Creative Thinking: Saying goodbye to a trusted friend

October 20, 2013 

“Do you think it’s going to close?” I asked the man helping me load the flowers. “Mark, I just don’t know what to tell you,” he replied with a look on his face straddling the fence somewhere between horror and doubt. “We’ve still got these left to put in your vehicle!”

I slowly surveyed the situation making a complete 360 degree spin around. Fresh flowers of every color, shape and size were in buckets full of water. Situated between these buckets, completely filling every nook and cranny, were spools of ribbons, vases, foam and other supplies needed to do the flowers for a wedding.

When I finished my observation, I took a deep breath and prayed. Only two more buckets left to go and, I had almost forgotten, a dog!

“Here goes,” the man said as he carefully lowered the back hatch of my Toyota 4-Runner. I was afraid to breathe. With one slam, the door closed and I swear I heard some flowers scream as they were forced to shift together and into other things!

There was no doubt that, in my vehicle, were the makings of a glorious wedding. My only worry was if I would be able to make the three hour drive to the north Georgia mountains with everything intact. I was scared and so was our dog, Georgie, who was in his carrier, which was perched on a pile of boxes in the front seat beside me.

“Good luck!” the man yelled as he directed my back-up process since every window was completely blocked with flowers and other paraphernalia. Off we went!

All the way to the wedding site, I listened to the sounds of sloshing water in the buckets and the clinking noise vases make as they settle into each other. My 4-Runner was filled to the brim with beauty as Georgie and I rattled our way up Interstate 75. Needless to say, I was a nervous wreck and so was Georgie.

I had to make a pit stop to drop him off in Atlanta to stay with our son, Blake. I had already phoned Blake to tell him we would have to make the exchange somewhere right off the interstate that didn’t require me to back up. The same horror and doubt I had witnessed earlier on the man’s face became evident on Blake’s.

“What were you thinking?” Blake asked. I didn’t even bother to reply.

I safely made it to this gig as I had countless other ones over the last 13 years. My 4-Runner and I were best friends. We had purchased the car in late fall 1999. It was a 2000 model in a bright, shiny Millennium Silver, as they called it, in celebration of the next thousand years.

Driving out of the car lot, it was beautiful and roomy and certainly had no clue about what all it would have to do and where it would have to go. Nor did I!

Together we went to every venue and speaking engagement I had to attend. Never were we alone. It was always packed with the wares that come with being an artist, designer and speaker. Sometimes it was weighed down with heavy boxes of my cookbooks, porcelain plates and T-shirts.

Other times it strained under the pressure of various props and decorations. Not to mention the fresh flowers it has hauled over the years.

There’s simply no way to even count, but there is no doubt: During the last 13 years, I could not have created anything without it. We were stuck together like the things I hot glue onto wreaths. Speaking of glue, there was rarely a time when a glue gun wasn’t in that vehicle. We were prepared for anything.

The last few years, my 4-Runner began showing signs of the almost 200,000 miles and years of hauling it had endured. As far as that goes, so was I. We were so close I couldn’t imagine continuing my career without it. It had been dependable, trustworthy, loyal and accommodating. It was my traveling buddy.

By this summer, I knew the time was near. I was going to have to start looking for another vehicle. But how would I break the news to the 4-Runner? We had been so close! Then it hit me. In life, sometimes you have to make peace with something and let it go. You have to remember the great adventures and be grateful you had them.

Then, you have to start with something else and head in a new direction. You have to let go of something in order to move forward!

Cleaning out my 4-Runner for the last time, I found remnants of just about every creative project I’d done over the years lodged deeply under the seats and tucked away in the doors’ side pockets. I came upon a snippet of ribbon here, a pipe cleaner there. I even found a few petrified fragments of leaves and petals. Each item brought back a memory, each remnant an adventure! I said my goodbyes and drove it for the last time to the dealership. I must admit I was a little sad.

The brand new shiny black paint of the vehicle I was purchasing quickly coaxed me to consider all the adventures that were ahead.

As I drove my new SUV home, I wondered where we would go together. What would it haul for me? What creative projects would we accomplish? Who knows?

But, there’s a whole world out there to discover and a lot of miles to drive. I was proud. I was willing to let go of the old to go further with the new.

Now, off to my next creative adventure!

More with Mark

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Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call 478-757-6877; email; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.

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