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Kahlil Gibran and The Furniture Painter

Kahlil Gibran -

Katie, Kahlil Gibran, and the act of giving up possessiveness—the notion that “this is mine”—to become spiritually free in the truest sense of the word.

I’m in the process of furnishing my new loft. Yesterday I picked up four 50’s-era vintage metal chairs made in Chicago. I found them on Craigslist. They’re pretty sweet.

When I made it to the seller’s house, the lady came through the side gate and showed me to her backyard studio. She looked to be about 60, and she moved slowly, precariously, advising me to watch my step, guidance that seemed rather extreme since we walked along a paved pathway.

The chairs looked good, and I began to pull out my cash when the lady started talking. Lots. She introduced herself as Katie and said she collects furniture and odds and ends and paints them so they look new.

“You got to do it really careful,” she said. “The whole thing’s real slow.”

She told me about her love for painting and ran me through her furniture inventory, piece by piece. Again I began to pull out my cash when Katie told me she was turning 43 soon—at least she hoped so. I was so taken aback by her age that I almost missed her ominous closing statement.

“I’m not pregnant,” she said, patting her swollen stomach. “I have a tumor,” she said, and she teared up.

Katie talked and talked. She recently threw out her live-in boyfriend, who is NOT Mae’s father. Mae, by the way, is her mini-me 10-year-old daughter, a straight-A student. She and Mae could be twins except for the fact that Mae is going to be very tall. Her biological father was very tall, Katie said. Well, probably. Katie doesn’t remember who Mae’s biological father was because she was doing shrooms at the time of her conception.

Across the street several people rolled by in electric wheelchairs. Each of them waved and greeted Katie. That’s section 8 Medicaid housing, she said. Turns out Katie has helped to furnish several of the residents’ apartments from her studio stash. All gratis.

By now I had spent a good 30 minutes at Katie’s studio. I told her I had to go. She asked if I’d read Kahlil Gibran. I said I had. She said his teachings help her. I told her they help me too.

“Then choose something from my studio to take as a gift,” she told me. “Please,” she said, “I want you to.” I lifted a fabulous, orange glass owl from the wall, and she said that owl was her favorite. “But I’ve got a good feeling about you,” she said, “and I want you to have it.” When I paid her for the chairs, she tried to give me a 15% discount, but I refused to take it. I told her I valued her work, her art, and that the full price was fair.

As I left I thought about Kahlil Gibran and my new Katie owl. “Katie,” I told her, “you have to see a doctor.”

“But I’m afraid,” she said.

“I’m afraid too,” I said.

She teared up again.

The doctor advised bedrest. No work. No painting. She was supposed to make an appointment with a surgeon, but she had been putting it off.

Thing is, you have a daughter to care for and lots of painting to do, I told her. You have to make the appointment. You have to do it now.

“I’m going to go inside and call the surgeon,” she said.

“I hope you do,” I said.

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