July 02, 2014

Did I Mention I Was Excited?

Did I Mention I Was Excited?
By John R. Greenwood

Watercolor Artist Jack Lewis
It’s amazing how life sends you on these little excursions in and out of happiness. Today I was handed happiness, excitement, and gratitude all in one fell swoop. It all started online with the University of Delaware a few weeks ago where I was looking for a twenty year old VHS documentary on watercolor artist Jack Lewis. Not only did I locate the tape, they assured me they would send it to Skidmore College so I could view it personally. This was like handing a nine year old boy a twenty dollar bill at the gate of the county fair and telling him to take off and have a good time. Let’s just say I was “excited”. 

Jack Lewis 
I must tell you that I have approximately three months of the community college experience under my belt. I just turned old enough where I call anyone under fifty, “Kid” and just two days ago I spoke to a lady on the phone who has an original painting of Jack’s and invited me to come and see it at her home. Every step of this Jack Lewis journey has provided some form of wonder and appreciation to someone or something. It is as though it is pulling me along for a ride of which I have no choice but to follow. Even as I type these words it is as though I am being guided by something larger than I can explain. Maybe it’s life’s clock, tick-tocking in my head telling me, “Don’t wait any longer. Get moving. Don’t hesitate for a minute.” All I know for sure is--the feeling this search for Jack Lewis and his story gives me is fulfilling and gives me a reason to keep learning. 

Back to Skidmore College.

I will skip some of the details, but in short the tape arrived at Skidmore’s, Lucy Scribner Library and I received an email letting me know it was there. Weekend timing, time, and my work schedule held me hostage for a few excruciating days but I would soon find it all well worth the wait when I finally sat down in a remote media room on the Skidmore Campus on a Tuesday evening with thunder rumbling in the distance and hit the PLAY button. 
I must explain that Skidmore’s hospitality and willingness to provide me with this access has been life changing. I am a man who not too many years ago was taking evening “Beginning Computer” classes at my local BOCES. I’ve since been writing this blog and have been pursuing some sort of writing experience. This latest chapter of learning how to research archived material and at the same time absorb the wonder of a new found discovery, has provided me more self confidence and encouragement to continue than I could have ever imagined or expected. If I ever assemble this experience into something more significant it will take me longer to write a thank you list than it will to write the book. 

Back to the PLAY button.

Young Jack Lewis the painter
The very instant the sound on the documentary began to fill the comfortable media room where I was nestled I knew I had found the Holy Grail of my search. The title of the documentary not only told Jack Lewis’s  story but it also told the story of his hometown Bridgeville. Most importantly it told my story. You see, I have lived within twenty miles of my birthplace, Saratoga Hospital for 59 years. I have never traveled more than one state away in any direction. I have never been on an airplane and except for 1974 when I lost a finger in a “stupid man” accident I have never been off from work for more than ten days in a row. The title of the documentary by David Petersen was, “If You Lived Here You Would Be Home Now”. I do live here. I am home now, and I have been. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to travel or that I’m afraid to fly in a plane, it’s that the choices I’ve made in my life handed me a different game plan. A need to work with my hands changed the course of my educational ship. Being fortunate enough to find the love of my life at the start of my life provided me a young family at a young age. It also taught me how to make a living in a way that makes you appreciate things more deeply. Whether it’s a new natural gas furnace at 55 or a VHS tape at 59, sometimes what we need to make us happy is right under our noses, we just need to breath in to smell them and breath out to enjoy them.

I will be sharing more about my friend Jack Lewis and the trail he’s laid at my feet. I will be writing more thank you’s and more stories about the chapters that seem about to unfold this summer. I want to thank the staff at both libraries for their assistance so far. As I check the clock in front of me I know I have to get ready for work but I also know the workday will end and my next adventure will begin.