He’s there every day.
Heck, I even see him in the afternoons and evenings; always with a different group of people; always with a few recent creations tucked under his arm.
I won’t tell you his name, because I know he treasures anonymity.
He was a Gunnery Sergeant in the Marine Corps; so, I’ll just call him, “Gunny.”
Gunny’s an artist by trade, although he didn’t start until he retired from the Corps at the age of fifty.
Although to look at him you’d never expect it.
Creeping up on seventy, his longish white hair mostly hidden under a New York Yankees cap; always wearing a Harley-Davidson leather vest, jeans and motorcycle boots.
I was just noticing this morning that his face sort of matches the leather vest in that both have seen more than a few miles; hard miles; miles that leave their mark.
But his smile, ah, now that’s something to talk about.
It’s a smile that says of all the hardscrabble landscape over which life’s journey has taken him, “You will never beat me, so you might as well stop trying!”
It’s a smile that is so very evident in his art—art that depicts a world in which there is a settled peace won through battles dark and bloody.
Colorful, bursting with passion and realism, I’ve seen Gunny sell quite a few pieces to interested customers over the years.
I even saw him do a presentation to a gallery owner once.
She loved his work, and while I didn’t get to hear the end of the conversation, I’d be shocked if she didn’t agree to an exhibit.
He’s that good.
And, unlike many in his age group, he’s very tech savvy.
He will quite typically have his iPhone and iPad on the table in front of him and be busily engaged in the utilization of both devices.
Today he convinced a man far older than himself to purchase an iPad.
Apple should be paying this guy a commission!
People of his generation should be paying attention, because as George Burns so poignantly observed once, “You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.”
Gunny is mostly alone these days.
His wife left him for another man when he was still on active duty, and it just never made sense to him to remarry.
His two children, and six grandchildren are all on the east coast, and even though they exchange visits regularly, it doesn’t really help to fill the holes loneliness has gouged into his day-to-day life.
I asked him once what fueled his art, and he said, “Hope.”
When asked to elaborate, he simply replied, “I fought in two wars and trained Marines to fight in two more. As a result, I’ve seen enough despair to last me the rest of my life. If my art can give people hope, then I will have served my purpose.”
I feel the same way about my writing.
I’m sure there are those who wish these stories that fill the pages of Snapshots At St. Arbuck’s had more of an edge; that there would be a “realistic ending” every once in a while.
But life is filled with bad endings; life is filled with “edgy” realism…why add to it?
I just choose to focus on the indefatigable hope that seems grafted into our DNA.
And even if it seems life has kicked the hope right out of you, it’s still there; and in response to the right resonance…it will rise up.
I feel that’s my role in life…to release a “sound” into the universe; a sound that will penetrate to the core of the most tragically broken heart and see it resonate with hope once again.
I’m pretty sure that Gunny feels the same way.
© 2014 R.G. Ryan