Art is in the Air at Carilion

Among the many guests with whom I had moving conversations this past weekend was a handsome young man who came up to me and pointed out an extensive scar. "I know it will sound crazy at first," he said, "but I wanted you to see that I survived this injury and got 77 stitches. I had been touch-and-go for 7 minutes, in the emergency room, back when this happened, but the angels helped me stay. I say angels because when the accident happened and I was unconscious, I saw 7 angels. So you can see that 7 is my lucky number, or that's how I see it. And the only thing as lucky as 7 in a long time is getting to see your art here."

Curiously, a few hours later, another guest with an extensive scar also pointed out his past injury. He was also cheerful.  The conversation began when he was studying my sketch, the pencil work in progress for the Spring painting, full of animals and a dog-walker, seen only from the ankle down, so we are at ground level, where the short-legged dog on the leash confronts an imposing toad, a rabbit freezes near mountain laurel, a damselfly balances on spearmint, and Vivaldi's concerto drifts behind a raccoon enrobed in a kind of green honeycomb of magnified chlorophyll.

"Where is the bear?" he asked. "There is going to be a bear, probably, but she'll be in the Winter composition. I'm just in Spring now."

"This scar is from my pet bear," he said. "You do NOT have a pet bear!", I exclaimed. But the man explained he had helped a young cub whose mother was killed by a truck, and the cub grew up friendly and pet-like, but was never exactly a pet. "Took a swipe at me when she had her own cubs," he smiled, "Just being a protective mama." "Well, PLEASE be careful," I said, "and thanks for stopping to enjoy the sketch." "Oh, my pleasure," he said, "I can see you know wildness, too. It's great to see the beauty of nature inside the hospital. I'm glad you are here." "Remember Henry David Thoreau? Who wrote Walden?", I asked the guest, "Thoreau wrote, 'In wildness is the preservation of the world.'  In wildness, and in hospitals, too, right?" "Yes! As of today!", he smiled, and waved goodbye on his way.

Jane Lillian Vance