Time to Recharge
We traveled back to Pennsylvania to spend time with family, friends and to also enjoy the fall colors of our home state. We'd rented a cabin on the shore of Lake Arthur in Moraine State Park. After settling in the wife & kid went to stay at my sister-in-law's place while one of my best friends came to the cabin to spend the night. The two of us basically spent the entire time talking about life, art, business, and naturally, quaffing beer. I also got to share with him some of my recharging stations, places I've always gone to when I need to just relax and feel life ebb around me.
We must have made quite the site, two grizzled, gray beards who happened to dress almost identical to each other, completely by accident BTW. I can't say I really cared what folks thought. I was just so happy to get to spend time with my friend. I thought I'd share a little history here as a means to explaining the depth of my ties to Mark.
The most important influence he's had a hand in was when he and his wife introduced me to my own wife, Teri. That story is for another day though, so I'll just leave it at that.
In 1996 I had been a "preparator" for about four years in the exhibits department at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Basically, that job title meant I did just about any creative, and non-creative, tasks needed done in order to produce the dioramas. That year we began a larger exhibit hall project, highlighting American Indians. Mark Barill was brought onboard as a scenic artist. It was to be two of the happiest years I enjoyed working there.
The first time I met Mark he was working on building the superstructure of the Tlingit house post you see him creating in the slideshow. As he was putting it all carefully together I casually walked by his work and commented, "You know this is going to fall apart, right?" and then walked out the door. I was just joking but apparently I put him in fits of worry that it was indeed going to fall apart. It was the first of many, many hardy laugh sessions later that day when we actually got to work side by side for the first time.
For two solid years the days flew by for us. We spent our time, just the two of us for the most part, all alone in the exhibit hall creating dioramas. It was one of those rare synergies of complimentary creative skills, and senses of humor. The thing I remember most about those days are how much we laughed on a daily basis. We were both getting to be creative, getting paid for it, being left alone for the most part, and having a hell of a good time! It was so fun that even the BS that comes with working in a museum, with all the bureaucratic nonsense, dimwits, and crotchety, mean, old farts couldn't dampen our spirits.
The "Espresso" Years
A decade after meeting for the first time, he and his wife introduced me to my own wife as I mentioned earlier. This resulted in my moving from Pittsburgh to Greensburg. My wife had a house there, so I gave my apartment to my sister-in-law and settled in only a couple of streets over from him. We were now neighbors!
If being able to hang out whenever we wanted wasn't great enough, he also had someplace we could hang out IN. He and his wife had opened a coffee shop/art gallery within walking distance of my new home. When my daughter was born, and I left the museum to be a stay at home dad, DV8 became my oasis. Being able to take a walk, baby strapped to my chest, and go to the shop to relax and have conversations was truly a blessing. Their shop felt like part of my new home, and I reveled in the experience.
Viking Shore Leave
Mark also talked me into going to my very first Pennsic War event in 2000. My first weekend there all we did was have fun. By that I mean we relaxed like Vikings on shore leave! Little did I know this event was eventually going to be central to my development as a photographer. It became the place where I would "cut my teeth" and just have fun taking photos, forming how I utilize my craft.
It's best to just go to my "Where I go to play," section of this site to learn more about Pennsic War. For both of us, it was a fun time, but neither of us seems inclined to go anymore.
After a night of sitting around a campfire, drinking beer, and having a lot of laughs we went for a hike. There's a particular section of stream not far from where I grew up that I first discovered 36 years ago as a kid. Since then it's become a resource for the wellbeing of my soul. It's where I'd go to excite all of my senses, to relax my mind, and energize what makes me who I am as a human. Not having access to it now that we live 800 miles away has been a little difficult for me. This loss of my "centering ground" is essentially why I am now so focused on hiking every day in Stewart Lake, which lies next to my new home. I am actually trying to "ground" myself out here in Wisconsin. I need a place just for me to find inner balance.
In all the years I've known Mark I have never, ever taken him there. Actually, I rarely take people there. His reaction was the same as my own. The smells of the hemlock forest, it's fern fringed, moss covered, rock formations darkened by the shadows of the tall trees, infuse your being. The sound of the water as it flows among the rocks play counterpoint to the wind as it makes the forest "talk." We spent a lot of time just sitting in one particular spot.
The last photo on this page sums up the effect of being there. Relaxed, happy, and energized is easy to see on that grizzly mug I've come to know so well. My hope is that he will now use that place as I once have. I can't think of a better gift.