A painter and sculptor of wood and stone whose sylvan retreat includes a graveyard and whale bones salvaged from a nearby beach.
An African American “Elvis tribute” singer and musician embarked on the second wind of a fascinating, accidental career.
A mystical, “spirit trained” artist and former field hand who fashions popular creations in her doublewide mobile home from only newspaper, glue and paint.
It’s been my treat in the last week to spend time with each of them on Virginia’s quirky and time-warped Eastern Shore. It’s for a local magazine story that will get at the character and the unique artistic vibe found on that stretch of land most of us know as the prairie to be crossed to get from Virginia Beach to Salisbury and points north.
My interactions and interviews are obviously still stewing around in my head; the work of committing them all to compelling words and narrative is pending. But my two five-hour round trips to the nooks of the Shore, with a side visit to the Chincoteague oceanfront thrown in, were (the most recent) reinforcements of how lucky I still am for the opportunity to sit with strangers and, with their invitation (and for money), let my natural curiosities loose on them.
You are always alone when you write, but never more so than when you commit to writing on commission on someone else’s deadline. Isolation is often a friend, except at those frequent times when it is not. That’s the reality that helps me appreciate, as I began to do in my latter full-time days, the universal forces that allow me to do this thing I do.
There will be pressure, self-imposed as always, to give these stories the truth and energy they deserve. But it is a pulsing thing that lends vitality – and yes, a central relevance – to this phase of time that despite all still seems to answer to “transitional.”