As I was leaving the house for our trip to Bentonville, Arkansas — a weekend of r & r, and excuse to visit the amazing Crystal Bridges museum — I ran back inside to grab a copy of Miriam’s Well, my new novel, because I sensed I needed to give it to someone. Who I would find out later.
We stopped at Crystal Bridges Friday night about 7:30 p.m., figuring it was closed but wanting to scope out the place. It was open until 9 p.m., and it turns out, that is the perfect time to visit one of the greatest art museums in the world. Hardly anyone is there, and the staff are very happy, after a long day, to chat about the art they love. After striking up a good many satisfying conversations in the older-art galleries, we headed downstairs to find a wide hall painted with climbing leaves every which way. Ken, being a plant man, needed to study them to figure out what kind of leaves (lilac, he believes), but among the leaves, we met a wonderful man who works there.
“What is happening here?” we asked him.
“Magic,” he answered, telling us the painting wasn’t finished, and laughing easily with us about the thousands of leaves someone carefully worked days making so vivid.
Within minutes, he escorted us to the next room, which contained a small room within a room where Georgia O’Keefe’s moon flower shone like a beckoning God to us (actually, it’s “Jimson Weed/White Flower #1“), Beholding that painting and so many others, we talked through the nuances and beauties (particularly one of a trash man in which the decaying vegetables are sensual wonders) with this man.
At what I thought was the end of our time together, I noticed his name tag said “Moses,” and said, “You know, I just finished a book about the Exodus, but in our time, and as Moses, you should meet Miriam.”
“You are a writer?,” he exclaimed, then had me quickly pull out my iphone and look up his website because he was a writer too. Maybe it was the exuberance of the the O’Keefe, but in short order we were jumping up and down and hugging, and I was promising to bring him the copy of Miriam’s Well tomorrow. He told us some of his story — coming to this country from Liberia, getting his to-be wife out of the country just before the Liberian civil war, working for the Wal-Mart corporation for many years, teaching, writing, raising a family, and of course we compared notes on the the follies of having 20-something children.
“Let us take our picture together!” we exclaimed, which had to be in front of a work of art, but which one? The O’Keefe of course!
The next day, we returned with the book, but finding Moses again took some wandering. The people who work the galleries never where they’ll be assigned to until they arrive, so we retraced our steps, even visiting the O’Keefe again, and eventually found Moses among the modern abstract art. He was talking with some young men, but upon seeing us, screamed and laughed, and within moments, we were hugging again.
A few hours later, after Ken walked me hard on many outside trails, we had to cross through the museum to get to the parking lot. Each step was a tender adventure for my feet after 5-6 hours of walking, yet when we had to choose which direction to go, I got mixed up and sent us on the long-cut back. It led us right to Moses again, who had started the book on his lunch break.
As we said goodbye again, I looked at this beautiful face and remembered how last night he told me, “My life has been a series of miracles.”
“Mine, too,” I told him. May it be such a life for us all.