I lost a beloved friend last week. Julie Caton was (it’s hard to use past tense in referring to her) a cultured, intelligent, grace-filled person. She quietly attended mass at St. Margaret Mary Catholic church most days. She didn’t make a big deal about her spiritual life, she simply lived out her practices. As sophisticated as Julie was, she disdained fancy. She embraced Florida’s casual lifestyle. Everything about Julie was authentic.
I met her at the Maitland Art Center almost thirty years ago. We were newbie potters. We became fast friends over a random connection. Her previous doctor in Sarasota was a potter. On more than a few visits, she would see clay pots freshly thrown on the pottery wheel in his office. Dr. Randy Silverstein was also the former husband of my former husband’s then current wife. The intricate web of connections and our love of pottery anchored our long-term friendship.
Julie and I traveled to ceramic workshops and conferences together. On one trip to Denver, I purchased a gas kiln. Arranging for this 3,000 pound kiln to be delivered to Florida and on to its cement slab in my backyard was quite the challenge. The first time I fired it, a neighbor called the fire department. The Fire Marshall determined the kiln was safer than a barbecue grill. Julie cheered me on and then did the same thing. She bought her own kiln, installing it in her backyard next to her pottery studio. We were serious about our hobbies. Our husbands were amazingly tolerant. I don’t know why we didn’t pool our resources and share one. Collectively, I doubt if we even fired these two furnaces (the kilns were fired to 2300 degrees) more than thirty times. Neighbors used to joke we had one stop crematoriums, urns included.
We shared a love of fine crafts. Sprinkled throughout my home are pottery pieces she picked up for me during her travels.
She had such a good eye. Julie looked forward to the Winter Park Art Festival in March of each year. She often hosted pre-festival parties in her gorgeous backyard garden. She would arrive early on festival Fridays, studiously browsing through the white canvassed booths for good craft objects of art. Our favorite store was Timothy’s on Park Avenue. “We could get into some real trouble here,” we would murmur to each other entering the doorway of this Mecca of fine and fun art. I loved sharing that time with her. We were bereft when Timothy’s shuttered its doors.
I lost my mom when I was thirty. I recognize I have spent subsequent years attaching myself to women who remind me of her. Although there was not a significant age difference between us, I looked up to Julie. I trusted her spiritual core, her love of beauty, her wisdom, her love of books, and her values.
Our visits were sporadic. Probably just four or five times each year. I’m so grateful we could spend more time together following her move to Baldwin Park this year. The last time I saw Julie, she told me she and Jack were heading to Lakeland the next day to see an art exhibition. That was my cultured, thoughtful friend, always in pursuit of knowledge and beauty. She made the world a better place. Like a portable alter (Mexican folk art Retablo) I’m going to carry her around in my heart, turning to her for guidance and inspiration in times of uncertainty. I may even buy a Retablo in her honor. Amen