Home again, home again, jiggity jig . . . .

I have just returned from my first ever trip to Chicago.  My purpose was to attend and teach at the CREATE Mixed Media Retreat in the Chicago suburb of Lisle.  Not ever having been there, I really didn’t know what to expect.  Boy, was I surprised!  Chicago is truly a beautiful city in all the ways I had been led to expect.  Downtown is gracious, and full of beautiful juxtapositions of wonderful architectural styles spanning the last hundred and fifty-ish years since the Great Chicago Fire in 1871.

Yet even more so, there was an atmosphere in downtown Chicago that I found incredibly charming.  People were happy.  People were friendly.  It helped that the city was bathed in a golden light from the slanting summer sun that made the entire city shine with a nostalgic light, but the thing that blew me away was the people.  It brought out the inherent friendly chattiness in my own nature, and I found myself having engaging, entertaining exchanges with people of all sorts, everywhere I went.  There was a genuine quality to their interest, not a ‘customer service’ be-nice-to-the-customer niceness.  People met my eye, returned my smile and my gaze, shared my laughter and extended themselves in my direction.  Not everywhere you travel gives you that, and in return, I fell in love with Chicago and its people.

Four full days were spent teaching and sharing with the most diverse, interesting and fun groups of people.  We made books, we learned collage techniques, we photographed and printed and transferred images together. And all along the way, we laughed, we talked, we shared, we hugged.  In my last class of the week, I was chatting away in a happily animated conversation with one student when I happened to glance down at her nametag and noticed her hometown . . . was the same town my parents live in in Missouri, a few states away.  I found myself saying, ‘Hey, my parents live there!”  One of those wonderful conversations ensued where we gave each other clues until we reached the meeting point:  This student was a member of my parents’ church and sat in the next pew!  Of all the hundreds of students and dozens and dozens of classes, she had become a student in my class.  This big old world of ours shrank a nice bit for me then.

The products to emerge from the classes were pure lusciousness, and I enjoyed the different aspects of the classes.  The only drawback was to be unable to attend the other workshops as a student!Evenings off led us on some wonderful adventures in other Chicago neighbourhoods, and a dusk sojourn to the Queen of Heaven Cemetery to photograph the old monuments . . . . Did I mention the behind-the-scenes tour of the Newberry Library?  I left Chicago with a keen appetite for more.  So much to discover, and I hope I will get back there soon.I would like to say a very big thank you to all my students for their keen interest, enthusiasm and creativity; to the ever-lovely Tiffany Teske, my travel companion, roommate, co-teacher and all-around partner in crime; and to all the staff at Interweave and on the CREATE Event Team for their organisation, calm nerves and stamina, and their ever-ready smiles.  What a wonderful week!

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