Saturday, August 12, 2006

Crafts, mountains, friends

Yesterday I made one of favorite my annual treks to get away from it all, driving a few hours to the western part of New Hampshire to the Sunapee Crafts Fair.

That website doesn't even begin to do it justice, nor do the words "Crafts Fair," which conjure up macrame planters viewed by granola-chumping strollers in Birkenstocks.

No, not this one. The crafts are as sophisticated as they come, and as beautiful (also, alas, as expensive--I spent part of the day trying on the most spectacular suede coat in the world, priced at $1450, and then sadly bidding it adieu. A person can dream, right?).

The setting is a state park in the mountains near a lake. The weather was unusually glorious--and, just as unusual, somewhat chilly. The exhibitors (all 200+ of them) are set up in a series of huge tents: fiber artists and jewelers and printmakers and iron forgers and furniture artisans of indescribable flair and grace. One picture is worth a thousand words, but the photos at the website don't express how stupendously and splendiferously beautiful these wares are.

There are also the usual overpriced sausage sandwiches and pizza slices, not all that lovely--I had one of the former. And I managed to purchase three gifts for others (wedding and two birthdays), all wonderful, all unique.

I noticed once again, as I've noticed many times before, that craftspeople at this level tend to look quite striking. Visually and artistically inclined, of course, as well as individualistic, they pay attention to colors and textures and uniqueness. Many of them have a calm and centered quality that must come from the Zen-like concentration required to work this way, day after day.

This is in contrast to what I've noticed when groups of writers get together (bloggers, of course, are in a different category altogether). About 20% of writers seem to be visual people, as well, and pay some attention to how they look (I count myself among their number). The other 80% appear to have emerged from their garrets resembling nothing more than a bunch of moles blinking from the unaccustomed light of day. Their clothes are thrown together from a ragtag grab bag--styleless and formless and shapeless; their bodies something only tentatively inhabited, poorly tended housing for their vast and overworked brains.

Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration. But it's not really all that far off; I've been to a bunch of writers' workshops in my time. And a more colorless-looking lot of people you'd be hard pressed to find.

But I digress; back to the Crafts Fair. Best of all, I always meet my old college roommate there (we always joke about that word "old," too, especially as the years go by and we edge closer to being just that). She lives in western New Hampshire, and I don't get to see her all that often, so the Fair is a good venue for a get-together.

There's nothing, nothing, nothing like a friend for life, a best friend, a true friend. We've been there for each other through all the considerable ups and considerable downs of the last--well, who's counting?--years, through sickness and health and through not-all-that-rich and poorer and through love and marriage and kids and even changes of politics.

Afterwards we ate in a dreadful restaurant with a beautiful view on the shores of Lake Sunapee, until the sun set and we went our respective ways, she to the northwest and me to the northeast. But the friendship remains.

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