Many people ask me how I got started in this gypsy merchant life. With hindsight I can see my interest in jewelry going back to when I was a toddler. I lived then in a house in Los Angeles with my mother, my grandmother and my aunt while my father was in the Army and all three women loved to dress well and wear interesting jewelry. One of my earliest memories was sitting at my grandmother's vanity trying on their jewelry.
A most pivotal memory, however, occurred while traveling by train with my mother and baby brother from Los Angeles to Indianapolis to visit my other grandparents. The excitement of eating in a dining car and sleeping in a train berth while rolling through the night can hardly be overstated for my two and a half year- old self. Awakening the next morning as the train stopped in Albuquerque I looked out the window at a scene I will never forget. Sitting on bright blankets on the wooden train platform with silver jewelry laid out before them were two of the most beautiful creatures I had ever seen. Two Navaho women with gleaming black hair, wearing velvet tiered skirts and squash blossom necklaces, couldn't have looked more exotic to me than if I had seen two Japanese geishas. Somehow I knew that they were doing business, earning money in a way that didn't compare with getting a paycheck for typing in an office or cooking in a restaurant. Years later traveling as a young adult I felt the same fascination with their businesswoman sisters whether I met them selling jewelry on the docks in Manila or from a market stall in Senegal. I admired their jovial freedom and financial independence but had no idea that I could join their sisterhood----I came from a paycheck-earning family, you see, and working for oneself was too insecure.
So I went to college, married, became a registered nurse working in operating rooms or a psychotherapist working in mental health clinics or hospital psychiatric wards. In the years before, during and immediately after a terrifying divorce, I looked ahead with real dread at the prospect of working in big “health care” institutions for decades into the future. I had begun to see them as big businesses more than providers of human-to-human care,
But serendipity saved me in the form of a man selling jewelry near the doorway of Woolworth's on the plaza in Santa Fe. During each break from the conference I was attending I would rush out to the plaza to examine and reexamine his wares. On the fourth visit he said to me, "Do you realize that every time you come up to my table a crowd gathers around you?" I asked, "What does that mean?" and he answered, "It means you have good energy for this stuff." I joked, "Why don't you hire me then to be your shill?" He rolled his eyes and looked at me as if I were truly crazy, as an entrepreneur might look at anyone still clinging to paychecks, and said, "Why don't you buy some jewelry and do this yourself?" I honestly felt like the cartoon woman with a giant lightbulb drawn over my head. His offhand suggestion worked like a magic wand waved by a fairy godfather. Two months later I had bought $700 worth of treasures from sources he had suggested and began selling to acquaintances when they commented approvingly on the jewelry I was wearing. I used every bit of profit to buy more inventory until I had enough offerings three years later to support myself full-time. I retired my nursing license and have never looked back.
Enough credit cannot be given to my wonderful, loyal, supportive customers who have relentlessly taught me what they wanted and where I should go. A most generous librarian in Tulsa, Rosemary Moran, led me to the Oklahoma Library Association convention and then to the American Library Association convention which led to writer's and storyteller's conventions. Similar tips led me to festivals and conferences all over this gorgeous country. With my van packed to the headliner and a new audiobook in the CD player I couldn't be happier as I head out "on the road again." It's a point of pride that no corner of this nation is "flyover" country for me.
More good fortune occurs as people turn up regularly who want to share the merchant adventure. My dear sister, Mary Lundie, lives in Santa Clarita, California and runs the office at a large elementary school. She is the one who locks down the schoolyard and calls Animal Control when a bear is spotted on the hillside. But she often joins me at West Coast festivals and opens her home to me for "visits" as long as two months in length. Her amazingly relaxed husband, Dennis, doesn't even refer to these visits as home invasions.
The same hospitality and excellent help comes from Cindy Hanifen in north Texas. With a day-job as an executive recruiter she actually recruited me to show her the gypsy merchant life.
The latest gift of serendipity to Frozen Light also came from a customer to whom I had described exactly the person I would like to find to organize and manage my pitifully-neglected website. She said, "I think I know just the person" and told me about her own part-time office manager, Brandi Hurst, who called me within an hour of this conversation. If this doesn't sound lucky enough, consider that this discussion occurred at a national Social Work convention in Fort Worth but the very talented Brandi lives and works in Tulsa and drives within one block of my home/office/warehouse every day. Now she spreads her organizational skills over both a therapy office and a jewelry website and claims she has two dream jobs.
Does this all sound too amazingly lucky? It does to me. But I will never argue with the possibility of magic being afoot in the world. We can't seek it out forcefully but we can get closer to the flow of it when we are most aligned to our own truest selves, pay respectful attention to messages from others and stay alert to whatever veiled form good fortune may be taking in our lives.
I wish you all similar good fortune and the willingness to embrace it.