Betty J. Slade

 

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    Watermarks: The good, the bad and everything in between

    Birthdays have a way of making a person reflective as they surface wonderful memories. For some, it's a time to give pause on their special day, to acknowledge those who walked with them through various moments in life. 

    I recently had a birthday, which incorporated all of these things, and more. 

    While thumbing through the Colorado Country Life Magazine, I recognized an image that had great personal meaning to me. It was the cover of my novella, "Heart Bender." It was accompanied by a review of my book. I was filled with great pride as I saw my written work acknowledged.

    Every Monday afternoon, a friend steeped in languages teaches me New Testament Greek. During my Tuesday prayer group, a Messianic Jewish couple teaches me the richness of Hebrew history from the Old Testament. On any other given day of the week, I have three dear friends on speed dial who edit my writings and challenge me to continue giving life to paper.

    I received a number of calls and emails the week of my birthday from those that I feel have brought me to a higher place in my faith and knowledge. I was reminded how thankful I am to be surrounded by those who are wiser than me.

    Then there is family. Those we are also thankful for who have a special way of sweeping us right back "on" our feet. I said to my son, "Would it be too difficult for you to show me how to move a file from my computer to the Cloud?'

    Although he showed me, it wasn't without a response to my question, "Just so you know, moving this entire house 3 inches to the left would have been easier."

    Even in spite of a smart-mouthed comment from one of my adult children, I continue to be enamored by all of the teachable moments and learnings that have come my way. I am richly blessed.

    I told my Sweet Al that I felt like all of these moments were creating a watermark on my life. I asked him what he thought about that.

    He said, "Remember when you were facing jail time because of a watermark?"

    He continued, "You were jumping up and down sweating bullets. You were praying, 'Oh Sweet Jesus, save me from prison. I promise I didn't know they were fake.'"

    Heavens, yes, I remember. But that wasn't exactly the watermark I had been thinking about. In retrospect, it is the good, the bad and everything in between that create a watermark on our lives.

    I first learned about watermarks in 1986 while working for a fine art gallery. I sold "investment art," signed and numbered limited edition prints of various internationally renowned artists.

    There was one whose work I wasn't necessarily fond of. The artist was Salvador Dali. He was on his last leg in life and his art was a hot commodity. Dali was 83 years old and had been hospitalized at the time. no one knew how much longer he would be with us. In art investment terms, this meant that the price of his art would go sky high at any minute.

    The company I worked for supplied the artist's prints. With complete trust in their authenticity, I sold, sold and sold all that sizzled. Flash forward, I am standing in a courtroom in front of a judge defending my innocence and my freedom. This was when I learned the secrets of a watermark.

    When watercolor paper is made, there are certain markings pressed into the paper that tell a story of its production. There are various shapes, numbers and symbols that can tell those in the know the exact origin of the paper.

    In Dali's wild and unconventional way, he signed thousands of blank sheets of this paper that were then stored in warehouses. Eventually, he became too frail and sick to do any more work, although companies were still cranking out his signed and numbered prints as if they were authorized by Dali himself.

    After hiring an expensive attorney and taking my seat in a court of law, I learned a valuable lesson about fraudulent artwork and the composition of a watermark. If you hold it up to a light, you can see all of the shapes and symbols that identify its origin.

    Final brushstroke: Our lives reveal a watermark that is designed by the people and experiences we encounter. Similar to a piece of fine art, it is when we hold it up to a light that we identify who we are.

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