Edom Texas is a lovely village in East Texas near Tyler. The sign on the road indicates that it has a population of 375. There is a gas station and a post office, and a few houses scattered here and there.
Driving there is breathtaking, and a little spooky if you drive at night, because the tall, tall trees on either side of the road block almost everything. I’m used to seeing fields and cityscapes and miles and miles of Texas when I drive. In East Texas, the trees tend to limit this sort of landscape. You get to see a tunnel in front and behind you with sky overhead. At night, it’s a very dark tunnel with shadowy trunks and branches, teeming with ghouls and ghosts. The locals in Edom assure me that there are more people buried in the cemetery than living in the town. Comforting, that.
Our reason for driving there this weekend was to participate in the Edom Art Festival, 2018. The one street in town that I know of has artists and galleries in almost every building. It is a perfect place to have a festival, particularly one that is put on by the artists, for the artists. Edom has hosted artists and artisans at festivals since 1972. There were a few years when it moved to a different town, and then became dormant. But, now it’s back and building strength. Listening to Barry talk with his friends all of these years, Edom seemed like an artists’ Mecca. “Did you ever do Edom?” “Do you know the painter, Martha? I used to see her at Edom, back when it was huge.” While it was gone, people talked about the grand days of art, friendships and serious art collectors driving great distances to visit them and buy their wares. Relationships were built between artists and patrons. And, between the artists themselves.
This year Barry and I drove in the night before the show began, and managed to set up the tent that evening. On Saturday when the festival began we had only to set out the jewelry and we were ready. (Being this early is not classic behavior for Barry, even showing up in the dark the night before and setting up the tent with a flashlight.) It was a beautiful morning. The weather was warm, but not hot. I had had my coffee and was pretty much walking on air in this peaceful town. Soon, people began wandering around the booths, and I could tell that it was going to be a good day and a great show.
This didn’t last, unfortunately. Our friend drove in from Dallas and she called to say that it was raining so hard she could barely see. She was afraid that the rain was going the same direction she was. It was a nice morning, so we told her to take care and we’d be here when she arrived. She did arrive, and we had lunch. Barry made avocado/alfalfa sprout sandwiches for us and for friends. Then, around 2 it began to sprinkle and the customers collected under the booths of the artists and artisans. The music continued and people were still milling about. Gradually, the rain began to come down harder. And harder. And harder… People left, darting through puddles trying to get to their cars. We were safe under a strong tent, but water began to collect in the grass at our feet. Because of the grass, it took a while for me to realize how deep that water was becoming. We were on a slope (as you can tell from the angle of the earrings in the picture above) so I thought that the water would flow through. Instead it just gradually became deeper and deeper. Sheets of rain blocked our view; we could no longer see the huge trees in the background. It was loud, and we could barely hear what she was saying when the coordinator came by in a golf cart screaming, “Pack up!”, trying to be heard over the roar of rain pounding on the ground and on tents.
We gathered up the jewelry and hung out for a while under a friend’s tent, pondering what to do for the rest of the evening. Some people who were trying to leave found themselves stuck in the mud. The rest of us wondered how we would get out. (Luckily, the fire department helped out those who were stuck.) Our hotel was in Tyler, and the idea of going to the hotel, and then back to the artists’ dinner didn’t seem likely. The dinner is held on the grounds of Woodhaven Cabins. It is a beautiful place, but it’s more remote than Edom and the road is smaller, there’s a dam over a creek… it didn’t seem like an intelligent decision, frankly. We left our options open, but the drive back to Tyler was eventful enough that we decided to stay in town and make our way back to the show on Sunday, rested and refreshed.
By the time we got to Edom on Sunday, though, the decision had been made to call the show off for good and let artists pack up and get their vehicles out. The radar indicated that another, larger, storm was heading toward us that afternoon and they didn’t want to take a chance that the artists would be stuck there overnight or for a few days. We all agreed that this was probably the best decision to make considering the circumstances.
It was a bit of a shock to everyone. We walked around and people were slowly, methodically breaking down tents, packing ceramic art and jewelry. Our friends were legitimately sad. We didn’t get the Sunday morning camaraderie. So much visiting and looking at new products didn’t get to happen. The weather looked clear and we all felt the loss, thinking about how busy and happy customers and visitors had been just 24 hours previous. Barry, in particular, felt he missed out. Sunday mornings is when he visits friends and people he’s known for decades. There is a close relationship built between people who, for years and decades, worked that circuit of art festivals across the US. They would run into each other at different venues in almost every state in the country. They’d discuss the art scene, other artists, their lives and the quality of the different shows. Show after show, month after month, year after year, watching children grow up and people buy homes, have grandkids, get sick, get well, take care of each other and send love to each other through this vine of interconnected artists. Over the last 10 years this art scene has changed so completely that they don’t even recognize it any more. Smallish festivals like the one in Edom are some of the few times they have the opportunity to get together like they always did. They will grumble that they are too busy during the show to have decent conversations, but truth be told, it’s the kind of conversations and relationships that they have known all their lives. It’s how they know each other. It’s what they lean on when they do come together like this.
Sadly, this year I didn’t get the opportunity to walk around and take pictures of people’s artwork. I did walk around, but I thought there was plenty of time for pictures. Barry and I packed up, visited with artist friends and made a date with a group to see a movie together in November. We met up with some other friends in Tyler for lunch. Then, we got on the road for the long drive home. We took our time, stopping for lottery tickets and visiting the Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana. It was still light outside when we arrived at 621. The cats were happy to see us. This is the life of a traveling artist, a life that is slowly fading away.
But, we’ll always have Edom.