{story} hearty

ten years ago, at a gathering in the mountains of montana, i sat by a flickering campfire with a group of new friends.

we had all set up camp in the same part of the woods and ended up becoming a neighborhood of kindred spirits who often ate dinner together.

after our meal one night, everyone spontaneously started exchanging little gifts. bars of chocolate, jewelry, postcards, tools, tea, candles, and other heartfelt offerings were pulled out of backpacks and shared freely.

i was sitting next to an older gentleman who we affectionately called "hearty." he was a wandering fisherman from alaska who was the human embodiment of pure love.

as the exchange gained momentum, i leaned over to hearty and said:

i'll be right back - my gifts are in my tent.

quickly i dashed through the woods to get the vintage cigar tin i had carried with me from home.

it contained "wood fairies," creations i had made which were delicate painted sticks adorned with shimmery stones and feathers for wings.

the box full of fairies was easy to find in my stash of stuff, but as i walked back to the fire my confidence diminished.

i thought:

everyone else has shared things
that are practical, edible, useful.
my creations aren't any of those things.

by the time i sat down next to hearty again, my resolve to share the fairies was wavering. i shyly opened the rusty box, handed him one, and said:

it's...it's a...i call it a wood fairy.
i made it from sticks and feathers and stones.

he examined it in the firelight for a moment. during his brief silence, my insecurity caused me to blurt out a disclaimer:

it...doesn't really have a purpose. it's just...pretty.

he looked up to see my befuddled expression, put his hand firmly on my shoulder, and said:

oh my.
oh, my dear friend.

he said it with conviction, strength, and truth. he said it with complete clarity. he held my gaze and did not look away.

and then we both smiled.

and my world shifted.

because until that moment in the woods, i had lived in a very pragmatic world.

i came from a place that considered ART and everything related to ART to be LOVELY but NONESSENTIAL.

this idea had been painful for me for a quarter of a century because i was born an ARTIST.

i loved ART. i loved to look at ART. i loved to make ART.

however, i had always been given the message that this LOVE was fun but frivolous. over the years i had grown to believe that ART was not practical, edible, or useful.

hearty looked me deeply in the eye and told me in no uncertain terms that what i loved to do was meaningful.

that making ART has a PURPOSE.

everything cracked wide open for me by the campfire that night.

thank you, hearty.


{photography: lance fuller}
{music: "no poetry" by gary jules}


Courtney said...

What a beautiful story!

Pretty most definitely has a purpose. Art can inspire, shock, educate, confuse, arouse, amuse. While it may not fill basic needs like food or shelter, it definitely helps fill the spaces in between.

keishua said...

I couldn't agree more. Art is so complex and it can move us in so many ways. I think we need it to shock us and open us to life.

Mim Smith Faro said...

Beautiful story! It makes me sad that I haven't yet reached that feeling of being meaningful in most of the areas of my life. I need a Hearty in my life :)

Becca said...

I love this story every time I hear it (and I even repeat Hearty's message to myself now and again!) Love, love, love.

Jo said...

Wow...amazing story! I can totally understand how you must have felt. My background, with regard to how art is viewed, sounds similar to yours. Despite coming from a real melting pot, I think it's really an American view.
Art does have purpose! I really needed to hear these words. Thank you! (And thanks to Hearty, too!)

Mary said...

Aww. Pretty most certainly has a purpose. Your fairies were hand-crafted with care and love.

I loved reading this story and seeing you in that beautiful little film. Thank you.