Artist's Lane: The importance of before and after


BY Betty Slade

PREVIEW Columnist

Some words are worth repeating, like the words on a restaurant wall that read, “Feed me tacos and tell me I’m pretty.” 

I doubt that tacos would make me feel any prettier. After all, my ears were holding up a mask, hearing aids and the temples of my eyeglasses that fogged over after every breath. 

I told my family that the thing I missed most during COVID is eating out in restaurants. The thing I will never miss: using the word COVID in every sentence. 

Frankly, I’m tired of talking about it. I’m tired of hearing about it, but it’s the only way to explain why we are doing what we are doing. 

My family tells me that I am the only one talking about it. They have just gone on with their lives as if the pandemic never happened. 

My Sweet Al told me, “You’re always stirring the pot. As soon as the stink settles, you stir it up again.”

I’m not sure what he thinks I’m stirring up. I bring up COVID because it is a point of reference that will undoubtedly mark this time in our lives for years to come. 

At the first of the year, my Sweet Al and I planned several trips. We planned to fly here and there, and get in a road trip or two. Needless to say, none of it happened. Why? Because of COVID. 

A friend called and encouraged us to reschedule a long overdue vacation. She had been cleaning out a closet and came across a box filled with letters that I wrote in the mid-’90s. 

She said, “I’m not sure why I still have all of these, but they are filled with golden nuggets of truth. Why don’t you come visit me for a working vacation. We can go through these gems and see what we can do with them.”

I told her, “Hang on to my words until I get there. I’m glad someone is enjoying them.”

My family thinks that all I do is stir the pot. They quit listening to me if I dare say anything more than once. 

The good thing about a great friend is that they value what we have to say. Yes, we still talk about COVID. Or, more specifically, how much it has altered our daily lives. But, more than anything, we value each other’s knowledge of God’s word. Even when we repeat ourselves, we stretch each other with our dialogue, like iron sharpens iron.

My friend and I have launched several big projects throughout the years. We even taught art and Bible classes on television. Whether discussing an idea over coffee or being in the thick of our next big thing, ours has always been a working friendship. It has taken us to heights we likely wouldn’t have reached without each other. 

Long before COVID, my friend and I had full schedules that were laced with conversations full of purpose. I have quoted her more times than I could count and she, me.

Post-COVID, and after our recent chat, it looks like we may have a new project on the board. We want to co-write a book filled with 30 years of words between friends that have stirred us inside, words that are worth repeating. 

There is a scripture in Proverbs that says it all. “The truthful lip shall be established forever.”

COVID isn’t just an event on the calendar. It has become a baseline by which we can test for what is true. In the case of my friend and I, it marks when we will dip back in to a cardboard box to see if thousands of words between us have stood the test of time. 

Final brushstroke: Regardless of our talent, nothing is more validating than to look back on our handiwork to see a reflection of ourselves. Between friends, nothing is more validating than seeing what that same handiwork means to each other, even after so many years. 

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