After the Darkness
Last year at this time, I was preparing for my first three day festival. I've done many single day events and two day festivals but I was feeling a little anxious about a three day event. I made all the lists and all the preparations. I had a tent that was only a few months old. I'd gotten my fire extinguisher re-filled the week before (as required by New Orleans ordinances). I'd purchased re-chargeable lights just for the event. I'd charged up my portable fan and charged the extra battery pack. I had snacks and drinks and fresh ice. I felt completely prepared for my three days by the bayou.
All week I'd been watching the weather forecast and the prediction of rain was showing at less than 40% for Friday and as the weekend approached, the forecast was shifting in our favor.
I arrived at my 3 pm time slot, had all my goods inspected and spent the new few hours setting up my canopy and hanging all my art for that night's festival activities.
Then an unexpected gale storm blew in out of nowhere. Rain was pouring. The wind was gusting strongly from the local waterway. I saw tents lifting off the ground and start spinning by in unnerving spirals. The main stage for the event twisted and collapsed. I saw canopies staying fast to the ground but twisting unnaturally as the wind forced the metal around and around. I saw a swirl of crazy winds spinning items around in bizarre spirals.
My tent stayed firm, but the canopy on top was fast pooling water. I couldn't push it up fast enough. A friend that had already lost his tent to the wind popped into my space. He stabbed a hole into the canopy to release the water and helped me stuff most of my canvases back into the plastic bins.
As the rain shifted to hail, we knew it was long past time to get out of there. We both retreated to our parked cars a few blocks away.
Within an hour, the unpredicted storm had passed. I made my way from car to see what had finally happened to my canopy and my artwork. As I sloshed through ankle deep water and mud, I saw papers and boxes just strewn all over the ground. I had to weave around the twisted remnants of canopies and artwork. It felt beyond surreal. Metal frames and plastic tarps were just randomly scattered. The main stage looked unsalvageable. My own canopy had stayed in place but there was definite damage to the metal frame. I decided to retrieve my car and load up what I could.
My main loss was the tent. A neighborhood man passing by stopped and helped me squish it down enough so that I could at least take it home and see if I could repair the damaged joints. I pushed everything wet and disorganized that I could fit into my car into the back. Some friends came down from Baton Rouge and stuffed some of the bigger pieces into the back of their truck.
My main thought as I sorted through the pieces that night was that it could have been worse. My 8" x 10" prints had soaked up water and were my main loss aside from my tent. My tapestries had all gotten wet, but they washed and came out beautifully.
As the evening shifted later, I found out that the festival intended to go on. I stared numbly at my bits and pieces. A friend offered to lend me his canopy and I decided that I would go back for Saturday and Sunday. My canvases were still drying out (ultimately all of those survived), but I had my 5" x 7" prints, my 11" x 14" prints and my tapestries so I went out to work the rest of the festival. By the end of the second day, I'd broken even after booth fee and the cost of replacing what was lost. It could have been worse.
This week, I am going back to try that three day festival again. The weather, so far, promises to be clear if a little hot. I've started making my lists and preparing my artwork. I'll need to charge my lights and my fan batteries. I'll need to overcome my lingering anxiety about this particular show.
When I saw that applications were open for it, I thought long and hard about whether I wanted to go back. That gale storm was the worst thing I've experienced as an exhibiting artist. I've never seen such devastation at an event, but I realized that this was something I really needed to do.
Just as the Fool survived the collapse of the Tower and moved forward, embracing all his inner potential and his reserves of strength; just as he becomes the Star and begins to realize his own amazing abilities, I needed to accept that sometimes things fall apart. Sometimes you lose so many things that you've invested love and time into, but you can get up and begin again.
As time passes, you remember your amazing inner reserves and you let the power of the Universe flow through you. You remember who you are and what you are capable of.
I can survive disaster because I have amazing inner reserves of potential and power running through me. The Star promises me, just as it promises the Fool, that we can find our path again and keep going, better for having been tested and for having triumphed. Sometimes things fall apart, but we can and will build again.