Every time I design a new collection, I begin with some sort of central inspiration point. Usually it’s something simple – a mood, or a style, or a particular print idea that gets stuck in my head. With our upcoming Wanderlust collection, the inspiration point was the idea of serendipity.
Last winter I had been half-listening to a radio program talking about the value of being open to unexpected good fortune, and it got me thinking. There was a time in my life when I made a serious practice of this: of listening carefully, and paying close attention to everything that came my way. It’s actually kind of a skill, and one that I worked at regularly. But somewhere over the past several years, amidst the flurry of family building and house buying and business starting, I stopped paying such close attention. I’m very grateful for the life I have, but I’ve gotten much more focused and task-oriented, and a little less attentive to the unexpected but precious little joys that the universe sends my way. So I started to think about the times when I was very attuned to these little serendipities, and I found myself remembering one bittersweet summer when I was able to give myself over to this idea completely.
The story began the summer of 1998, when I had agreed to house sit for my dad and step-mom while they traveled in Europe for a month. I was in an odd place in my life at the time: I was trying to get over a bad breakup and not healing gracefully, and I had just quit my first “real” job, and was sketchy on what my next steps should be. A month of contemplation in Pacific Grove, CA seemed like just the right thing. And it was good. I didn’t know anyone there at the time (I had been living in Minneapolis), so I spent 4 weeks thinking, journaling, listening to the universe, walking the dog and making jam from everything I could get at the farm stands outside Watsonville. I thought about what I wanted my life to look like, and who I wanted to be, and I felt a sense of clarity for the first time in a while. The week before I was to leave I happened to see a cute little Cabriolet for sale, and decided on a whim to buy it and drive home to Minneapolis rather than fly. Yes, I was much more spontaneous back then. This was kind of a big deal for me: it was the first car I had bought, and it was my entire life savings (which, to be fair, wasn’t much). I thought I was being very responsible by taking the car to a recommended mechanic and making sure it was in good condition. Which, I was assured, it was.
A few days later, I was on the road, off on my one-woman adventure across America. Or half way across, anyway. According to my calculations, I would be home in four days. But that wasn’t to be. I made it as far as Williams, Arizona before the car broke down. Due to the, ahem, foreign nature of my car, there were no parts readily available, so I spent 3 days exploring the area. I rented a car and visited the Grand Canyon, wandered around American Indian ruins, and gazed at the lovely painted desert. It was a minor set-back, but I had time, and I got a really nice mini Arizona vacation out of the deal. A few days and some radiator hoses later, the car was finished and I hopped in and headed East, ready to be home. I made it about 15 minutes out of town before the engine overheated again. Sitting on the side of the road at dusk, hazards blinking, I started to really question whether this car was such a great idea. Eventually, a couple pulled over, and the husband – a former NASA engineer – assured me that I could make it the 1/2 hour drive to Flagstaff – they’d follow me in to make sure I made it okay. The next morning, I took the car to a mechanic, and got the devastating news that I’d fried the engine on my 1/2 hour trek up the mountain. A replacement engine would take an extra 10 days, and and cost almost as much as I’d paid for the car.
At this point, present-day ‘me’ would have aborted the mission, trashed the car, bought a plane ticket and flown home in despair. But this is where that serendipity thing came in. I decided to fix the car. That night, I took myself out to an I’ll-be-in-debt-forever-so-might-as-well-start-now dinner at a nice Italian restaurant and poured out my tale of woe to the sympathetic waiter. Who, it turned out, was also a florist. The next morning, I woke up to a gigantic bouquet of flowers waiting for me at the hotel front desk, and the news that some friends of a friend of my mother’s were visiting Minneapolis from (surprise!) Flagstaff, and I was welcome to stay in their (gorgeous) home in the picturesque hills. Thus began my amazing 10 day adventure in Flagstaff and vicinity. What really should have been a very bad turn of events turned out to be an amazing and kind of life-changing experience that enriched me in ways I can’t quite express. The memories and the impressions of that time made a deep and lasting impression on me.
So all of that was in my head when I decided to base a collection on that trip. I remembered the photos I took as I drove through the countryside, and thought they would be great inspiration for prints, so I dug around in the attic until I found them. It turns out that what I remember as gorgeous images of the desert landscape were mostly photos of telephone poles and grass:
Ah, pre-digital photography. So I improvised a bit. But I was able to draw from all of those impressions of moody skies, dusky mauve and coral mountains, grazing horses and desert landscapes. And the result is our new collection, Wanderlust!
Pingback: Wanderlust Blog Tour – Chalk and Notch on July 19, 2016