|Leo Hawelka, on his 99th birthday in his Vienna Cafe|
That's not why I was there, I went to meet with the woman making a film about my work, Karin Wally. And that day Hawelka, sitting at the next table in his great coat, just happened to be having his 99th birthday. Karin wrote to me today to pass on news of his death and reminded me that I had done a sketch of Hewelka that day (I had forgotten but went through my sketchbooks and actually found it!) Had she not written me I would not have known that such an iconic figure passed through my life.
That reminded me that I'd had another meeting at the same cafe when I first arrived in Vienna 18 months previously. I'd met with an artist who told me about the art scene and gave me some contacts for my visit. As we left that winter day we stepped around an old man in a wheelchair and his companion. As we passed she turned to me and said "Have you heard of Hrdlicka, Vienna's most famous sculptor?" Of course I had. He has major monuments in Vienna. Well, that was him! He also died within a year, but not before I was invited to attend his last major sculpture unveiling.
None of this happened because I am an important person, but simply because I was aware (or rather was reminded) of the greater stories swirling about me all the time. As we end 2011, the year of the freedom breaking out all over the world, perhaps each of us will look back on this pivotal moment in the Great Story and recall where we were, how we contributed, and who was there with us when it happened.