In May I submitted some invoices and cleared the work-decks for a trip in and around my home state of Tennessee.

To re-visit the complicated south that I grew up in and my family and their homes can be an emotionally trying thing, but it is important and necessary to breathe this air whenever I am able to do so. I miss it so much when I am out west. I love to float lazily down the same river in the Smoky Mountains that I swam in as a kid in and to watch my own kid collect rocks and swim in this river. My dear great aunt Bettys ashes were scattered in this water a few years ago. It’s just such a meaningful and magic place.

Nashville is too sad, since my family there have all passed on. So, when I’m there I try to have the best time I possibly can going to familiar places, and to also get out as quickly as I possibly can. I do love that town and have great memories from it but at the risk of sounding like a cliched country song, my heart was so bruised there that it hurts when I’m in that city.

I had inspiring revelations aplenty on this trip, and one of these is that I love Chattanooga. I know! It has an enchanting little downtown with a foot bridge you can walk over and look down at the fish jumping around in the Tennessee River, a hotel where you can stay in a vintage pullman car, and for me no sad history attached. Completely charming!
The most inspiring side trip this visit to the hometownland was a trek out into the Georgia countryside to Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden.


© rachael schafer : summer2016


I have loved Howard and his work since early on in my life in Tennessee. I first learned of him via the Talking Heads album cover that featured his work. Then later when I studied Design and painting in the UTK art department, a lot of my art-friends would make the trip to visit him and return with pieces of art and stories galore. I always meant to make the drive to meet him, but time got away and I was busy, and you know how that goes. So, the first time I was able to get there was July 13, 2016.

There is definitely a lesson in this for me on making the time *at the time*. Howard’s spirit lives on though in his magnificent art garden.

This trip home has given me so much: seeing my 95 year old grandmother, inspiration, faith in myself, friends new and old, mountain air, so much {SO MUCH!} fantastic food, gorgeous plants and animals, and I’m excited to just make stuff as much as I can wherever I am, with this bit of a gift called time.