From Thursday through Saturday last week I got in some great training. First an indoor speed session at the track doing 8 X 400m at 6:20 pace. Then a Friday morning 3 X mile repeat session with Sue at sub-9:00 for endurance training. Come Saturday we rode 42 miles in what turned out to be a strong angled crosswind from the south. Thankfully my new aero-positioned Felt carried me through.
So I didn’t feel super guilty about not getting up to do a workout on Sunday morning. Plus there was a different kind of workout to do. I had been invited to be an exhibiting artist at the Kaneland Arts Festival. Any artist can tell you that showing your work is a workout unto itself. Carrying everything out of the house to the car often involves multiple sets of stairs and some lifting of displays as well. When that’s all packed you head to the venue and unpack it all to carry it inside. Then comes the setup itself, which involves carting work back and forth to make things look great.
During setup, a calamity happened. The display table they’d given me broke on one end and everything I’d stashed on the table came sliding down to crash at one end. That sent my drawing supplies careening at a thirty-degree angle and they spilled out on the floor. Pastel pieces flew everywhere . Even the cleanly organized new set that I’d brought with me to the show wound up colorfully jumbled.
Obviously the organizers felt horrible. But by the time I’d finished arranging things it made sense for me to get rid of the replacement table they’d brought me. My classic French easel would do the trick.
Part of our agreement was to demonstrate by creating art during the afternoon. As hordes of people rolled past, I talked with the parents and kids, even inviting some to participate in the drawing. What better way to share in the process?
Some of the work I was showing is part of the Road Trip group of paintings and drawings I’ve now exhibited at Water Street Studios in Batavia and at The Old Elburn Hall where we recently conducted a paint and sip night. Come September of next year, the show will be hung in the Center for Faith In Life building at Luther College leading up to my 40th college reunion.
Reeling in the years
Yes, I’ve got that many years under my belt. Which also made it interesting to stroll down the hallway at Kaneland where I was a student from 8th grade through sophomore year. We’d moved to Illinois in 1970 when I was 13, leaving behind all my friends back in Pennsylvania. In Illinois I made all new friends in short order.
Then in 1973, my father moved us again to St. Charles, where I made all new friends heading into my junior year. That move from Kaneland was awkward in many ways because I still saw my former classmates at cross country and track meets. In fact the group of guys with whom I’d been teammates in track won the state championship their senior year.
I found the photo of that team deep down the line on the Wall of Fame where state level athletes were honored. There was another Kaneland track team next to them that had earned second place in the state track finals. I looked at those two pictures and realized they were in the wrong order.
There was actually something liberating about finding that mistake. As high school athletes we all live for those achievements and the near term glory that comes with them. We also live with those accomplishments, or lack thereof, for the rest of our lives. I remember being proud for those athletes and impressed at the performances each one of them brought to that state championship. I didn’t make it to the state championship at the Class AA level. I went down to watch the meet, and on the way home flirted with a stunning Kaneland girl that I’d long admired and scored a date with her the following week. Sometimes the mystery of absence and lack of familiarity is enough to even the score.
To their credit, many of those former teammates went on to success in life. Some are already retired in their early sixties. One was a fire chief. Another a corporate pilot. Successful accountants. The list goes on. They were smart people, those Kaneland guys and gals.
I looked at that photo and realized that as life diverges it also comes back together again in so many ways. Then I noticed a photo of the Kaneland basketball team that had placed second the very spring I moved out of Elburn to St. Charles. The coaches at the school all agreed to pick me up on rotation and drive me to Kaneland the rest of that school year. My father must have arranged that, but no one told me the details. I was just a moody kid who could run a little bit and grateful to be able to finish out the school year and the track season. Frankly I felt a bit like a chess pawn in some game that I did not understand.
Years later I asked my father why we moved. Was it the gas shortage, or to put mom closer to work at her job? He replied, “No, I just didn’t want your brother to play basketball in the slow-down offense at Kaneland.”
My brother went on to be All-State Honorable mention in Illinois and earn a full ride to play ball at Kent State University. My father was playing a chess game of sorts, and he was right to do so. Yet I asked him, “But dad, what about me? I was class president and the top runner in cross country?”
He looked at me and smiled, “You were a social kid. I knew you’d get along.”
A loner of sorts
I was also a loner of sorts. Loved to wander the woods and go birding. My Kaneland classmates loved to tease me about that. Some days it made me hate them.
Then there were all those laps run around the high school. We ran as a team, yet we’re all soloists of a sort when it comes to that inner drive. Mine was fueled as much by anger at some of the injustices I saw and felt around me. Some were real. Others perhaps more imagined. Such are the vagaries of the artistic mind.
All that personal history swirled around in my head as I walked out the doors at the end of the Kaneland Arts Festival. I recall having trouble concentrating in school back in those days. Study hall and even class time was filled with me drawing cartoons and detailed copies of black and white photos from the Track and Field News magazines that our coach Bruce Petersen encouraged us to read.
I know now that my brain works differently than a lot of people. It was a struggle at times to make it pay attention in Spanish class or even worse, those horrific math classes that vexed me so. I did ace Geometry, because it was visual and I got to draw some, but by the time I got to Algebra at St. Charles I damn near flunked the course.
We can’t always look ahead and know our aptitudes or our destinies. We can only respond the best way we know how. The mistakes we make or the failures we feel can come to dominate us if we’re not wise to the fact that those experiences may change us, but they do not define us.
Some might call that the Art of Living. It is honestly a workout that never ends. Until it does. But by then it is our hope that we have done that workout well, and learned to live with the joys and the consequences.