This city stole my heart when I realized how many artists called this place home.  I still struggle to claim to be anything of the sort (an artist, that is); In my mind I'm still just a "business major".   There is a continuous juggling of two extremes: the first to be willing to make a mess, to create, to "own" the role of "artist", and the second to bring order, to take account, to understand the business aspect.

I met Ashley and her husband Levon -- a painter and a musician, both very gifted -- two years ago at a fireworks show overlooking the Tennessee River in downtown Knoxville.   She and I talked about scheduling and organizing for almost an hour.  She understood the wrestling match of my daily life because she feels it as well.

Recently, a good friend of mine gave me his favorite book after drawing my name for a gift swap.  I was only a few pages in when I came across one paragraph in particular that caused me to close the book to journal for a long while.  The book is the product of a the reaction Henri Nouwen had to seeing a reproduction of a painting by Rembrandt, both of which are titled "The Return of the Prodigal Son".  Nouwen traveled to see the actual painting, an 8 foot tall masterpiece, which he somehow managed to get permission to sit in front of for hours at a time.  The intensity of the light from the window nearby grew and Nouwen began to see the painting in a new way.  The following is his response:

"At four o'clock the sun covered the painting with a new brightness, and the background figures -- which had remained quite vague in the early hours -- seemed to step out of their dark corners.  As the evening drew near, the sunlight grew more crisp and tingling.  The embrace of the father and son became stronger and deeper, and the bystanders participated more directly in this mysterious event of reconciliation, forgiveness, and inner healing.  Gradually I realized that there were as many paintings of the Prodigal Son as their were changes in the light, and, for a long time, I was held spellbound by this gracious dance of nature and art."

The last line totally caught me off guard.  What a beautiful reaction to the commitment of watching the passing of time.

My conversations with Ashley have advanced from scheduling and organizing our businesses.  The most recent was a result of their new addition to the family, as you can obviously see below.  Our question became "how does your art change as a result of your roles changing?"  This has been a season of learning to enjoy the environment while I stand in lines or sit in traffic -- of "smelling the roses" of a busy life.  I honestly believe I have had to slow down to a speed at which I can actually smell them, to be committed to something or someone long enough to see the passing of time, to see the effect of light.  There are many paintings within a painting.  There are many different facets of a person that you would never see unless you stuck around long enough.  I am thankful for this season, for the time to see the "gracious dance of nature and art".   I am confident that Ashley and Levon will see that dance in little Addair and I am excited to see the change in their art as a result of it.

Enjoy this little "day in the life of" their anticipation of their newborn.   May you see the dance of nature and art in your own life.

Their home: an old grocery store renovated, and obviously decorated by the couple. If you haven't seen Ashley's art, check it out HERE. Their home is also Ashley's studio and I got a little carried away with it!

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