My Yellow Brick Road
For spring break, I traveled solo to the Land of Oz for a service honoring my Aunt Ona. Even though she had traveled the world (and lived in the OC), she wanted to be buried in Humboldt, Kan., population 1816, a town where my extended family was raised. My aunt had survived breast cancer for over 20 years and was an inspiration to me.
After the service, we headed over to the local soda fountain shop, now known as Stacy’s Cakes. Outside was the town square with a gazebo bandstand, flagpole and memorial to soldiers who fought in the Civil War.
“I used to live in California,” said Eileen, a childhood friend of my mom’s. “But the people there were all about me, me, me,” she added.
I winced. Even though I was raised in Kentucky, I was born in Los Angeles and will forever be a California girl.
I wondered though, “Would I be happier here?” tucked into a safe pocket of the country where my kids could ride their bikes without worry of traffic or strangers offering them candy? We would certainly be able to save money. Gas is $3.65 a gallon and a sandwich costs $4 including the chips and soda.
After the service, my cousin, who has also survived breast cancer, and I road tripped through central Kansas. We stayed in the Midland Railroad Hotel in Wilson (pop. 751) where they filmed “Paper Moon” with Tatum and Ryan O’Neil and ate homemade pie at the only restaurant open in town.
Arriving in Lucas (pop. 407) at 4 p.m., there was only one door open, Eric Abraham’s Flying Pig Studio. Eric, a native New Yorker, chatted with us about his successful career of making whimsical art focusing on pigs with wings.
He told us we needed to meet Mri-Pilar, an artist who had found her muse in the land of Dorothy. We met her at a house filled with ReBarb, Baby Tender Love and Barbie dolls (the icons of my childhood) wrapped in lace, moss, and computer wiring.
“Your work is straight out of my subconscious,” I told her.
“I finally felt free here to be creative, to make art without fear. Everything is recycled and was originally headed for the dump.”
I stood in awe. What she had done with trash was incredible.
“You can make one. What you do is take the doll and an old CD.” She took one of her Barbie altars off the wall and began explaining her process.
My cousin Alice began sharing her scrapbooking and art journaling work. I decided to pipe up.
“I actually made a piece of art recently out of my breast cancer bills, medical reports and prescriptions. Then I put lettering on it.”
Pilar started jumping up and down. “I just want to squeeze you. That is so wonderful.”
Overwhelmed with her spirit of generosity, my eyes filled with tears. “You’re right. It’s very liberating.” I never would have done it though if I wasn’t a part of the Laguna branch of the NLAPW, an organization of women artists, writers and composers.
My piece of art was a family effort as we took the paper trail of my cancer and glued it onto a large canvas. The art show was a group effort of the Laguna NLAPW artists.
At the end of our trip I was ready to come home. I returned with a greater appreciation for Laguna’s artists, entrepreneurs, and even tourists.
I’m not in Kansas anymore and for me that’s a good thing.
Check out “Warrior” and other artists’ work at the NLAPW Art Show at the Wells Fargo Bank, Second Floor, 260 Ocean Ave. On display until May 30.