When I received this beautifully calligraphed envelope early in the New Year, I knew exactly who it was from. Gail Brill has been a friend since the early 2000’s, but we haven’t been in close touch since she moved to Saranac Lake in 2003. It took receiving her beautiful 2020 wishes to remind me how much I missed her.
The return address on the envelope got torn when I’d opened it, nor was Gail’s new address in my contact’s file. To be sure, I emailed her to ask for the exact number of the street she’d moved to. “Honestly,” she responded, “I think if you left out the street name it would still get to me!”
Something about that sentence went straight to my heart and said, “I want that!” To be so known in your own hometown that a street address isn’t a necessity. I know that would never happen (for me) in NYC, but it compelled me to want to talk more to Gail about how she’s become such an indelible member of her community.
We spoke for 45 minutes this afternoon. I found out everything I was looking for. My last post was about Ralph Lauren, and I see lots of similarities in the way they’ve each stayed true to their visions and created a brand and lifestyle. It reminds me that you don’t have to be an internationally known fashion designer to have a life that’s fulfilling and satisfying.
First of all, Gail is a Force. Wherever she decided to move, she was going to bring her formidable energy, enthusiasm, talent and generosity of spirit with her. She chose Saranac Lake whose motto is: Decidedly Different. “There was a Unitarian Church here, so I knew it had to be somewhat progressive.” It first earned its reputation as a healing town when a man with Tuberculosis came with the intention to die in the woods, but instead “took the cure” offered by the clean air, healthy lifestyle, and his neighbors’ love of the outdoors. From there, many residents built healing porches, and the town got on the map as a place for getting better.
Since then, she’s found or created everything she’s needed to thrive which includes becoming President of the Creative Healing Connections, a Gratitude Girls kayaking group that paddles under the stars on summer nights, a Winter Carnival Marching Gnomes group and an AirBnB Experience for visitors who want to learn embroidery.
“Do you know about the Tiny Pricks Project?” she asked me taking us down a fabulous rabbit hole which I’ll let you investigate further. That discovery led her back to her own interest in elegant stitchery, and she now offers classes at her studio. Every student gets a kit Gail has designed that’s essentially a pizza box with an embroidery hoop, skeins of floss, a needle-threader, etc. Everything you’d need to begin. She’s working on youtube videos to accompany her teaching. “I’d been massaging chicken with turmeric earlier in the day for a dish I was preparing, so all the videos show me demonstrating with orange hands.” I suggested she go with it and simply add the disclaimer. Everything Gail does has a great story behind it and enriches the experience for the participant.
She does come to NYC – not as much as she’d like – but her son lives in Brooklyn, and she teaches on occasion at Remade in Brooklyn. Gail had met the owner, Linnae, in Saranac Lake at the Farm 2 Fork Festival which Gail also started. Linnae had stepped in to volunteer, and the two soon realized that their connection went back further to their work with Martha Stewart decades before.
I was so inspired by Gail’s energy and enthusiasm AGAIN, and wanted to share it with you. I’m so glad I reached out to her about the missing address. You never know what’s going to happen when you follow an urge. I got re-invigorated to make my name well known in New York. I also hope to visit Gail either in Saranac Lake or when she comes back to Brooklyn. Want to join me?!