Last night Terry and I went downtown with a couple of friends. Our mission: to eat great pizza and try out the new frozen yogurt shop. To my surprise and delight Art Hop was in full swing. After dinner we walked around a bit and landed in Leatherby’s, the ice cream parlor my third grade teacher took a small group of kids to, a reward for getting 100% on our spelling tests that year. Spelling has always come fairly easily to me. I see words in my mind and putting them on paper is a natural extension of the word soup that sloshes around in my brain.
Inside the ice cream parlor the pieces by local artist, Debi Hammond, were on display. Debi used to work in the same district as I do. Although I’d never met her in person, I’d seen her name in e-mails and talked to her on the phone a handful of times.
Last year Debi gave up her job at the district office to pursue her dream of becoming a full-time artist. I congratulated her on such a bold move, marveling at her bravado. She admitted it was scary, but worth it. Now she spends her time painting, drawing, and teaching art classes.
Vibrant watercolor paintings hung all over the walls, but it was a bucket of rocks spilling out onto a table that caught my eye. There were hundreds of rocks, each one with a word written on it. I’m a collector of words. I collect quotes and scribble down word combinations that strike me as funny or compelling. It’s no surprise then that I found myself pawing through her collection of stones. I picked out a handful of rocks, choosing each word carefully, turning the rocks over in my hand as if the words would somehow come true by touching them.
As I sifted through the rocks, Debi told me she’d collected them from Agate Beach, another place I’d been as a child. I asked her how come there weren’t any agates in the lot. She smiled and told me she kept them for herself. I remembered the summer I stuffed agates from the beach into my pockets until my shorts were so heavy I had to grip the waistband with one hand to keep them in place.
Debi held out a small jar and told my friend and I to choose a word from it. Another opportunity to collect a word? You bet! I reached in and pulled out the word “confident”. I laughed because most days I have confidence in spades, but when I picked up the word, my mind flashed back to a conversation I’d had with a writer friend just that morning.
This writer friend had given me the name of someone to contact at our local newspaper. She’d given me the name months ago and I’d not done a single thing with it, a fact I confessed to my friend yesterday morning. I told her I’d been too chicken, had lost my nerve.
As I stood in the ice cream parlor last night, with the word confident in my hand, I decided it was time to put an end to my chicken ways. It was time to stop filling my pockets with stories only to keep them all to myself. Last night I pulled out some stuff I’ve been working on and started fine tuning it for submission. I even sent my writer friend a message asking her for that name again so I could query our local newspaper. Who knows what will come of it, but I’m confident it’s worth a shot. And that’s enough for now.
So today I’m celebrating little words of encouragement and the unexpected places I find them. I hope you find some today, too.