New in Ashevile – The Journey

By: Jennine Hough


“Life as a journey” was not a familiar concept or way of thinking for me until this last year.


I have always based my life on plans, ideas, accomplishments, and finishing projects. My friends, I think, would describe me as a perfectionist, a Type A-minus, strong, resilient, logical, motivated, and light-hearted, but impatient and filling every moment of the day with a self-created goals (not without spontaneous interludes triggered by my ADD).


But in March of 2011 I heard a sermon by The Reverend Luis Leon at the President’s Church in Washington, DC. He addressed NOW. He talked about the freedom that is possible when you forget fear and doubt and relinquish control—and follow hope. I realized what I hate to admit, but know—I need to listen, and to allow the messages of God and his son, Jesus Christ, in my case, to be the voice that I hear.


Timing is everything, we all know.


The topic of “journey” appealed to me even more because for the past three years I had been “open,” waiting for an epiphany, wondering if I was the creator of the path in my mind, like the realities in my paintings, or if I was not in control at all. I had a stone in my Aspen studio that said FAITH, reminding me of the St. Augustine quote “Faith is to believe what you do not yet see. The reward for faith is to see what you believe.” What I believed and wanted to see was myself in Asheville. And after this sermon I began to see God’s signs to “go,” one after another.


I am not impulsive or adventurous. I knew Asheville from growing up in North Carolina and visiting on vacations as a child and an adult. Three years ago I started coming to Asheville from my home in Aspen, where I have lived for eleven years, looking at the geography because I love the (DIVINE) mountains, and looking at the arts because painting and teaching are what I do. I was not looking to relocate. I was looking to BE here for the rest of my life. Asheville would be only the third place that I have lived as an adult, following Atlanta and Aspen, staying on the A-list.


An only child with deceased parents, I was growing more restless and feeling more isolated in beautiful Aspen, wanting to get back to my roots, my cousins, their children; the East coast of beaches, Washington, DC, New York, the art scene, and lots of friends. I was still recovering from the death of my first dog, my Standard Poodle, Harvey. Asheville was the only place that I considered living.


However, as I started packing boxes, I kept questioning how I would move my massive amount of stuff, including my studio and my animals, deal with the expense, and find a house to rent. Was I crazy to move to a place where I knew only two people, wonderful though they were, but knowing each of them only through my looking for and renting houses? But by the end of September, when the moving truck pulled up in front of my house in Aspen, I was ecstatically happy and had no worries or doubts about my decision to move.


The three glorious fall days spent traveling on Eisenhower’s great vision that slices through America are definitely one of the summits of my life, higher than the 7,908’ elevation that I was leaving. A loyal friend from Atlanta flew to Aspen and rode with me (qualifying her for sainthood). The hours sped by, filled with conversation, music, fast food, plans, dreams, and confessions, while constantly marveling at the color of fall following us. It felt like January 1st—the New Year—full of hope, creativity and resolutions… “the sky is the limit.” My future could only be a 10.


The trip and the move went perfectly —no flat tires, nothing broken, nothing lost.


Now, as I am counting my many blessings I am looking for another, in the form of employment. I have never, ever seen myself as “unemployed.” When inquiring about teaching at an art center here, I was recently told that “there are more people here who want to teach than want to take.” I am listening—every day my ears are growing. And my heart is opening. Unfortunately most of the calls to my land line are for the three previous owners of my phone number who are being stalked by debt collectors. The calls to my cell are from friends who are inquiring if I have gotten a job.


I continue daily to search on-line and to follow the newspaper for job openings at the small colleges (my past experience), private schools, art centers, and for studios where I could give workshops. My diligent diet of cover letters, applications, resumes, proposals, and re-calls is preoccupying my thoughts and seeming like a motivational, narcissistic self-promotion that I am finding uncomfortable. I am waiting for a message, listening for the voice and some direction. Some days it is hard to separate my enormous personal happiness from my inability to land a job. Then my funky self-doubt asks, “Am I wanting more than I deserve?” Humility begins to replace my self-focused ambition.


My blanket of comfort is filled with many, many serendipitous experiences of people, portraits, houses, dogs and luck. Yesterday I literally ran into an Asheville artist that I have wanted to meet for four months. Every person that I have met has connected me with someone else, a business, or an idea. I am diving into new subjects in my paintings, and into new materials. In these new awarenesses, as my mind flickers with hard economic truths, I am finally enjoying surrendering to the unknown, relishing what comes, letting the day flow through me, nourishing my passions, enjoying and being creative with the uncertainty, and trashing what does not fit. The evening comfort of bedtime is filled with recognizing the numerous blessings of the day (including my new dog, Dallas) and realizing what an amazing and embracing community that I am living in, and in knowing that I listened and I am HERE.


Jennine’s paintings (and her resume and teaching experience) can be seen on her website, www.


Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker