I have always had a deep love for traveling. It started when I was young and would fly regularly to visit my dad after my parents divorce. Airports have always been a place that I appreciate. Although at times they can be stressful and rage full, boring and unimaginative, they are also this place where we receive a gift that is all to rare in this busy day and age we live in: an expanse of unstructured time.
The carry on bag is a wondrous thing. Everything you need to entertain yourself for hours packed tightly into a small container that you sling across your shoulder. It becomes your trusty sword and shield with which you brave the airport world. A book. A journal. Pens. Snacks. Gum. A trashy magazine or two. Now that I’m an adult, a nice MacBook Air that I am super grateful for right about now.
I am in Salt Lake City. I was supposed to be up in the air right now, but that’s not in the cards today after all.
Delays. That’s the other thing you can always find at airports. After being assured by the flight attendant that the other airplane was aware of my tight connection and I could still make it, I olympic speed walked through three terminals to get to my gate as quickly as possible. As I finally entered the correct terminal I heard them announcing the final boarding call for my flight to Oklahoma City and I moved even faster, weaving through the crowds of people obliviously moving at a snails pace.
I made it to gate B10 with 5 minutes to spare. Out of breath and flustered I looked for the gate attendant and found none. There was one of those stupid vinyl barriers across the entry to the walkway that led to the plane I should have already been on, and I was told that I needed to wait for the gate attendant to return. I should’ve taken matters into my own hands and undone the stupid vinyl barrier myself and maybe then I would’ve made it to the door of the plane in time. But I decided to be a patient and rational human being, thinking to myself that surely since they knew about the situation I would be able to get on the flight. After all, I had made it there with 5 minutes to spare.
Apparently that’s not the way it works. The plane left the gate and I was not on it. In a world of relentless delays my flight decides to leave early. And that is how I find myself stuck in the Salt Lake City Airport for six and a half hours.
After rushing from one end of the airport to the other in a desperate attempt to get to my destination on time, then waiting in line for 20 minutes to secure the last seat on a later flight, I now find myself with nothing but time on my hands.
The wait in line gave me ample time to catch my breath and go back and forth in my head between two things: railing at the injustice of it all and replaying the sequence of events in my mind and closing my eyes, stretching, and taking deep breaths in an effort to calm down and accept my new reality.
I was trying but I still found myself angry and frustrated. I had thoughts of finding a manager or high ranking airline official to whom I could relay my tragic tale. I thought maybe if I complained enough I could at least get a free flight voucher or something. I still felt attached to the outrage of it all. It was strange how the false promise that I could make it and they would wait for me made it so much more bitter when I missed the connection. I had a strong sense that I had been mistreated and I deserved retribution of some kind.
I walked aimlessly back the way I had come, new ticket in hand, unsure of what to do with myself. I was now one of the slow and plodding masses. I had all the time in the world.
That’s when I saw them. It was the vibrant orange that caught my eye. It was a painting of fall leaves and birch trees. Simple. Peaceful. I stopped to look. The painting held my gaze. It was beautiful. It was restful. It was calm. I noticed my thoughts about going up the chain of command and making a big stink to get my free ticket were quickly fading from my mind. I took my unwieldy backpack off my shoulders and set it on the ugly airport carpet next to my luggage. I selected a Sigur-Ros playlist, put in my earbuds, and I got comfortable.
It has been a long time since I’ve lost myself in a painting like that. My breathing grew deeper and soon I found I was totally at peace. I was transported into another world. A beautiful world of stylized brushstrokes in vibrant colors layered on one another and blanketing the canvass entirely.
Words fail to describe the experience of gazing at art. As I relaxed my eyes I saw different facets of the composition reveal themselves and wash over me like waves. In the timelessness of the music I noticed fine details and saw the naked brushstrokes dancing with each other. There was the orange that had caught my eye but there was also blue and purple, brown and red. I saw how the whole things was a mass of shapes and colors that somehow came together to get across more than just the image of a birch forest in fall. These simple brushstrokes communicated a certain mood. A specific sensation. A sense of time and space that was far from this boring and unimaginative airport I was standing in. I could feel the crisp cool air on my skin and hear the rustling of the dry leaves.
After staring for a long time I moved on to the second canvass depicting birch trees. This one was more of a spring motif of white and green. But as my eyes lingered longer I saw more colors than I can list: pink, indigo, teal, carnelian and yellow. It struck me how at first glance I had seen white birch trees with green leaves on the ground, but when I really stopped to look there was so much more to it.
I gazed at the second painting even longer. There were moments when it was so beautiful that tears began to well in my eyes.
This is the miracle of art. When we take the time to give ourselves to it and allow ourselves to be affected by it, it has the power to change us. Move us. Free us from the constraints of our banal existence and gives us the gift of transcendence. An amalgamation of colors and lines on a canvass can transport us somewhere magical.
That’s why I write music. That’s why I can’t stop sharing it with you beautiful people who are kind enough to lend me your ear, take a break from your busy life in this hectic day and age, and listen. I do not take it for granted and every moment you spend with my music means so much to me. It is my dream that just as I was moved by these paintings today that you would be moved by my songs.
I am grateful for this layover. If I hadn’t missed my flight I would never have written this journal entry. I don’t know what else this borrowed time will bring me, but I have already received more than enough for my trouble. The stress of the rushing and the anger and frustration over the circumstances of missing the flight are completely erased. Thanks to several simple oil paintings hung on the wall next to the men’s restroom in terminal B at the Salt Lake City Airport.
Now it’s back to me and my trusty carry on to brave this airport world.
(Note: Regrettably there was no signage to convey who the artist of these beautiful paintings is. Google image search was useless. If anyone recognizes these please let us all know who the talented person is. If I can find out from the airport somehow I will update this post.)