Little Jake Mitchell and the Soul Searchers

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“Little Jake”  Acrylic on 11″ x 14″ Canvas  by Judi Cain

 

Yesterday morning I saw a Facebook notice that Little Jake Mitchell would be celebrating his 75th Birthday with a special performance! What a perfect opportunity to give him the portrait I did of him!  I thought about it all day. – How i could go about it without making a big deal of it and still have time to paint.  I really didn’t want to get all dressed up and spend my time listening to music. I just wanted to paint.
I had forgotten what had made me want to make this portrait in the first place!
I saw him perform a couple of years ago and was moved to portray the tremendous energy that he and his band, the Soul Searchers, expressed that night.  I took a lot of photos but didn’t have the technical knowledge to adjust the settings on my camera for good lighting and focus for the detail I needed. Fortunately, a real photographer, Paul Carter, gave me permission to use his photo for reference. The painting was successful, as I retained the energy by referring to my own blurry photos.  I had exhibited it several times, and now it was time for me to let it go.  What good is a painting filled with energy if it’s stored in a box where no one can see it?  
The plan was to quietly go to the door, hand the painting to the doorman, and return home to paint the night away. I called the number listed on the post to let them know that I would be dropping off the gift for Little Jake.  The man on the phone (who I later learned was one of the Soul Searchers) said he would tell Prophet, the doorman, to expect me.
When I got there the performance had already started.
I’m looking for Prophet. I thought he would be outside. I thought I wouldn’t have to go inside. He must be the man sitting at the table just inside the door. The music is loud and I can’t hear the woman who is pointing to a paper with my name on it.  And she couldn’t hear me tell her that the name she’s pointing to is indeed me and that I’m just here to drop off the painting.
After a few  awkward moments, I finally figure out that Prophet wants me to pay admission. Sure, I’ll gladly support another artist and panic when he refuses my debit card.  I fumble in my purse to find the right amount, hoping I hadn’t spent it all at the farmers market this morning;  fumbling because a line is forming behind me and all I want to do is leave the painting and go home. Prophet gives me my change and hands me a wristband.  I put the wristband on, The people in line behind me can’t hear me apologizing for taking so long.
I follow the woman, expecting to leave the painting in a back room somewhere. But no! She leads me across the front of the room, in front of the whole crowd, to a table two feet away from the stage where Little Jake and the Soul Searchers are showering their energy over the happy crowd. I quietly put the painting under the table and look up at Little Jake who looks straight into my eyes, even as he keeps on singing, and I am magically transformed from a fussy old lady artist approaching her own 75th birthday into an 18 year old girl, swept away by the perfect harmonies of the Soul Searchers, who not only make magic with guitars and brass and keyboard and percussion but with perfect harmonies of their voices, all channeled into and through Little Jake himself as they lead us on a journey through the very best classic musical creations of the ’50’s and ’60’s. Little Jake’s performance makes every person there feel as if he is singing directly to them.  He gives us no choice but to follow him with our eyes as he makes his way, slowly, deliberately off the stage, singing through the crowd, shaking hands, touching shoulders, and making eye contact. “Are you feeling good?” “Yeah!” we answer. “Are you feeling good?” “Yeah!!”
And we do feel good.  Everyone is dancing –  if not on the dance floor, we are dancing in our seats.  Every muscle in our bodies is dancing in harmony.  There is no idle chatter in the house. We are one with the music. The vibrato in his voice stirs the energies and makes us remember how it feels to feel good.
“you know what?”  “What?”  You know what?”  “What?!!”  And then he sits down at a table next to me, takes the hand of the woman sitting there and sings to her and to me and to every person in the crowd:  “I don’t even know your name . . . All I remember is that smile on your face . . .”
An hour or two of nonstop, perfectly synchronized performance . . . maybe longer, who knows? who cares?   Then there is a break.
The woman who led me to my seat is now sitting at the table next to me.  “You have a gift for Little Jake?”  I pull the painting from under the table and remove it from its box.  Suddenly Little Jake is standing by me, accepting the painting, holding it up for the crowd to see.  I’m suddenly self-conscious again, remembering that I did not want this attention.  I just wanted to leave the gift.  Little Jake invites me to have a piece of birthday cake.  His beautiful daughter sings “Happy Birthday Dear Daddy . . .”  Her voice is magical too.  They place the painting on the table next to the birthday cake.  I ask if I can take his picture with the painting.
“Post these pictures on Facebook.”  he says.  “My daughter’s name is Keisha.”  I hope I got the spelling right.
As it turns out, I am the one who received the Gift.
(These photos were taken with my iPhone.  I’m still not a great photographer, but I believe they portray in a blurry way some of the energy I experienced last night.)
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“Reclamation” Every Painting Has a Story”

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“Reclamation”  Acrylic on 18″ x 24″ Canvas

I am sitting on the screened porch at my friend Mike’s house. Inside is dark and the porch, though damp and windy, at least offers a bit of daylight and renewal of our spirits.

