Postcards from Phoenix: Feeling the comfort of the town I love

(Published in the Tryon Daily Bulletin, July 6, 2016)

I was in Tryon in June for an unexpected visit. As you may recall, my mother had been living in Tryon for the past year or so, and on this very tough visit, I had to say goodbye.

I had aspirations of writing this column as a tribute to her interesting life, but as I sit here at my computer, it is still too hard to talk about the loss.

What I can talk about though is how it felt to be in the embrace of my beloved town at such a difficult time.

In looking for the positives of such a negative event, I found spending time with friends and family especially comforting on this trip home.

I made the slightly odd decision to attend the opening reception of Tryon Painters and Sculptors’ Landscape show on the evening after my mother’s death. It’s not odd, of course, to want to see the show, but it certainly felt strange to plan a social outing on that particular night. As it turned out, it was just what I needed–two solid hours of putting on a happy face after weeks of only angst and grief.

My brother Corey, an artist in Asheville, had recently joined Tryon Painters and Sculptors, and had his first piece in the show, which is why we’d decided to attend the reception in spite of the unusual timing.

I had been bragging about the group to Corey for some time–about my sitting for their Wednesday night head study class, about their recent move to the stunning new gallery on Trade Street, and about the talented members who are also my friends.

At the reception, Christine Mariotti, Tryon Painters and Sculptors’ current president, swept into the room a little bit late after a long hot day of volunteering at the Barbeque Festival. Christine is a fine example of the kind of people here that I love. She is talented, interesting, kind, and generous, with a devotion to community.

I introduced Christine to Corey, his wife, Jill, and their six-year-old son, Mason, and Christine immediately asked Mason if he would do the honor of drawing the winning name in the evening’s raffle of a painting.

Christine also spoke to Mason about his own art, and I have to insert here as a side note that two weeks later, Mason became the youngest artist to sell a painting at Asheville’s Art in the Park after negotiating a corner of his dad’s booth with the show’s coordinator.  I’d like to think his confidence was buoyed by his treatment at the Tryon Painters and Sculptors’ reception.

The landscapes in the room at Tryon Painters and Sculptors were as varied as the people who created them. If you haven’t seen the show, please get by there before it closes on July 23. I especially loved Christine’s painting, a bright and colorful abstract, and a departure from her usual work.

We all voted on our favorite piece in the show by secret ballot, and I’m proud to say Corey’s “Blue Forest” won the People’s Choice award. What a welcome to the group!

I was happy Corey had such a successful first show with Tryon Painters and Sculptors and proud that Mason was treated as a special guest, but what I appreciated the most were the smiles and hugs from friends and acquaintances on a day I needed them the most.

Losing a loved one–in my case, my mother–is one of the hardest things we have to endure as humans, but a part of life we all have to experience. There isn’t a right or a wrong way to get through such a thing, I suppose. But since it was something I had to go through, I’m at least glad I was able to do it in my favorite place.

Thanks, Tryon, for holding my hand. I’ll see you again soon.
Corey and Mason McNabb with “Blue Forest”