Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Brief Encounters

Most days I go about my business and don't pay much attention to the sights and sounds around me. Every once in awhile I'll remember to stop and smell the roses or take notice of a cloud formation or slow down for a yellow light, but mostly I seem to run on the fast track just trying to get things done.

Unless I'm in Reddi Arts - time tends to stand still when I walk in that store. The funny thing about it is that basically Reddi Arts is an art supply store, and I am anything but an artist. At least not the kind of artist that uses fancy brushes and canvas or handmade paper or collage supplies, or clay by the block, etc. But don't let the name fool you. Reddi Arts is way more than just another craft store. Reddi Arts is my own little sanctuary, an oasis of beauty and fun and friendly people on a busy street in a busy world.

All you have to do is walk into Reddi Arts and you will be met by a brightly colored display of plates and vases, or stuffed animals or decorated cows which will bring a smile to your face. Then there's the card department where you can very easily forget that the rest of the world even exists. Without wandering too far you'll find the framing department that is surrounded by the gift department and the art gallery. Any of these spots could be could be considered a shopaholic's dream come true. If you turn right you'll find yourself in a world of invitations so fun that you'll want to have a party just to use the card stock du jour. If you turn in the other direction you'll enter the Reddi Arts pen/pencil/marker room. It's just about impossible for me to walk into this section without, at the very least, trying out a pen or two. There are little pads of paper strategically placed amidst the pens. So I never hesitate to write "Mary" in different colored ink, or with different chiseled tipped markers, or whatever strikes my fancy. Let's face it, pens are on my list of things that you don't really need to live, but how can you live without them?

Reddi Arts also has a very fine copy/print department. If you want something duplicated, the people in that department can not only make you any sized copy you want, they can usually read your mind and know what you want even when you can't quite describe it. I know this because, it actually happened to me not long ago. I went in with a crude drawing on a small piece of paper, and after a lot of questions on "Joe's" part and a lot of dumb sounding "huh's?" on my part, what I had envisioned was magically produced not only on time but with perfection - even though Joe left and Caitlin took over the job mid-project.

And then there's Michael. Michael was the copy machine angel put in my path when I was still trying to come to grips with the facts that not only had my daughter gotten married 3000 miles away from home and I wasn't there to watch, but the man that she married had undergone brain surgery and was left paralyzed. None of us knew at the time if he would live; we were counting hours not day or years. Michael was on duty, the day I went in with a picture of two beautiful kids and asked if he could turn it into a wedding announcement. Indeed, he did that and more. He listened to a mother's fears, wiped a mother's tears and added to a mother's belief that love conquers all, even paralysis. In the ten years since that day, if i ran into Michael, he never failed to ask about my daughter. In my book, that's more than just good customer service. That's about compassion.

But my really favorite thing about Reddi Arts is the framing department. I love going in with a photograph, drawing or other art project, and after all is said and done, coming home with a beautifully matted and framed something that I can hang on my wall, or give away as a gift. I have to admit that I am a tad bit measuring-challenged. I know how to use a ruler, but I'm not very good at measuring things to the nth degree. This is one of the reasons my quilts always turn out just a little bit askew. I like to think this is my Amish nature coming out - that a quarter of an inch here or 3/8 of an inch there are really just my way of proving that only God is perfect.

When framing, however, exact measuring does make a difference. Fortunately for me there isn't a person at Reddi Arts that doesn't know how to be exact. And they know not only color but variations of color - like white that has a tint of red, or blue in it; or green that is not just emerald but kelly; or that there are different shades of black... who knew? It doesn't make a difference what you take in there, Patty or Eric or Amy will always help you pick out the best frame for your picture. It's like magic. When I need a frame I am at their mercy and good judgement. Luckily, I've never been disappointed.

Another fascinating aspect of this particular framing department is that there are no strangers there. Or should I say, I am not a stranger to anyone. I've met artists, button collectors and photographers. I've lost my Visa card and had it returned by people who are honest enough to care. Today I nosed myself right into a converston of a framing magician and a man who had some of the most magnificent photos of Arizona rock formations I've ever seen.

I know it's impolite to just add my 2 cents worth without invitation, but these photos were too awesome to ignore. And the fact that they were of my favorite place in all the land, the Grand Canyon, was just more than I could keep silent about. So one thing led to another and I found out the artist (photographer) is embarking on a career change and is about to have his first photographic show. As one thing led to another in the conversation, I had a very real sense that this was a spiritual encounter.

I'm not sure how or why these things happen, but sometimes I'm real clear that there is a purpose deeper than what's happening on the surface. Sometimes I need the benefit of hindsight, but sometimes, like today, I felt the connection at the time. It was like God, or one of His messengers, tapped me on the shoulder and said, "pay attention, this is important."

This may sound corny but I had tears in my eyes as I drove away. I cried because of the beauty of God's majestic artwork and how I miss seeing it; I cried for photography so well-done that it looked like you could reach out touch the real thing; and I cried because a man I didn't even know was buoyed by a simple comment I made. At first I thought God had put this stranger in my path for my benefit, but I think, maybe it was the other way around. It's possible, that my words of encouragement and praise were just what he needed to hear at that moment in time.

I realize that brief encounters of a spiritual kind can happen wherever you are. I'm guessing, however, that Reddi Arts, like Sedona, Arizona, could very well be a vortex of light and love where everything comes together for the common good.

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