I spent the week at NaCoMe church conference center outside of Nashville with a group of marvelous women. It's a beloved place of my childhood. My sister and I went twice a year with our own church and once a year with our grandmother's church, to maximize our time there. One glorious year I also managed a week-long canoe camp. It continued to be special to me well into adulthood and is where I first learned to play music, though due to changes in my life (and changes in the camp, which stopped having single rooms for singles) I hadn't been back in some years.
My college roommate talked her church into getting me to lead an art journal workshop at her women's retreat. She also very kindly snagged the back bed around the corner to save for me. I've mostly stopped going with my church because now solo adults have to be in a bunk room of four or five, and that's just not an appealing option to me. I work and live alone and prefer one tiny, poky hole of my own to shut the door when I'm ready to sleep than a fancier cabin where I have to share. Sadly the camp has let their lodge with the smaller rooms fall into disrepair, so it has been a less attractive option to me lately.
Kathy's church took me in so very warmly, though, and made me very glad to be there. I had a ball making new friends and also exploring again the familiar and long loved terrain. Kathy and I walked over to the lake before dinner on Friday and did a little sketching.
of our park by the Memphis Zoo to make room for their overflow parking, it was good to see her cabin well cared for and used in a way that brings people joy.
One of my favorite places is the wildflower walk down the road a ways. There are a series of limestone cliffs with Dutchman's breeches and trillium growing on top and columbine dangling gracefully off the sides. I climbed up to check on the wildflowers and do a little sketching. The trillium were ENORMOUS.
The parts of the weekend you can't see from my sketchbook were the meals and discussions with fascinating women, sitting around and singing gospel songs on the porch in the afternoon (they actually wanted me to play banjo for them, which was great fun -- usually I just sit home and sing with it on my own), and a late night campfire out under a dome of stars.
On the art front, I enjoyed spreading the good news of the water brush, a nifty, self contained, easy to use tool that has changed my life. I can always have a tiny watercolor kit and brush ready to go in my purse, and I sketch so much more than I did before. Everyone dived in gamely and sketched with me (which can be an intimidating thing to do, since as a society we don't encourage people to draw after middle school). I think a few people may continue, which delights me. A lovely weekend.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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