Lost and Found Objects, Friends, Stories on the Street and Happy Endings

Strollstice Group holds candles and sings, Market Square, Knoxville

Recently I donned my coat and hat ready for an evening of pictures on the street. It was the night of the Tour de Lights and the Strollstice. I hoped to sing along with the carrollers and return to take photographs of the bike ride. The last thing I do before I head out the door is grab my camera. That’s where the night took an unexpected turn. My camera was not to be found. I had taken it out earlier and made stops at Bliss and Mast, so I hoped I’d left it on the counter as I made my purchases and that I would find it there, safe and secure. Honestly, my first thought was that I hoped I could retrieve it in time to take pictures of the events in question.

I passed the group gathering for the Strollstice. It’s a gathering started last year by the late, much loved, Robert Loest, hero of many downtown residents. His idea was to banish the darkness with candles at the beginning of the Winter Solstice after the longest night of the year. A blessing was given by a priest and the group paraded around downtown singing carols into the night. This year’s event was also set in remembrance of Robert who died unexpectedly last February.

Strollstice Group sings “Auld Lang Syne” on Market Square

I spoke to Victoria at Bliss who took my number, but reported no camera. I checked the shelves near where I selected gifts for Urban Baby. No luck. My pulse and my pace quickening, I walked to Mast and spoke to the crew at the front counter and looked on the shelves there. Nothing. I walked back home with the sinking feeling that I would have to buy a new camera which is definitely not what I need to spend money on at Christmas. I searched the house again. I returned to Bliss. I returned to Mast. Nothing, nothing, nothing.

Forget the events of the evening, how would I blog at all until I got a new camera?

I decided I had to leave my number there though, realistically, I knew if the camera had not shown up in the first hours since I left it, it would not be returned by someone who was sudddenly stricken with an attack of conscience. I said as much to Amber (pictured in last photo in the Tour de Lights post) who had not been at the counter when I asked the first time. She informed me that a manager had found a camera earlier. The angels sang. I sang (inside). My blogging career would not end, after all.

I found the Strollstice group as they ended their walk. I missed most of the event, but perhaps got the best part. They sang “Auld Lang Syne” on a cold and wet winter night, candles held aloft. Small voices, small glimmers of light. As the group dispersed I talked to friends – not old aquaintances, but good new ones. I felt thankful for the great place I live and for friendly faces on the street. Of course, I felt thankful for my camera.

Cynthia Markert, smiling as always, stands on Union Avenue

One of the most consistently friendly faces downtown is Cynthia Markert. Her paintings are well known treasures, but her warm presence is even more of a jewel. I bumped into her just after the Strollstice gathering ended. She, like myself, was taking pictures on the street of the bikers and enjoying the joy of the occasion and the season. I told her the story of my camera and she told me the story of one of her paintings.

She’d carried a number of her paintings out to her car parked on Gay Street and had driven off, only to realize later that a painting had been left on the street. She said, “Of course, it quickly became my favorite.” She thought it was lost forever until she got a call from a couple who found it leaning against the escalator behind the Regal Cinema. They had tracked her down and wanted to return her painting.

So what is the moral of these stories? I’m not sure. I do know that objects lost and found become more precious. I know that there are good, honest people in downtown Knoxville. And mostly I know that I’m happy and proud to find myself among those people.

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