by Esther Emery


I’ve been sitting on a power line lately. Remember the lines of energy that the voodoo nurse talked about in Mary Fengar Gail’s play Devil Dog Six? I mean that kind of power line. I’ve had some special access, or perspective, that makes it possible to see connections where I didn’t see them before. Maybe it’s the pregnancy.  Maybe it’s the fact that I’m on a genuine spiritual search. Or maybe I just took the time to let my head clear.

What I do know is that once you open yourself to hearing the truth (and experience the hard knock that probably comes with that), then the truth is exactly what becomes available to you.

At first it felt like luck. A challenging book that I have wanted to read for a long time literally fell off the shelf at the thrift store in Spring Valley, marked $1.95 in red crayon.  I finally read it.

As one non-profit delayed and eventually rejected my offer of volunteerism, another made an invitation. And that second organization turns out to be exactly what I didn’t know that I was looking for.

Synchronicity, right? I’m getting used to it. But this next one still blew my mind.

This evening I showed up fifteen minutes late to a $35 Intro to SLR photography class that I’m taking at Santana Adult School. I thought they were going to show me how to use the buttons on the fancy camera that my husband bought me for Christmas. Instead, I got a powerful wake up call as to the nature of art and the function of the artist.

“The only way we grow as a society,” says the teacher, “is to get more artists.”

Woah. That’s a statement I agree with. But I’m in a trailer at Santana High School. Did I come out here to hear that?

Maybe I did.

“The automatic setting is designed to give you average,” he says.  “Average is nothing to aspire to.”

Dude. It’s hot in here, and my baby is due in three weeks, and I just want to take cute pictures of my kids.

He explains to us that the automatic settings reflect what the eye sees, with the intention of reproducing the photographer’s physical limitations. “Beauty,” he says, ” lies outside of our range of vision.”  It’s a three hour class, and he doesn’t let up. Have a point of view. Know your message. Practice your craft. Be the artist you are. And don’t bother making excuses.

I’ve been schooled.

As Amy and I do our color work on the final scenic design for The Butcher of Baraboo tomorrow, I may be a little less likely to lift the details directly off of a “Wisconsin kitchen” Flickr search, and a little more likely to own the art.

Have any of you had a teacher or a lesson pop up on you like that? Or been taught something you could have sworn you already knew?