“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” – quote by Thomas Merton (31 Jan 1915 – 10 Dec 1968)
Nancy Goodwin, a fellow artist and friend of long-standing, is seen at left in a photograph I took while visiting in late September, with her husband Garry Hegg, sitting on their patio in Wells, Maine, with a thin slice of Atlantic Ocean visible in the distance. Nancy and I became friends in 1982, after she responded to an ad I had placed in the local seacoast papers, looking for a paste-up artist to be my part-time assistant at Samuel Weiser Inc., the book publisher I was employed by at the time, in Cape Neddick, Maine. Living in Wells, just a few miles up the coast, she would have an easy ride to work, except during the summer-months when driving through the popular coastal resort of Ogunquit on US Route 1 could grind to a virtual halt. I remember crawling through that traffic myself many times…
During our interview, it became obvious that Nancy recognized what an extraordinarily enviable environment I was working in; from the principals Don and Betty Weiser who owned the publishing house, to the fascinating subject matter Weiser’s specialized in, dealing with the varieties of religious experience and the myriad of worldwide spiritual interests. That enviable environment included my secluded work space down in the basement, away from the hubbub of the upstairs office; a little kingdom of my own rarely visited by others, with small windows up high looking into the garden at eye level. We hit it off immediately during the interview, after which I was ready to hire her.
Scarecrow in the Night Garden • acrylic on panel • The three scarecrow paintings (at left and the next two below) were inspired by Valerie Littlewood’s illustrations for a children’s book titled Scarecrow published in 1992 by Dutton.
However working together at Weiser’s was not to be; my supervisor, Betty Weiser, wisely counseled against hiring a person based primarily on friendly attraction in an interview. She knew from personal experience that there would be times on the job when the necessity of exercising the role of Supervisor could be made more difficult if friendship were a complicating factor that compromised ones professionalism in dealing with a subordinate under stressful conditions which invariably and randomly happen. Betty’s reasoning won the day…
So I hired neither Nancy, nor Robert Boardman, another person who applied for the paste-up job, whom I also wanted to hire on the spot, but didn’t; who also became a close friend for the duration of my stay in Portsmouth, NH until the spring of 1986 when I moved to Philadelphia. Instead I hired Kathie King, a young local woman who learned to do the job efficiently, with whom I worked pleasantly and professionally, without the complication of trying to be close friends working together in occasionally stressful situations. She stayed for a year or more then moved on, with no contact since.
So even though I didn’t hire Nancy for the job as my paste-up assistant, we stayed in touch, then started hanging out together on occasion, sharing stories and discovering mutual interests. During the off-season, Wells was a pretty sleepy little town along the coast, so Nancy took to coming into Portsmouth to socialize, getting to know some of the new cast of characters I was meeting there myself. Portsmouth was one of the coast’s increasingly trendy and expensive small cities that had become a major stop on the coastal route traveling north into Maine, as well as a last coastal stop before taking the inland route to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Particularly during tourist season, the town was crawling with creative types and would-be artists, so we felt right in our element.
I was drawn to Nancy’s paintings immediately when I saw them. We felt like two expressions of the same spirit. At some point in 1983, through connections or circumstances I’ve now forgotten, we arranged to have a 2-person show of our art at one of Portsmouth’s popular bar/restaurants – the Cafe Petronella on State Street in downtown. Preparing for that show and making it a reality was one of the most expansive periods of my four years in Portsmouth, which brought even more people into my life. Trying to conjure memories of the time period is more challenging than I thought it would be; thirty-plus years ago being a longer time than it sounds, especially when it comes to reviewing accurately the chronology of events en recherche du temps perdu.
Nancy has worn a number of hats over the years, having initially trained as an art teacher working with the primary grades. When we met, she was living temporarily in Wells with her aging mother, after having lived and taught in Massachusetts for a number of years. Once her mother passed, Nancy bought a house in Newburyport, Mass, and lived there; however she and her sister kept the classic old family house built in the late 1700s up on the hill just off US Route 1, overlooking Wells Beach in the distance. Eventually they rented it out to mutual friends who moved from Portsmouth to Wells for a couple years. Now there hangs a tale.
Sometime after relocating to Philadelphia in May 1986, I heard from Nancy that she was being courted by one Garry Hegg, and it was looking serious. Thus in the summer of 1987 I was invited to attend their wedding in Newburyport; which allowed me to take some time off from my free-lance job in Philly, and head north to see my old friends. Sometime thereafter Nancy and Garry bought out her sister’s share of the Wells family house, and moved in. They’ve been there ever since.
Nancy’s art has proven to be a joy to me over the years. Not driven to produce as prolifically as I have been over the years, she has nevertheless continued to explore her world through the tranquillity afforded by paint and pastel, her primary mediums. But then there’s that beautiful garden seen below, nurtured by her hands, to consider as well. Which reminds me that the creative spirit is not confined to a single medium, or even two. The creative seeks expression in a myriad of ways, manifesting beautifully in the quietude that pervades their home, which is a haven of relief for us traveling souls. Blessed Be!