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The Hubbub and the Healing

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I've just returned from a road trip to West Liberty, West Virginia, just north of Wheeling. Three weeks ago, I visited a Zickblitz upon the campus of West Liberty University,

giving a library talk, a luncheon talk, a Hughes public lecture, and hanging 46 of my paintings from Letters from Eden in the school gallery. (Art professor Robert Villamagna and I hung them all in about two hours using a only a hammer, nails, a length of string and our eyeballs, the finest measuring device known.) There was a public opening, and there were a couple of dinners, too.

All this happened over a four-day span. It was really fun. I talked a lot, interacted with students and faculty, stayed in the fabulous alumni house on campus:

Yes, that'll do. Just fine, for a few nights.

I felt so honored to be invited, so delighted to share some stories and paintings with interested, like-minded people. I love being caught up in the current trend of honoring area artists and writers. It's smart; it makes sense, and I thank English professor and Hughes Lecture Chair Peter Staffel for thinking to invite me. Let's face it: it's more affordable than bringing someone in from another state or foreign country, and it sends a message to students that there are creative people worth engaging all around us. That sends a message that they have permission to grow up to be one of those people; that they don't have to flee their homes in order to make their mark. If nothing else, at least I can offer them a living, breathing example of someone who lives in Appalachia and writes and paints about that life.

I can function pretty well with a lot of hubbub, and I enjoy it, but there comes a point when it's time to recharge the batteries. I'm a textbook introvert. When called upon to be an extrovert, I can rise to the challenge, but my resting mode is introvert. I'd guess that most writers are introverts, and many, if not most, artists.

Although there's kind of a stigma associated with being an introvert, I don't believe that it's any better to be an extrovert. It's just different. As Murr points out, it's about from whence you draw your energy. Extroverts draw it from other people, from the hubbub. Introverts draw it from within, and they must flee the hubbub to recharge.** Extroverts accomplish a ton of good things, giving of themselves on boards and committees, gathering others around them, sharing their vision. But I think that a lot of good things come from people who like to work and create by themselves. If the world was composed of only extroverts, we'd all go crazy. If we were all introverts, it would be a really quiet, boring place. We balance each other, even if we don't always understand each other. Right, Dearest?

**thanks for this crystallization, Murr.

Along about the last morning of my stay, it was time to walk. I wished I had Chet Baker with me. I've found that being alone with him is better even than being alone. He fits perfectly into that special space where I'm delighted to finally be still and quiet and alone, but I'm just a tiny bit lonely, too. He doesn't analyze or criticize, go off on tangents or make any background noise. He just keeps me company.

I drove north up Route 88 toward Bethany and took the first right turn I found, which is Garrison Run Road. I had seen it on my first evening and made a mental note to check it out. Oh, was I glad I did.

To my eye, this looks like a place which has been strip mined and recovered. I may be wrong, but I think that's why it looks like it does. Which is pretty ironic, because I found it heartbreakingly beautiful with its forest dress taken off.
I don't know. Maybe it's just hayfield. Let's call it hayfield. That's a mighty old barn. Maybe it pre-dates strip mining.

There is actually a palm warbler in the middle of this shot. I didn't bring my telephoto lens, d'oh! because I didn't think I'd have a chance to sneak off and be in nature.
There were migrant meadowlarks singing their little hearts out, too. Oh, what a balm that was to my ears.

There was a big clump of foxtail growing up in the bend of the barn roof, catching the morning sun. I'd never seen that before!

In this landscape, you can see some of the taller buildings on campus, nestled in the forest. It's such a beautiful place to go to college. If I studied or worked there, I'd come to Garrison Run as much as I could. I wondered if any of the students knew to come here to get all fixed up again.

Soon I plunged down into the woods, leaving my car a couple of miles behind. It was so golden, so alluring in the morning light. I could have walked down that road all day.

Oh, pardon me! I didn't realize...

May I ask what exactly you two are doing?

They weren't talking, and I still haven't figured out what these two sugar maples, which appeared to be from separate root systems, were up to. Whatever it was, it was pretty sexy, so I left them in peace.

I walked awhile longer, having a conversation with a redtail and some song sparrows, and then it was time to go back to the surreal world.

As I came up out of the woods, the light played across the hayfields

and the chicory set its blue up against the sky and asked me to pick which I liked more

and neither of them won, really, because they were both beautiful in their own way, and I loved them both the same.

Heartfelt thanks to West Liberty University, and especially Peter Staffel and Robert Villamagna for making it all happen.


Yup. Took that famous test quite a while back, and I came up so introverted that anyone would have thought I holed up in the bathroom. And I'm not at all shy. Then someone explained that it describes where you get your energy. Some people accumulate energy from others, some burn entirely from within--even if they're willing to share. And thanks for sharing.

From an introvert at heart, I liked this. People do charge me, however, in a big way. I think it's a virtue to find contentment in being alone, admiring the countryside, the tiniest flower, and sexy trees. I'm glad you shared this wonderful side of you, Julie.

what a wonderful shifting verbal and visual ramble, in and out of your head. Loved it.

