June 1st marked our third year together as a couple and our first year of cohabitation. After missing our last anniversary due to work we wanted to something special, special and within a reasonable budget. We considered our options and since flash floods eliminated any camping possibilities we decided to go to our favorite place nestled in the heart of the Smoky Mountains: a lovely little house homed by one of the most successful couples we know, Jared’s grandparents. It might seem a bit unconventional but I can think of no better way to celebrate our time together than by being with two people who have made it work for over 64 years of married life.
Surrounded by rows of flowers and a lovely garden, their home is a lovely respite from our routine and a wonderful chance to spend time with some of our favorite people. I have been treated like nothing less than family since I was first introduced to them – I’m even referred to as their “adopted granddaughter.”
Our plans settled, we packed up my truck on a Thursday afternoon and headed to the Mountains. When we finally emerged from Atlanta traffic and started entering more rural territory, I could feel myself start to untense and relax. The sun was slowly beginning to settle into evening and it cast a beautiful golden haze on the landscape, illuminating the mist and gilding the trees. Every mile that rolled by seemed to melt away any pressures or anxiety that remained.
We got to spend some quality time with Ma and Pa and rejuvenate ourselves as well. Adjusting to their daily schedule proved quite beneficial; we went to sleep earlier, got up earlier, and had meals earlier too. That alone added hours to our day. Every day we had tasty homemade country meals with farm fresh veggies. Ma even took us to the local produce stand where she gets said veggies, and of course I managed to pick up a new plant to add to my menagerie. Later, we drove into town and toured an art walk in the historic square. We even had time between trips to work in our sketchbooks.
Something about the atmosphere and probably the lack of responsibilities made it a lot easier to focus on art. Stepping back from our daily lives and adjusting the perspective helped me shake off insecurities about my art. If you make art out in the middle of the mountains and no one is around to judge it, does it matter if its good or not? With this in mind I was able to concentrate on the parts I liked. I’m one of those weirdos that actually enjoys watching paint dry – I love seeing the color-laden drops get sucked down into the fibers of the paper and how the touch of a shadow suddenly adds dimension to a subject. Suddenly, I enjoyed making art again and I didn’t care how it looked. Okay, I cared – but at least not to the detriment of my momentum.
Interestingly enough, working on art again did something to my state of mind: I felt happy again.
Not to say I was extremely unhappy to begin with (perhaps a touch of ennui) but I started to feel whole again sitting at that table painting a rundown rock shop. It was like I was missing a part of myself and I hadn’t fully realized. This feeling of completeness in turn was also making me a better partner to Jared. Feeling incomplete left a raw edge on me; I would get irritated more easily at insignificant things and I had a hard time letting go of things that bothered me. It’s like your brain is trying to fix what is wrong but can’t find the source of the problem so it vents that energy into really dumb things.
Though we both still have a lot to work on to be as great a couple as, say, Ma and Pa, being true to ourselves and our art is definitely a big step in that direction. This trip was exactly what we needed it to be and I look forward to more years ahead.