Just joining the article series? You can begin with Remembering Sue Weiland (Part One).
I reached the exit that would lead me to Mary Weiland’s home seven hours after breaking free of the powerful force field that holds Chicago traffic to speeds topping out at 20 mph once one gets on the highway out of town.
Turning off of I-94 just before Wisconsin turns into Minnesota, I was spellbound traveling along miles of breathtaking country roads as the late afternoon sun showed off fall colors just reaching their peak. Wild turkeys were gathering in the harvested fields and a pheasant walked out in front of my car, letting me watch him for a while before he headed between the rows of drying cornstalks. It was magical in that way only Indian Summer in the Midwest can be.
I pulled up to the house matching the address I had scribbled on a random slip of paper and was promptly greeted by a Weimaraner, a breed dear to my heart, as though she had been waiting for me all along. Although I did not know it at the time, this was Patrick’s dog, Blue, who eagerly escorted me up to the home, wagging her cropped tail as though she expected us both to be let in. I rang the bell and waited.
No one was home.
Unease crept in quickly as I thought, “On, no, Monkey Man, (referencing my brother-in-law, whose caution was now forcing its way into my head), say it isn’t so! I am not really out in the middle of nowhere, going to stay with people I don’t know, only to find myself on a deserted dead-end street out in the country.”
Biting my lip and expecting the worst, I reached for my cell phone. A signal! I dialed Mary’s home and learned that I was in fact just one house off. They were waiting for me just the other side of the tree line.
Patrick greeted me in the driveway, quickly grabbed my bag, and led me to the house. Passing the garage I peeked inside the open door to see a table overflowing with Wisconsin style fireworks.
“Check this out! People have been so nice to us. A woman at the firework store told me she is walking in the walkathon with us tomorrow and she donated all this to the party after!”
Eyeing the display, I see the crowing glory: Shagadelic Mojo?!
Patrick cracked up. “Yes! Isn’t that fabulous! We’ll set it off tonight.”
Stepping up to the house he adds, “This is where my mother has been holding her Artist’s Way groups for the past 10 years.”
Well of course it is. Why not? After all, if it were not for Julia Cameron, I wouldn’t have left my job, become a coach, and written that article. If I had to name one book whose reading and working of its program had concretely changed the course of my life, that would be it. I seemed to have landed in just the right place.
Entering the living room, Patrick introduced me to his mother and a friend of hers also staying there. We immediately launched into extended conversations about the Artist’s Way, Sue, and various family histories. My ease with the Weilands was far beyond what one would expect to feel upon meeting strangers in such tragic circumstances. Yet, they immediately felt like family to me as we followed a meandering river of conversation sometimes punctuated by tears, sometimes by laughter. We traded books, relaxation tapes, stories, and poems. It was like a big show and tell and all of it meaningful, every bit revealing something to each other.
After some time we broke for dinner, lavishing oohs and ahhs over the gorgeous organic produce they got from a local farmer and then…
Note: In autumn in Wisconsin, leaves are dry. Oak trees are full of dry leaves.
These were serious fireworks: multi-firing huge fireworks that went on and on after a single touch of a match.
How that oak tree did not go up like a Roman candle is beyond me.
“Patrick, no more!”
Mary’s eyes were fixed on the shower of cinders falling among the branches on this breezy evening.
“Okay.” Pause. “You know, these are made so that they cool off quickly.”
I cracked up. “Oh, yeah, Patrick, nothing bad ever happens as a result of fireworks!”
He shot me a look (ix nay on the ire fay) and started laughing, guilty as charged.
As the last cinder faded, the moon waxed full over the trees and the ladies went to bed leaving Patrick and I to contemplate our journey.