Anuj and I first saw the work of painter Ruth Shively this fall at a local gallery. We were both struck by her portraits and industrial landscapes, and after visiting her website, chose our favorites and imagined the day we might own one of our own. Sometime in October, Ruth’s home showed up on one of my favorite design blogs: designsponge. I took it as a sign. Needless to say, I loved her sense of style, and quickly decided to contact her. If I could swing it, my idea was to surprise Anuj with a painting for Christmas. This would be the first piece of art we ever bought ourselves. I sent Ruth an effusive email with a list of pieces I knew Anuj liked, and received a lovely reply with the news that they were in our budget. I chose Overlook, a piece featuring a woman standing before a highway running over a ravine. The image is all grays and blues with a touch of red in the woman’s hair. You can only see her from behind. It’s both bleak and beautiful. Next came the challenge of getting the painting. Anuj and I spend pretty much every minute together upstate, not because we’re joined at the hip, but because we only really leave the house to grocery shop, visit friends, or go out to dinner. So I made up a story about my friend needing me to meet her in town to look at a quilt for her husband – something I knew Anuj would have no interest in – and snuck over to Ruth’s place (check it out here) to collect Overlook.
Two months later, we were at my Dad’s in NH for Christmas. Overlook was wrapped under the tree. Anuj handed me a gift to open first – it was kinda big and awkwardly wrapped. I started tearing open the paper and saw the edge of a canvas. More torn paper revealed a painting. It was a Ruth Shively portrait called Cecile that I had mentioned to Anuj in an email. He saved the email, and gave me a printed copy of it as my card to go along with the gift. I started bawling, and Anuj gave me a look of ‘I knew it was a good gift, but I didn’t think it was THAT good.’ Then it was his turn. He opened my carefully wrapped box that he was convinced was a GPS we had no use for. Indeed. There was Overlook. And now Anuj was crying. Okay, maybe he wasn’t crying, but he was in shock. My family couldn’t believe it either – they were convinced this was planned. We got each other the same gift – he apparently contacted Ruth only a week earlier, and snuck out of the house to pick her up the same way I had back in October. Synchronicity of the highest order, right? What could top this? We now have two Ruth Shivelys.
Here they are Christmas night:
My gift to Anuj: Overlook.
Anuj’s gift to me: Cecile.
Our friend Dave says it’s like The Gift of the Maji without the irony.