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Monday, July 13

it was the best of times, it was the worst of times

Chautauqua brings out the Dickens in me. This truly was a "Tale of Two Craft Shows", though. I'm punning purposely. I also adore alliteration.

OK. Let me start with this humble confession. I am not "cool". I am not one of those artisans that sniffs haughtily and says "just show me the money" inferring that you could set up a show atop a nuclear energy plant with a suspicious leak and that would be just fine as long as people bought your stuff. I love some of the venues we do, the fun of being there is part of my personal profit and loss statement. And I love Chautauqua. How can you not love a place dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge, culture and spirituality?

Granted, I love the fact that I can make a nice profit there, too. I may not be cool but I am also not stupid.

Chautauqua looks like this on a lazy Summer day:

I swear you can feel the stress leaving your body, dropping off your fingertips into the perfectly manicured lawns.

So, we arrive at the gate Friday morning within a few minutes of our assigned time and proceed to unload. The weather is perfect and I choose to believe the dire forecast for Saturday is just a big mistake.

The chaos of set up

becomes our cozy booth

and even though sales were not as brisk as last year, I am content. As a precaution, Russell rolls up the rug in case it rains and we head back to our bare bones efficiency unit, too tired to stroll by the lake or stay for the concert.

We'll do it tomorrow, we say.

But, what we do "tomorrow" is try to stay dry and alive. The storm hit early, with pounding rain, blinding lightning, thunder that rattled the bones. All all that separated us from that was an art canopy that bobbed and weaved with the wind, its sides fluttering, the top groaning, the frame dancing. I sat on my tall artist chair with my feet up and watched the rain start to flood our little piece of the world. Few brave souls ventured out.

I'm sure most of them were doing what I fantasized..curling up with a good book and a hot cup of tea. Not the art carnies. We were huddled inside our tents, wincing at the thunder and wondering what it was we found so awful about those office jobs.

In the midst of it, one of the show's committee persons unzipped our front panel and peeked in. She was holding her slicker closed with one hand and trying to keep a hat on with the other. She was checking to see if we were OK and if we needed help. This is not normal. At most shows, if a storm hits, the committee heads for the nearest bar, sips mojitos and watches us through plate glass, pointing and giggling.

Or so I imagine.

Amazingly, a couple of hours after it started, the storm ended, clouds parted, blue sky, sun, birdsong. We tidied ourselves and our booths and pretended nothing untoward had happened. But kept a close eye on the sky.

The customers came out from their cozy cottages and wandered about. There were some rumbles from above and just as we were set to close down for the night a shower moved through, but we were encouraged about tomorrow and headed off in a group of eight to have dinner and conversation.None of the pictures came out, this is the best:

I won't do the "from L to R are:" because I didn't ask any of them if that was OK, but the artists among them are Cheryl, Tim, Laura and Elizabeth. Not that you could recognize anyone from a photo like that. But we had fun.

Then came Sunday. A perfect name for a perfect day. Sun. All day. Not too hot. gentle breezes. It was an apology from the Universe. People came out in throngs. The strawberry shortcake sale helped.

I love this show. For the sales, sure, but also for the strawberry shortcake and the young boys chanting "Chautauqua Times 50 cents" in the early morning and violin music drifting in and out with the breezes and the streets filled with bicycles and the bathing suits hung over porch railings, children splashing in the fountain. I am not cool. These things make me happy.

You can't buy happy.

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