In the summer of 1979 when my friend Laurie & I choose a fun adventure of setting up and living in a tipi in Taos, New Mexico, I never thought it would change the course of my life. My daughter Sarah was going to spend the summer in Colorado with her Dad, so it would be my last taste of freedom for a long time. I was itchy, yearning and seeking in my spirit for something new.
Setting up of our tipi took both 12 hours, and 5 minutes respectively. Armed in my plastic flip flops, and my “How To Set Up A Tipi” book, I was completely lost. We set our tipi poles wrong for half a day, and then right and up in 5 minutes !
After we had barely moved into the tipi, Laurie took off for Vermont ! So, I was having my summer adventure alone. I, who had never been camping before ! An extreme novice… getting used to coyotes noises at night, fighting with the smoke flaps ( and they were winning ), hiding food in a hole in the ground to keep it from the creatures, learning how to start a fire, and using rocks to balance pots & pans for cooking ! Whew !
I finally realized that navigating these smoke flaps was sort of like sailing a boat. If your sails were set the wrong way you don’t go anywhere, likewise if the smoke flaps were at the wrong angle you would just fill your tipi with black smoke ! When I learned to set my smoke flaps, I was rewarded with a nice breeze, and a great draw for the smoke from the fire pit. I taught myself these new skills for living outside . I was able to have an evening fire inside my tipi, and enjoy the soft sound of the rain. I slept and dreamt at night. I appreciated living and being in this rounded space, not the hard square angles of a house. I felt an affinity with the roundedness of the planets like the Moon and Sun. I felt for the 1st time that maybe Earth was round…and that I lived in a round place ? A unique and wonderful time for me in a reflective space.
Sometimes, friends came out in the early evening, leaving the busyness of Taos, to see a magnificent sunset, enjoy a simple campfire at the tipi, and play a little guitar as we wondered together at life amid the majestic stars above.
One evening, a friend asked, "What I was going to do when I went back-inside?”
This was code talk for-when I would leave my beloved tipi…and move back into town? I said I didn’t know (or really want to really think about it )…. But the summer only lasts so long in the mountains, Sarah would be returning soon, and it gets pretty cold in this high altitude,…so my days were numbered.
He then surprised me, “Why don’t you pray about it" ?
I answered “ who am I going to pray to ?
And, I thought ….if there is a God, which I didn’t know that there was… what would I pray for? Ask for a great new vocation to help to raise my daughter better ?
So, I said,” Do you think God has the perfect career for me…here… in the middle of nowhere, in Taos, New Mexico. … And on top of that…. something that I might like to do ?”
His reply, “what do you have to loose?"
And so a couple of days later, I couldn’t get this conversation out of my head…and thought WHAT DO I HAVE TO LOOSE ? I prayed my first but heart felt and emphatic “popcorn” prayer… something like this…
Hey God… If you are there?…. and listening to me?…. and do you happen to have a plan for my life?… especially some work I would like to do… creative and interesting …with no night hours, as I raise my little girl… I would like it now. Thank You, Jane.
Sounds kind of cheesy even to me now, but you have to start somewhere, and this is where I started.
And, then I forgot about it.
By fall I was heavy hearted about leaving my beloved tipi, to begin moving back into town. I was doing odd stints for small store owners, giving them a day off by “sitting” for them, and rearranging their wares, cleaning or reorganizing and changing displays. I had a background in retailing, from the early 70’s when I worked for Jordan Marsh Company in Boston ( now Macy’s ).
When I got into town in the mornings, I would go out for hot tea. I kept running into Jim Parsons who owned Gallery West Inc. He heard about me as a “sit-in” for folks around town, and asked me to help him for a couple of weeks, while his receptionist went to New York on a vacation. He offered me a small painting for my time. I said jokingly, “Where am I going to hang a painting in my tipi ?”
But… I kept running into him wherever I went, and he kept asking me the same thing, over and over. I told him I didn’t know anything about art or galleries, but nothing deterred him.He finally wore me down, and I agreed for a couple of days a week for 2 weeks.
And then it happened….. the very first time I stepped foot into his gallery on Kit Carson Road, I walked into a very beautiful and quiet peace, it felt like a calming stream was flowing into my spirit.
It was then, although I didn’t know it at the time that I became an art dealer. His receptionist never returned from New York, I had begun selling art. I had no training. It seemed as though I had done it my whole life! Jim Parsons told me he couldn’t train people to be art sellers, they either were, or they weren’t, like the “receptionist”. She had never sold anything in a year and a half… just answered the phone… and so he called her the receptionist.
And now that it has been 40 years since that 1st “popcorn prayer”, I can clearly see God’s hand in all of it. God used a practical need to get my attention, to a spiritual direction of my life. He moved it all at once, my calling in life’s work and his spiritual calling to me. He has directed my path since then, with the art business and my children. God has waiting patiently for me to ask for help, before making it obvious that it was his hand that moved the direction needed.
When I started work the very first day in Gallery West I had no idea that this temporary “sit in" job, would last almost 6 years. That my move to Arizona would see me in other galleries, and selling art out of my house and car, until I opened my own gallery in 1992 in Bisbee.
Jane Hamilton Fine Art moved to Tucson in 2001 and now is located this last decade in Plaza Colonial at the SW corner of Skyline / Campbell. The terrific foothills location affords the gallery space for 50 artists, a sculpture garden and other outside art as well as monumental pieces on the corner. I am grateful and thankful to the many artists, collectors and friends who have become apart of my gallery family.
My great appreciation also to my now grown children Sarah, Amy, Rebecca & Joseph who stood by as we watched our business begin from a tiny gallery, that grew and prospered…. and to my husband Tom Murray, whose magnificent work has graced my walls these last 29 years, and whose peaceful quiet countenance and sense of humor has always had my back.
****I had no idea how long that answer to my simple prayer would extend….. Maybe it was for Taos at that time, or for that one part time job ? But now, 40 years later….. life has shown me, that I had found “my calling” that day in more ways then one. My spiritual life then evolved as well, as I became a Christian.
But the first spiritual spark was ignited to me around a simple campfire, on the mesa at my tipi outside of Taos… when someone asked me, “why don’t you pray about it ?”
I’m so glad I did.