A Little Push

And I Fell into Enchantment

Author’s Photo: Artwork by Mark Mueller — Almontgallery

There’s a gallery near the yoga studio I frequent. I pass the art strewn windows often — maybe notice a painting or piece of pottery through the glass, but until yesterday, I’d never set foot inside. When I think about it, I’m pretty certain as to why I never turned the handle, pushed the door inward and caused the bell to jingle. For quite some time, I’ve been mindful about stuff — shedding much and consciously avoiding acquiring new unnecessaries*.

Silly reason! It’s always OK to look.

Yesterday was a gift of the unordinary. A dear friend — Julie, who’d moved far away years ago, was in town and free from any obligation. I, too, was free and so I picked her up and we set out to explore. For her, even though she’d lived here for many years, life and places had changed and become new again. For me, frequent sights and scenes took on a slightly different look as a result of being shared with her.

Our first stop was the Scuppernong trails, where we looked at the big wooden, brown-stained sign and set a course. Originally we thought 4.2 miles would be just right, but along the way, while walking and catching up, time flew. Where the trail split, we chose the green route over the orange and added another mile to the trek. The exercise was a good thing because…

Our next stop was lunch. There is a restaurant in Waukesha, Wisconsin — Taylor’s People’s Park. It has a flat rooftop with outdoor seating — unique in our small town.

The weather was fair — a tiny bit chilly maybe, and we originally asked to be seated inside. The hostess pressed, “It’s really pretty comfortable up there. I’ve been pushing folks to the patio — not sure how many more days it will be open this year.” She smiled and we knew she was right.

We took her advice, ate heartily in our tights and sweatshirts, while surrounded by lunch breakers in business attire. Our friendship took shape sitting in cubicles and eating lunch at a break room table. We agreed neither of us wished to go back.

As we were walking to the car, we passed the gallery. “Want to go in?” my friend asked.

“Sure!” I replied.

We looked at pottery and paintings through windows and as we approached the door, Julie said, “We don’t have to go in.” We were smack dab in front of the door at that point and momentum just carried us through. Sometimes, momentum knows best.

Inside, we were greeted by Mark Mueller and Audrey Casey. They explained the gallery was a cooperative of artists, each renting a space within the space and sharing the responsibility of being open to the public. While James Taylor’s voice carried through the room, we browsed.

Audrey informed us she’d just hung a new piece with her collection. She seemed bothered? troubled? or just puzzled? that it was a quite different from her other pieces. I could tell she was struggling with her choice to leave it amongst her other paintings.

She works in oils and lithographs, the large majority of her paintings are of outdoor scenes, barns and vistas. Her newest addition is a simple rendition of a single spiking plant on a muted background. As she scooted out the door, she said to Mark, “I must have painted it in a green phase,” whatever that means. Artists! —please know I am smiling as I write that. We creatives can be an unpredictable lot.

We then stood in front of Mark’s works. He creates pen & ink and pastel drawings. Most of his pieces are re-creations of Wisconsin sights — scenes of downtown Waukesha, a rocky point on Lake Michigan’s shoreline, colorful chairs on the Union Terrace at the University of Wisconsin — Madison. There was a drawing of a round barn which gave opportunity for discussion between Julie and Mark. Julie lives on a Minnesota farm and the two wondered about the possible reasons for round barns going out of fashion. I found the discussion interesting. I’d never before given thought to round barns.

Before jingling the bell on exit, I asked Mark a few questions. He’s sixty-six and has been creating for over forty years. He said he never thought he’d stay with it this long. Creating the drawings has become a part of his internal fabric and he now knows it’s unlikely he’ll ever give it up.

I’m so glad we entered the gallery, a place I’d never been. All it took to find enchantment, was a fresh set of eyes and momentum’s nudge.

Here are links to Mark and Audrey’s work, if you’d like to take a peek.

And here’s the story I wrote about my original synchronous meeting with Julie.

* Merriam-Webster tells me unnecessaries is in the bottom 20% of words. Is that why spell check does not like it?