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Wishes and Regrets

Smoky Hill River Festival

On Saturday I went to our outdoor arts festival, Art in the Park. It was boiling hot, as usual. I wore a t-shirt from one of my very favorite shows–the Smoky Hill River Festival in Salina, Kansas. One of the artists asked me about it.

Smoky Hill is the second weekend in June, i.e. this coming weekend. If you can do it, you should go. It’s wonderful. You’ll have a fabulous time.

I tried for several years to get into that show, without success. Finally, I tried something a little crazy. I figured, why not? On the application, it asked for a description of your technique and process. I wrote: “My technique and process are not nearly as complex as my wild desire to be in your show. Oh, please relent and let me in!” It worked. At last, I was in. What a joy!

Anne and her husband Terry, whom she’d lost a few years ago, in my booth

The show is not only extremely well attended by shoppers, absolutely filled to the brim with color and fun, terrific live music, great food, and wandering stiltwalkers, but the volunteers and patrons are some of the kindest, friendliest people I’ve ever met, anywhere. One of those people died last week.

I’d always intended to go back as a visitor after I stopped doing outdoor shows. I wanted to enjoy everything the show has to offer but I especially wanted to see Ann, my favorite person there, a volunteer who absolutely made the show a wonderful experience for me and for so many others. We’d been Facebook friends but I hadn’t seen any of her posts for quite awhile. Last week her daughter posted that she’d died. I scrolled through her page for an hour or so. I wanted to find out what had taken her and I ended up finding more and more reasons to love her. But now she’s gone. Cancer. Stupid f-ing cancer.

One of the wildly decorated vehicles to be seen at the Smoky Hill River Festival

The last year that I did that show, it was very very hot and my booth did not allow much air to flow through. I’d gone to the volunteer table for water, saying I felt “funny.” Ann wasn’t at the table right then but within minutes of arriving back at my booth, she showed up, her hand on her hip, head cocked, with a motherly look on her face, and said, “You come with me.” No arguing! I followed her to the First Aid station, where they gave me water and had me lie on a cot with a fan blowing on me.

All of the volunteers there were great, carrying two jugs around to our booths, one of ice water and the other iced tea. We had red ribbons to hang on our booths to let them know we needed something. One time I got up on my step stool to hang my ribbon and by the time I had stepped down, a gal with two jugs was standing there, smiling. I said, “Wow! You people are like Jimmy John’s!”

Anyway, lovely Ann. Gone. And I never managed to get back there to see her. I regret that, as I regret losing track of what was going on with her, even through Facebook. I wish I could have offered at least some little bit of something as she went through that terribly difficult time. I regret and I wish. Regrets and this particular wish, pretty useless pursuits but hard to escape.

“It’s not that we have to quit this life one day, it’s how many things we have to quit all at once: holding hands, hotel rooms, music, the physics of falling leaves, vanilla and jasmine, poppies, smiling, anthills, the color of the sky, coffee and cashmere, literature, sparks and subway trains . . . If only one could leave this life slowly!” ― Roman Payne, Hope and Despair

“My heart has joined the Thousand, for my friend stopped running today.” ― Richard Adams, Watership Down

“Whenever I saw a sunset, I would quietly make my secret wish right before the sun tucked under the western horizon and disappeared. It would seem as if the sun had taken my wish with it. I’d make it right before the last speck of light vanished.” ― Michael Jackson, Moonwalk

If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on my website. If you enjoy these letters, feel free to forward this one to anyone you think might like it. And if someone forwarded this one to you, you can sign up here to receive the letters right in your Inbox. Finally, you’ll find past letters and poems here.

Thanks for listening,

P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”

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