President Calvin Coolidge Banquet 2015

I am weary, but my mind refuses to rest. I must release the words or accept to toss and turn throughout the night. I am dazzled, and I am humbled. I am the 2015 Calvin Coolidge prize runner up, but I am really a name among many others who has a passion and is beginning to discover that passion. I write.

From the tips of my fingers the world’s beauty spills onto that white sheet of emptiness. Over time I add dabs of color and some parallel lines and soon very soon time stands still through a piece of life that I have captured with a pallet of words. My artwork begins through vision.

Standing up I stepped off the bus and breathed in New York air. Finding my bag I began dragging it after my people. I was hungry and mealy bus apples don’t satisfy hunger pains. Overwhelmed I remembered my family back home. The quiet woods, expansive fields and my country, house room that I share with my younger sister. For today I walked in another world. I was like a deer in the headlights. No, I was a Vermonter in New York.

Looking deep into the mirror I turned slightly to the right and to the left. Who am I? Leaning in close I closed my eyes and opened them just once. I faltered and looked away. I must go now.

We meandered the streets. Our building came suddenly and a gentleman opened the doors. Brilliance met my eyes, and I desired nothing more than to consume with my eyes everything I saw.

The time drew near. I was surrounded by people from all over the country and even the world who held one thing in common–Calvin Coolidge.

Forgive me for my way of painting. In the beginning my picture may not seem clear, but I always loved Impressionism and now I know why. I paint up close, detailing over the rim of my glasses the particulars and the spots. Very soon I will step back and push my glasses up my nose. I will see the big picture, and I pray you too will soon understand the composition I write.

The announcement came. The runner up was to be announced. I felt suffocated, and numb all over. My heart beat 100 times a minute and my hand grasped for something solid, another hand, another person. The words were spoken and I found myself rising up unsure, confused, honored and receiving a prize. I did not know, but I was happy. Immensely happy. I don’t know why, but I found myself remembering my Grandma Anne Bassette…beautiful, short, and with strawberry blonde hair. I felt afraid that I could not remember her face. It had been some time since her passing, but somehow I felt that she was so much like me. I think it was the era–an era of Calvin Coolidge and that era which she would have known well. I was surrounded by history–the building, the historians, the stories. It included my story.

I meandered between chairs, not knowing everything but only knowing enough to reach out for the hand which would clasp mine so tightly and warmly.  Somehow I found my seat again and read the label, “Calvin Prize Runner up.” The competition pleased me and I simply felt relief that I could breathe once more and find complete joy in congratulating number one.

For one moment I felt a pang of disappointment, but in that moment a memory transported me to a second grade track meet and the fifty yard dash. I looked to my left and right at the girls who were my competition. In a few moments we placed our feet on the line and started running. I ran hard. I felt fast. But another girl was faster. After the race I moaned to my coach. “Why didn’t I win?” I asked him. “It was so close. If I had known I wasn’t going to win I wouldn’t have raced.” In a way that only an understanding coach could say to a second grader, I tried to listen overcome by grief.

The disappointment I felt just a few moments ago was lost as I remembered my coach’s simple words. “How much fun would it be to win if you knew you were going to win?”

And so it happened this night. Perhaps losing with grace is more winsome than winning over all.

My eyes seek refuge under the heavy lids, but I must finish what tumbles in my mind…to write is to let go. I must release the words which will build and build until I can not hold them back anymore. Writing is freedom. I must finish.

On the ninth floor of the “National Women’s Republican Club” in New York, NY, a gentle, warm October breeze whirled over the little outside deck. Inside a great room echoed my steps. An enormous mirror like the one in the one in the West end of the White House reflected my figure. The glass windows looked out to the city and to St. Patrick’s Cathedral as they had for almost 100 years. From the corner of the balcony, I looked out over the city and my eyes came to rest on the cathedral.

Who am I? What is my purpose? What is truly fulfilling? These questions aren’t just for me. They are for the man walking down the avenue below me, for the woman curled up under a blanket against that trash can, for the policeman on the corner and for the reader.

And so I write, not to answer those questions but to ask more of them in a new way, with a new outlook, with new ideas because it adds a new color to my pallet.

I dip my brush into several rich yet quiet, colorful words. I tap a little color here and a little color there to polish last spots. The night is late. In fact it is early morning. To my left is a trophy with the man who inspires us all engraved on it, and in my lap is my once white paper. It is now colored. Behind me is my pillow. It too is white, and I allow myself to close my heavy lids, for I know In my dreams I will continue painting. I feel confident to post this imperfect art, because I am an imperfect human.

To those who reached out to me, thank you. For kind words, business cards, and wonderful talks, I say thank you. In the words of Coolidge, “I think my education is beginning to make some headway.” In my words I believe my decision for a future education is beginning to take a direction. For anyone who hasn’t been, visit Calvin Coolidge’s homestead. It might influence your life like it influenced mine.

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