When I was a young girl, I thought my father must know more people than anyone in the world. I would meet someone from another school and mention my new acquaintance to my father, and he would proceed to tell me who my new friend's parents were, and sometimes who the grandparents were. Of course, his wide acquaintances were primarily in the half-a-dozen counties where he had been raised.
This blog is really about those serendipitous meetings where you are someplace far from home and you meet someone you know, or you meet someone new and discover you have a very close connection. For example, when we attended the Montreal World's Fair of 1967, we ran into a man my husband had played basketball against in high school.
During my husband's tour of duty in South East Asia, he was playing pool in the officers club and heard someone call out his name, using his high school nick name. It was an acquaintance from a neighboring Kansas town whom, my husband discovered, was also an Air Force Officer. Although they hadn't seen each other for several years, they had a nice visit half way around the world.
This story, however, is a little different, since the person I met was a stranger. We were attending an art exibition in Oklahoma, and I wandered into an ongoing conversation with one of the artists exhibiting her work. The Filley Art Museum in Pratt, Kansas was mentioned, and the artist acknowledged having some familiarity with that area. As I joined the conversation, the artist asked if I grew up in Pratt, and I replied that I had grown up in the small community of Byers, adding "which you have probably never heard of." She replied, "Oh, yes, I know Byers. My Aunt Gloria went to school there." "Gloria Martin?" I asked, never imagining it might be someone I knew. "Yes," she replied excitedly. "That's my Aunt!"
|Painting by Sonya Terpening|
As a result of pure serendipity I had a delightful conversation with Sonya Terpening, an artist who began studying with professional artists in junior high school, who received her degree in art from Oklahoma State University, and who was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award from that university in 2020. However, her recognition as an artist goes well beyond Oklahoma, and even well beyond Texas, where she now lives. She and her work have been featured in such important magazines as Art of the West, Western Art Collector, and Southwest Art. Her deep feeling for the West, which is the frequent subject of her paintings, is beautifully expressed in her own words: "Living in Oklahoma or Texas is living with the fable of the West, both states are so rich in history." (More of her work can be seen online.)
What a treat for me it was to meet Sonya Terpening, and what proof that "It's a Small World" that I wandered into a conversation, mentioned my small childhood community, and unexpectedly had a pleasant chat with an artist whose work we had admired as we wandered through the exhibit earlier. Serendipity can shrink the world and produce delightful surprises!