Sunday was a beautiful day. The sun was shining, the temperature was mild, and a gentle breeze rustled the leaves in the trees around Port Warwick where the art and sculpture festival was underway.
A musical group was playing for a festive crowd that wandered past the various exhibits of ceramics, woodwork, jewelry, photography, and painting. This was no small town event. Exhibitors had come from all over the east coast. There was a man from Massachusetts, a woman from Florida, another from South Carolina, probably close to a hundred artists and craftsmen in all. This was a big deal.
Then I saw the man from Woolwine. He sat in a chair at the back of his exhibit, surveying the crowd that strolled past his amazing woodwork with a steady gaze. I normally don’t initiate conversations because I’m an awkward conversationalist and not much of a people person. Maybe it was the years that lay heavily upon his face. Maybe it was the sad and slightly embarrassed expression he wore as the people ignored his work. As a non-best selling author, I know how it feels to have the product of your skill and imagination dismissed or overlooked by the masses. I felt a connection. I spoke to him, and he told me his story.
Woolwine is a small unincorporated community in rural Patrick County, Virginia. There is nothing there. I told the gentleman that the nearby town of Stuart was my wife’s childhood home, and that I had attended Ferrum College down the road for one endless academic year that ran from the summer of 1968 through the spring of 1969. He said that he had spent his life working in Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago, and was tired of being around so many people. He told me that he purchased three hundred acres in Woolwine to take care of that, and joked about being a starving artist. We talked a bit about Ferrum and Stuart. Apparently, there is now a Walmart on the Stuart by-pass. Yippee.
Diane and I wandered away, viewing a few more exhibits on our way back to the car. A lot of people were looking at the work on display, but the only person I saw doing any selling was the Kettle Korn vendor.
I thought about the man from Woolwine as we left. I hope he sold some of his work. I hope his life is good.