Everyone has a story to tell

Published 10:36 pm Monday, August 10, 2015


People often wonder how I find subjects for my column. I believe that everyone has a story and sometimes that story is just waiting around the corner. That’s how I met Susan Wilson. Susan frequently walks her Blue Tick hound, Banjo, in my neighborhood. I met Banjo before I met Susan, but one day I stopped to talk with her. She invited me to her house to see some of her paintings and to hear her story. So today, I have just a short walk around the corner and am looking forward to getting to know one of my neighbors.

Banjo hears the doorbell and greets me noisily. I once owned a Blue Tick and I quickly learn that Susan and I have something else in common. Susan grew up in Montreal, Canada on the St. Lawrence River. I grew up in New York State on the St. Lawrence River and the Canadian border. We both know what cold weather is and have enjoyed the South Carolina climate.

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We settle down in the living room and Susan begins sharing her story.

“From the time I was 16, I have been dealing with Meniere’s Disease. It’s an inner ear problem and can cause severe vertigo,” she explains. “Growing up at sea level helped control it, but if you go to higher altitudes it can be difficult.”

I learn it’s been a winding road that took her from Canada to Asheville to Charleston, where she started painting, and brought her to Landrum.

So let’s backtrack a little. Susan has a daughter and was divorced while living in Canada.  Eventually she went to a dating website, set up by her Seventh Day Adventist church. She connected with the man, Tony Wilson, she eventually married. He was living in Asheville.

“I was nervous,” she laughs. “We lived so far away from each other. I wanted to be sure about him and called his pastor, who confirmed he was a wonderful man. So with knowing each other, mostly from phone conversations, we were married and I moved to Asheville, not realizing the higher altitude would aggravate the Meniere’s.”

Eventually the vertigo proved to be too much for Susan to deal with on an everyday basis. With her husband agreeing to commute on weekends, Susan relocated to Charleston and found relief back at sea level.

One day she purchased a painting set at Costco. “I just picked it up one day and started painting. That was the beginning of my artistic experience. I was consumed with sitting by the ocean and looking at the waves. I wanted to capture the essence of the ocean in my painting. I paint mostly in oil, and I became a member of the Charleston Guild.”

The commute for Tony was difficult every weekend so they realized they needed a compromise. Susan adds, “That’s when we found Landrum. The altitude works for me and it’s a short commute to Asheville for my husband.”

We move into her studio and she shows me several of her paintings. I quickly determine that water is a subject she enjoys painting. But what surprises me is that many of her paintings have a backdrop of mountains. With the complications that mountains have created in her life, I ask her about her interest in painting them.

“Well, this picture is of the Three Sisters in Alberta, Canada,” she smiles. “I was drawn to them since I’m from Canada and I have three sisters. When I look at this painting and the mountain lupines, I think of my sisters.”

Another painting shows the mossy banks of the St Lawrence, birch trees lining the shore. “I’m experimenting with some flowers that are a little abstract,” she continues. “I like to paint on wood sometimes instead of canvas. I like the texture that it adds to the painting.”

Like I said, everyone has a story. I’ve enjoyed discovering that I have an interesting, talented artist as a neighbor, plus meeting someone from the other side of the mighty St. Lawrence

River. I’m sure this winter we’ll both be smiling when the Landrum temperatures dip to 30,

remembering our northern winter experiences when the temperatures dipped to minus 30.

Find Susan on Facebook by searching Susan Cere Wilson.