I was driving past Main St., past the Valley Artisan's Market, where local artists go to sell their work. The artists staff the shop and wrestle with credit card machines, as artists do. Artists never seem to fully grasp how the world works, or want to know.
Once or twice a year, I stop there to buy a gift for Maria, usually on a birthday or holiday. Maria always scolds me and tells me not to buy her things, and I always nod solemnly and vow not to do it again.
But I love buying her gifts, it is a gift to me. Maria never buys anything for herself, and sweet people like her – there are so many nasty and angry people in the world – should be showered in gifts all the time, that's my philosophy.
But I wasn't even thinking of a gift yesterday, I was headed to the bank to withdraw some money.
Maria was not herself, she seemed drained from working on a new hanging piece with an elephant and a goddess. She seemed to be elsewhere, as sometimes happens when she is working on something special.
Suddenly, I felt something pulling me to the curb, it was just the oddest sensation. I felt I needed to go into the Artisan's Market, there was something there waiting for me, something calling to me. It was just an odd feeling.
I am not, as you know, inclined to psychic or mystical moments, at least not very often. But this seemed to be one. I had to go into the shop, it was on the ground floor of Hubbard Hall, the arts complex in the middle of town.
I parked the car and went into the store. There was a gentle elderly man, a painter and artist sitting by the register behind the counter – the members of the market all took turns – and I remembered him from a year ago. He sold me a bracelet I bought for Maria on her birthday in 2016.
I was startled when he said, "hello, Jon, welcome back, you must be looking for another present for your wife. Maria, isn't?"
The man must have been in his 80's, he had the friendliest eyes and was so soft-spoken as to be almost whispering.
He stayed seated, reading a book while I said hello, complimented him on his memory. I did remember that we had a long talk about that bracelet, I told him my wife was an artist and had a very powerful and innate sense of style. I often show the gifts to the artists there, and they often tell me what they think.
The man smiled and I walked right over to the right and looked into the display case. I only went to the one case. I only saw one thing.
I saw a necklace unlike any I had seen before. It practically grabbed me by the throat, and said "Maria!" It was startlingly different and original. At first, I thought it was too different, most of us carry this warning system inside of us that is afraid of being conspicuous. Was it over the top?
Maria has her share of issues and fears, but worrying about being conspicuous is not one of them. I think being an artist is a cure for that.
She cares nothing for what other people think of the way she looks and dresses, she cares about herself and her own sense of identity. Almost every woman in town tells me often how much they admire the way she dresses, but none of them dress anything like her. They tell me they wouldn't dare, and that sometimes seems a sad thing to me.
I asked the man behind the counter if he thought this would be a good gift for an artist. I said it had called out to me, from the street no less, and drew me to it me the minute I came into the shop. There was something powerful about it, I could feel it. I felt she would love it.
"I think she would love it," he said quietly, not at all afraid to offer an opinion about someone he had never seen, but who had been described to him. "You seem to know her very well."
I picked up the necklace, it seem to almost vibrate in my hand, it had energy that was palpable. I turned it over, it was brilliantly imaginative.
It was made from crushed aluminum, bottle caps, a plastic dolphin, shell and pottery shards. "Not only is it not over the top for Maria," I told the artist, "it is Maria." She will yell at me, I told him. "She yelled at you last year," he reminded me, laughing and taking my credit card.
I can't say exactly what called out to me yesterday afternoon. The necklace touches people in a powerful way, Maria has already seen that in just a few hours. Even this morning, when I took this photograph, I felt something strong radiant emanating it, it was a totem of something I do not yet understand and may never understand. I know it summoned me, and I am glad I heeded the call.
Maria can tell the rest of the story, she wrote about it on her blog yesterday. She had been in a funk, drained, I thought, from making a wall hanging piece. Some people don't really think of writing or art as work, but I can tell you it is very hard work, I am often exhausted from writing even for a few hours.
She is out of the funk now.
Maria was wary the minute she saw the box, I told her I wanted to welcome her back, she started to yell at me for buying her another gift, but then she stopped.
"Oh, wow," she said. "This is over the top." And she forgot to yell at me, and just put it on. She said she felt the mojo also. It was very special, she said. Thanks for giving it to me.
Sometimes you just have to listen to those voices that call you to honor love and emotion, and leave anger and fear and argument behind. She asked me what it cost. None of your business, I said, much less than you might think.