Loved the description of you and of me, too. And the beauty around you. So glad you knew where to go to recharge so you can continue to give us all delightful insights into this world and yours.

My mother was a successful artist. She had paintings travel across Canada with the National Gallery, her painting sold well, some for several thousands of dollars- that's 1970 dollars.

Her talent was recognized "away". The problem was with home town folks. "oh, that's just one Betty's painting".

If the person or attraction is local it can't be good/special.

Congrats to you and hats of to the college for recognizing locals.


What a lovely trip for you Julie. And, what an honor to have your beautiful art displayed there. It is a beautiful place indeed.

Ohhhhh, this is fantastic. I can identify so much with the dual natures you're presenting here, Julie. I too enjoy the hubbub up to a point, and then I love a bit of solitude, wandering, recharging on my own. I'm starting to think a dog might be a nice sidekick on those jaunts. The cat can always sit with me and a book.
I always enjoy hearing other people's stories about good partnerships made up of individuals with different personality traits. It can be a struggle and such a great strength.
I have to say however, I am SO VERY impressed that you hung that art 2 hours...with just your string and eyeballs...and that no one got killed. :) THAT is impressive.

I highly recommend the Boston Terrier as a perfect introvert's companion who doesn't talk over your thoughts (doesn't even bark!), but who is always ready with warm kisses when you most need them. They also understand that even introverts need to get jiggy now and then and are ready to play at the drop of a hat, stick or ball. Interestingly enough, BT's act like classic introverts--they are delighted to play and socialize when the opportunity arises, but oh, they need their down time too, to think their own private thoughts and nap the day away.
So many of the interpersonal bumps I have boil down to the friction between the introvert and the extrovert. It's important to remember that we all have degrees of each in us, but one tends to prevail. Defining which you are really helps in understanding how you react to social situations, and how people react to you. And accepting and embracing which you are is most of the battle.
As for hanging the art in two hours---Robert Villamagna has taught classes in exhibit design. He showed me how to run a string all along the wall at eye level and just center each painting on the string. HUUUGE time-saver. We also leaned heavily on the "close enough, let's move on!" mantra. 'Cuz as long as they're straight, nobody notices if they're a half inch off anyway. Hanging an exhibit, like housework, like planning a wedding, will take as much time as you GIVE it.

No background noise except from the occasional fart ...

Really nice contemplative post.

Loved the pics, but did they do strip mining in Ohio? That one shot just looks like the PA farmland I'm familiar with.

Does Chet go into stare mode? Sam and her friend, Brooke will just stop and stare apaprently at nothing. Today Sam froze in the hallway at school. I was calling her and motioning for her to come, but nope, frozen. Finally realized she had stopped outside of my coworker's office. Today is Friday, which Sam knows as french fries from Priscilla day. One staring moment explained...

I find the interface between introvert and extrovert an interesting one.
The shared intimate details, through personal thought or imagery is often far greater by those who are perceived as introverts, than by the very expressive who might define themselves more as an extrovert.
I never really thought about what fuels the fire of each.
And perhaps the fuel from within is what yields that most raw and universally understood thought that immediately strikes a chord with another.
Enjoyed the walk.
And enjoyed following along in thought.

I disagreee that there is a "stigma" on introverts... y'all just operate diffrent, and sometimes it's hard to figure ya out!!!! Take it from a strong extrovert living amoung introverts.... y'all are just hard sometimes!!!!!! And I suspect you might be better than most introverts at "rising to the occasion..." Takes courage to stretch your borders....

I did go to that school, but I didn't go to Garrison's Run Road... I went to Weidman's Run Road :) That's where I saw my first Indigo Bunting.

Thanks again, Julie, for taking time to come spend with us around Wheeling and West Liberty, and let me know the next time you're coming up, I'll show you my favorite spots :)

I really enjoyed this post. Thanks for sharing a little bit of your self.

I knew from a very young age that I was an introvert, and never felt particularly stigmatized by it, but it wasn't until the last 5 years or so that I finally learned how some of my actions and preferences were connected to my introversion. I had always assumed "introvert" = "shy person," but that theory has been disproved many times in the last few years, and I'm learning that I'm not even as shy as I think I am. Thank you for sharing this part of yourself with us Julie... it's not always easy. Heal thyself with long walks and Bacon kisses.

I am fascinated. I always thought of myself as an extrovert, I like people and meeting new ones, can talk to anyone and find them interesting, love their stories etc. But with your definition, I'm an introvert because my strength comes from me. Being alone is not being lonely.

My sister is most definitely an extrovert, she 'needs' people around, confusion and hubbub, she feeds off of it. She can't spend an hour with just her. And she has a hard time understanding that I don't constantly want to be 'doing things' with her. As for myself, I am wearied by 2 hours in her company because it's just nonstop stuff. I spent 2 weeks in Alaska in June with family. No tv, radio or internet there. Just books and music. We had conversations. And we read. It was so peaceful and I loved it. She came before I left and was bored silly.

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