A few weeks ago, I wrote about one of my mentors, Sue Hand. Speaking of that, I stopped in at "The Studio" recently and Sue had printed out my blog post and tacked it to the wall there. She also had a super-big hug for me and, as always, it was wonderful to see her.
I need to move on to my other mentors, though. It was easy to choose the next one to write about. Not surprisingly, she was an artist as well. Martha Fray Sampson came into my life when I was a child. But she didn't become a major influence until I was grown. When Todd and I were first married, I was nervous about a lot of things. One of them was the management of my time and how I would spend enough writing instead of getting caught up in "homemaking" or just wasting it. These worries were not without warrant. I wasn't working full time and I could bake the day away quite happily. Decorating and making photo memories are some of my other loves. Of course, the appeal of those passtimes pales in comparison to a cup of coffee and a novel. So, in order to avoid spending ALL of my time reading novels or baking, I asked Martha if she could meet with me regularly to help me stay accountable with my time. In addition to being an accomplished artist, Martha was also a poet. She was the founder and president of the Endless Mountains Council of the Arts and she and I both enjoyed participating in the poetry readings there. Martha and I spent many mornings together, encouraging one another in our pursuits over a pot of tea.
Martha was just amazing. Creative and loving. Quiet and thoughtful. Affirming and intelligent. After a while, a year, maybe two, she told me she wasn't going to be able to meet as often. She had to use more time for painting. By that time, though, I had overcome my fear of being in an empty house all day without a taskmaster to keep me honest. And so we moved on, staying in touch, but unfortunately falling a little bit out of touch towards the end of her life.
And nobody told me she was sick until she had passed away.
At first I was angry. I was sure she would have been hurt that I didn't visit or even send a card. And maybe she was. But now she knows how much I loved her and how I miss her.
Something interesting has been happening. So far, both of my posts about mentors have me feeling a bit tongue-tied. I am completely inadequate at putting into words exactly how much my mentors have done for me. I feel that if I start to say anything it ought to completely encompass their influence on my life. But it does no such thing. And so, I am going to end this post with a poem I wrote soon after learning of Martha's death. Sometime in 2001, Martha gave me her copy of The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. I didn't actually read it and "do" the course until 2008. That happened to be the year Martha died. While I know this poem is not spectacular, I wrote it for Martha. I think it somewhat captures her influence on me. If I put it out there, however flawed, perhaps she will read it and be blessed.
By Alison Roskos Treat
I didn’t know you lay dying.
As I read the book and pondered your notes,
I thought of calling or writing
But never did.
Today I thumb the pages and fill with questions.
Did it change your life?
All those years ago when you leant it to me,
How did you know I would need it?
It’s as though God gave me the book
With your handwriting in the margins.
I wish I could tell you how much it’s taught me,
How grateful I am to have it now that you’re gone.
How much you meant to me while you were here.
The last you heard from me was that Christmas card a year ago.
I didn’t know you were dying but
We’re all dying.
I won’t ever stop wishing I had called.
You showed me true Christianity outside of the box
Genuine creativity full of joy and love.
When I think of you I think of real beauty
And a bountiful life.