When I first pictured taking over the Stinkin’ Skunk Ape Fish Camp, I envisioned a sign out by the road in pastel colors with a swooping, graceful font that read Blue’s Lotus Lodge. This is not what happened. The rumor mill of Catfish Springs became convinced that I had hired Lorraine’s sister Lerlene to do the sign. Lerlene is our local artist; her style is noted for oversized objects in blinding colors. She has been commissioned to do a series of oversized vegetables for the produce section of the Whatcha Need Mart and just recently her Welcome to Catfish Springs sign was put out on the highway.
It looks like a catfish strung out on cocaine in blinding shades of lime green, hot sun yellow and turquoise.
My Blue’s Lotus Lodge ended up looking like a psychedelic artichoke with chaotic Chinese take lettering.
I’ll be honest. I hated it. I cried. It was all I could do to smile and thank her for it. But over the next few weeks, I had a change of heart. It was eye-catching and got lots of comments, albeit not always complimentary ones. It did make it easy to find the retreat, you sure couldn’t miss the sign.
And then a drunk driver smashed into it over Halloween and blew it to splinters. I found myself really torn. This was my chance to go back to the original design, the pastel colors, the flowy script. But my retreat had already gotten the identity, “the place with the crazy sign”. Meanwhile, Lerlene had had articles written about her in local and state magazines. She’s really getting some notoriety. When she offered to make a replacement sign, it seemed impossible to refuse and possibly stupid.
“It’ll be even bigger and better than the last one,” she’d said encouragingly, giving me a conciliatory hug.
I knew she was busy with other commissions, so I didn’t expect my sign until sometime in January. In the meantime, I’d had Hey Baby, What’s Your Sign? in Gainesville make and install a black and white utilitarian sign.
Imagine my surprise to find that the temporary sign was gone, and the new sign was in place. I had to stop the truck to take it in. The psychedelic artichoke was back but whereas before it was floating in a field of plain white, this time it sat in a fiery, rainbow lake. Multi-colored spotlights radiated out from its leaves like searchlights seeking heaven through a dreamy fog of turquoise fading to a horizon of deep plum. The colors were even richer than before. It was dazzling. I was crazy about it.
But it was not alone. It was flanked by two shiny, aluminum trees with branches in red, green, and gold and a forest of four-foot-tall plastic candy canes in the foreground. Green garlands wound around the legs of the sign accentuated with white twinkle lights. Three wire framed deer with white lights seemed to be prancing down the retreat road.
It was all so over the top, so unlike anything I would have done and yet wonderful, I was overcome with emotion. Knowing that I’d be out of the way, Lerlene must have had a team working feverishly to get this all done while I was gone. I loved it. I was so touched by the effort and fantastic outcome, I got choked up. I eased off the brakes and followed the deer to see what else had happened while I was away.
–from I’ll Have a Haint Blue Christmas