We had concluded, with encouragement from our adult children, that two seniors who love to live alone would be wise to take shelter together during a storm!  By the time I had my car prepared to travel north to where my daughters lived, the highways were already congested with evacuees from south Florida, and gasoline supply was running scarce.  So Mike welcomed me into his home, laid out a pair of twin-size mattresses end-to-end, taking up all the floor space in the hall, the safest place in the house  He even welcomed my cat Stitch, who was cozied up in the guest bathroom with his food, water and bed and plenty of treats. The door to the bathroom was right next to the head of my mattress.

The night before had been rough. By the time we were ready to sleep, we had already lost power, so it was very dark. The wind whistled and roared. Branches crashed on the roof and Stitch howled in the bathroom.  The top of Mikes’ head was inches from the top of my head and I wondered how he slept, but he did.  Once I woke him up saying “Mike, I’m scared!”  He didn’t remember saying “Just lay back down. Everything’s going to be ok.”  I crawled into the bathroom, spread a towel on the floor and lay down next to Stitch and we comforted each other until soft morning light crept through the bathroom widow.

Mike heated water on the gas stove to make coffee, so now we sit on the porch sipping coffee and we wait.  The clouds are dark and heavy and it’s still raining sideways! The trees are bent from the howling wind.  Broken branches and fallen trees litter the streets and yards and roofs of houses in the neighborhood. We sit and watch and wait for the power to come back on.  We sit and watch and wait for Hurricane Irma to determine our fate.  Without power, there is no news from the TV or the internet. The last report we heard had warned us that Irma was still heading our way.

Irma is angry!  And we are angry with Irma!  How dare she roar into our lives and disrupt our routines!  We curse her and disparage her name. While we wait, I make doodles in my sketchpad.

 Irmadoodle 1, 2 and 3

“Maybe we should be nicer to her?  I say. “She’s just doing what hurricanes are supposed to do.  It’s not her fault that we happen to be in her path.”

“Yeah, right” Mike said.  “Why don’t you talk to her, then.”

So I did.

I look up at the sky and I talk to her like I would talk to a sister in distress.

“Irma.  I know that you’re just doing what’s in your nature.  Maybe you’re upset about how we’ve been disrespecting Nature, throwing our trash around and cutting down trees, digging treasures out of the earth and spilling horrible things into the waters. And I’m sure you must be upset with how we’ve been talking about you and saying mean things about you. But I’m asking you if you can’t just go way out in the ocean and calm down a little.  Just take a deep breath and move away from the land where there are innocent people who could be hurt by your wrath.  Please.  We’ll try to do better.  I promise.”

Now I’ll admit that I’m just making conversation while we wait and this little speech is my attempt to bring a little lightness into the situation.  At the same time, however, I sort of believe – or want to believe – that she is listening.

Suddenly the rain slows down.  The wind calms.  And the two paddle fans on the porch slowly start turning!  The power is back on!  Mike and I look at each other with wide eyes and mouths hanging open.

“Did that just happen?”  he says.

“What?  You doubted?”  I fire back and we laugh, if for no other reason than the amazing synchronicity of it.

The TV comes on and we rush inside to see what’s happening on the news.  “Hurricane Irma has changed direction and appears to be heading out into the Gulf.”

Later that day I feel secure enough to  pack up all my stuff, and Stitch and his stuff, and we’re ready to go home!. As I drive up the street from Mike’s house someone with a chain saw is cutting up a tree that fell across the street onto a power line, just in time to let me pass.  On the way home I take detours where fallen trees block my usual route.  Leaves, branches and debris are everywhere.  Water stands in deep puddles, blocking lanes of traffic.  When I get home I notice that the apartment across the street has a huge tree limb through the roof!  I am relieved that my place is intact.

Stitch is so happy to be home!  He demands his food, then demands to go to his favorite place – HIS back porch.  I sit with him, looking out into my little back yard. The clouds are dark and dreary.  It’s not raining, but the trees are still dripping.  I am depressed.  I am sad.  I keep thinking about the things I said to Irma and I am worried about what we’re doing to Nature.  And can I keep my promise?  I promised that we’d do better!

Suddenly the dark clouds separate and a blinding flash of sunlight bursts through and lights up the entire back yard!  The water droplets on the leaves flash sparkles of brilliant light and the light dances around the little yard!  And just as suddenly I feel calm.  No!  I feel comforted and amused  – even excited!  I sense that the Ultimate Creator, through Creation – Nature – is reassuring me:  “Don’t worry!  We’ve got this!”

I came back inside and paint. This painting.  As it nears completion, it names itself, by putting this word in my mind::  “Reclamation!”

We can cover the earth with asphalt, but the grass will eventually break through and Nature will reclaim Her own.  Our species is the only one who vandalizes and disrespects nature for the benefit of our convenience, our greed, our fears and the glorification of our ego-minds.  We may destroy our species, but Nature will reclaim its own.