Last year it seemed to me that every two or three weeks I heard of some individual or family I knew losing a pet to old age, illness or accidents.
One animal-loving friend had an adored dog killed by a car, then just days later lost as well a cat at the same place and by the same means.
It seemed like pet deaths were more frequent than usual, though possibly it may have seemed so because we now have social media, and when well-loved pets die, people tend to post about it. Maybe I was just hearing about it more when it happened.
Every dying pet I heard of made me dread the inevitable loss someday of Lola, the dog that has been part of my life and Rhonda’s for right about a dozen years. She’s in good health, but she is aging, even though we tend still to refer to her as “the puppy” and she can run like a young thing. Even so, the sad day will come when she is gone, and I know it will be hard.
Maybe all the above is why I took notice of a particular display at the farmers market that happened last Saturday in the parking lot of the Greene County Partnership.
Sitting by herself in one corner of the market area was a woman with a simple display of items spread on a table beside her. She had no fancy setup, no big colorful signs, decorations or so on to draw attention to her little area. Even so, I drifted over to see what she had.
She wasn’t selling garden vegetables or fruit. On her table were rocks, the rounded, smooth river-rock variety. They were painted on their top surfaces, many with floral images and so on. Many others bore the painted images of animals, mostly dogs and cats, with a few other critter types thrown in. Horses, a pig or two, some bunnies.
Birds, too. And many of the images had backgrounds painted in around the creatures.
The business card of the artist says only: Pet Portraits on Rocks by The Rock Lady, Elizabeth Buda.
Her work, it seemed to me, was quite good, better than many other amateur paintings I’ve seen at shows and festivals, not that I have any special qualifications to judge visual art.
I asked her if she’d done the artwork herself. Yes, she had. And the ones with animals were not just random ones, but images of pets people had asked her to paint onto the smooth stones for keepsakes and memorials of their four-legged loved ones.
Elizabeth Buda has found a clever and lasting way to help people honor their special critters in a way that will last. It’s both a hobby and a retirement business for her, something she does that means a lot to her and probably even more to her customers.
I had a chance to talk briefly with her about her process, and she said she does the artwork by hand, and on the animal portraits works from photographs, not with the actual animal. Whether there are programs or apps that somehow aid the process, or whether she simply is talented, I don’t know.
Not that it matters, if the final product is good.
What I thought of as I looked over her rock paintings were memories of pets I had as a boy, especially the dogs. It would be a wonderful thing to have images of those canines so that I could more precisely remember how they looked. You know how details can slip away as time passes.
I’ve got no connection with Elizabeth Buda nor anything personally to gain by promoting her interesting and creative task. And to keep this column from being a straight-out advertisement, I’ll not give her prices here, only note that I was surprised at how low they are.
If you would like to explore the possibility of uniquely preserving the image of a pet of your own, or, if you are a parent with young children, the image of a pet they have now that might fade in their future memories, there’s only one way the Rock Lady lists on her card by which to contact her.
That is her cell phone number of 423-609-1908. She lists no physical address or website.
Whether she will return to the farmers market on coming Saturdays, I don’t know. If she does, you can see her work for yourself if you stop by, and also find lots of other interesting goods at the various booths and tables. And as the summer moves on, there should be more and more fresh produce to be had.
The location for this year is the parking lot of the Greene County Partnership building. It’s a good place to visit on a Saturday morning as summer creeps in.
So Rock on, Rock Lady! And all you other farmers market folks too. After a year of everyone dodging one another and straining for breath beneath face masks, an open-air market such as you provide us is a most literal breath of fresh air.