstone coffee, on a Saturday morning, preparing for a day of grocery shopping and errands. As I walked up to the counter to place an order for my chai tea latte, I noticed two young boys sitting at a nearby table.  They appeared to be about 9 years old.  The two boys, one milky white and the other light brown, like coffee with cream, sat amiably sipping their “coffee drinks.”  A well-loved though slightly raggedy stuffed monkey was perched on their table sitting between them.

 Still young enough to not think it un-cool to talk to a grown-up and yet fearless enough to talk to a complete stranger, one of the boys approached me and asked, “Do you know you are wearing the coolest shoes ever?”  I looked down to see my snazzy red Converse tennis shoes (a gift from my husband and sons for my 53rd birthday).  I smiled at his sweet face, and then he pointed down to his own two feet.  Ahh, he was sporting his very own pair of red Converse tennis shoes. Of course, even at his young age, his shoes were several sizes larger than my own.  While mine were securely laced and tied, his were laced only half way up and tied loosely for easy entrances and exits.

“Wow, they look way better on you!” I exclaimed.  He gleamed with pride over those shoes.  I couldn’t help noticing the little tag that hung from his t-shirt, a telltale sign of a Goodwill purchase. He looked up at me with the sincerest of expressions and said, “Naw, they look good on Moms, too.” 

By the time my latte was ready, I turned to speak to the boys again, but out the door they sauntered with the little monkey swinging by his arm.

my red Converse tennis shoes

I love that coffee houses often display artwork by local artists.  Sipping my chai latte, I studied the paintings that adorned the walls.  A lady with a sweet smile and a missing front tooth kept glancing my way.  I met her gaze, and she greeted me heartily with “God bless you.”  “Do you like Avon?” she asked.  Well, what self-respecting Southern gal doesn’t like a little of what makes you pretty?  Marilyn gave me a totally kissable mini lipstick in the color “caressing coral.”  She handed me a business card and encouraged me to visit her website.  Marilyn pulled up her hood as she headed out the door. “Oh Lord, it’s gonna rain, and I’ve gotta walk up Route 3.”  I made a little detour to drop her off along my way.  Couldn’t help admiring this artist, too.

Avon sample lipstick

Chance encounters, divine appointments, synchronicity, or serendipity . . . I don’t know the most accurate word choice. But I do know for certain that these inspiring conversations feed my soul. They grow me and test me.  Sometimes I fail miserably, but every so often I fall in step with the day in a way that is nothing short of magical.

1 comment:

  1. We both wrote about thrift shops in our latest posts. But in yours, you spread the true message of Goodwill, in every sense of the word.

    I'm in love with Cliff Satterthwaite, too. Take me with you if you go see him!


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