An Eclipse, A Welding Helmet and the Kindness of Casual Acquaintances

tree people

Detail from “In the Land of the Tree People…” by Michele Bledsoe

Many years ago I was the manager of an outlet store in Indiana. It was surrounded by a handful of other businesses: A liquor store, a laundromat, a sandwich place… and a funeral parlor.

The two brothers who owned the funeral parlor were frequent customers and I always treated them with great kindness and respect. Such a noble profession, to care for the dead. The brothers would often remark that people usually became very uncomfortable around them when they found out what kind of work they did.

I was familiar with the brothers’ regular purchases and often had them waiting on the counter when they walked in. If one of their favorite items was on sale, I would set it aside to ensure they would not miss out on the discount.

Since I was not in need of funeral services, they were always trying to find another way to return my kindness.

Once, while driving the hearse, one brother stopped a funeral procession.. wanting to let my car cut in front. I waved frantically at him to keep going.

Around this time, an amazing event was about to occur: A total eclipse of the sun.

The news was filled with constant eye-safety reminders, instructions on how to view the eclipse, and serious warnings not to look directly at the sun.

Desperately, I wanted to see the eclipse – to watch this once in a lifetime experience unfold! I could not contain my excitement. The eclipse was all I could talk about. The two brothers listened to me rant about it for days.

I was at work when the eclipse occurred. The streets were empty. People were probably trying to avoid accidentally exposing themselves to potential retina damage or blindness.

But, I could not stay inside. I left the counter and stepped out into the deserted parking lot.

I kept my head down. My fists clenched at my sides. I was breathing hard. The air had a weird grainy quality like an old newspaper. I had to fight the urge to look up.

Suddenly, across the parking lot, I heard voices yelling my name.

It was the two brothers from the funeral parlor. They were running towards me, carrying a welder’s helmet.

Before I could say a word, they thrust the welder’s helmet on my head and told me to look up. I was trembling all over. My legs were weak.  I thought I would pass out. So there we stood in the middle of the parking lot: one brother behind me, holding me up – and the other in front of me, holding the huge helmet on my head.

I saw it all.

It was terrifying and beautiful.

I suppose if I had died right there in the parking lot, the two brothers would have treated my remains with exceptional love and care.

Seemingly Random Objects and the Remarkable Mystery of Art

room 237

“Room 237” by Michele Bledsoe

The title of this painting is kind of an inside joke my husband and I share.

Room 237 is a documentary we watched one evening.. a film that explores a bunch of weird theories about the secret meaning found in Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 movie, The Shining.

The documentary was pretty ridiculous..

but when I finished this painting, I understood the connection.

I don’t plan out my paintings.

No preconceived ideas. No preliminary sketches.

I just sit in front of a blank canvas and start drawing.

A strange thing happens when you work this way..

you become a conduit.

Those seemingly random objects form a mysterious language of symbols. On the surface, a painting may appear to be very simple and straightforward… but underneath, it communicates on a much deeper level. Far greater than the sum of its parts – art explores the shared experience of the human condition.

So, I am not going to dissect my painting, examining each separate element, providing a simple explanation for every individual object it contains..

It doesn’t work that way.

Art is not a puzzle to be solved..

it is a mystery to be contemplated.

Such is life.