It was June 21, 2009. The first day of summer and longest day of the year. The last night Tanya Orme would taste all the world has to offer.
She was just 24, a Dunedin native but a child of the universe. A deckhand on a historic schooner in New Jersey. A surfer and sailor. A painter and writer who cared nothing about money, clothes or material trappings.
On the night of the summer solstice, Tanya and a fellow musician strummed guitars at a bar in a small New Jersey town, then headed out in his 1995 silver Porsche Carrera convertible.
As they passed a series of cars on wet pavement, the Porsche slid out of control, struck a tree and slid down an embankment.
It landed upside-down. Both occupants died instantly.
In the aftermath, Mary Orme Ellis, Tanya's mother, was sorting through her daughter's possessions when she discovered journals detailing Tanya's adventures, feelings and plans for the future. The musings mirrored much of what her daughter had painted on canvas.
"Tanya had some really important things to say," said Ellis, 55, co-owner of Affinity Marketing and Communications in Dunedin.
Tanya's journey of self-discovery is now on display at the Stirling Art Studios in downtown Dunedin. The exhibit, Non-Local Flow, is an assemblage of 50 — about one-third — of Tanya's original paintings. They aren't for sale but they can be viewed through Saturday. Canvas reproductions are available.
Tanya's contemplations are further documented in Ellis' 216-page book, Non-Local Flow: Good Chi, the Sea and Me. Brimming with Tanya's poetry, prose and artwork, it sells for $39.95 and may be purchased along with prints and note cards reproduced from some of the more popular paintings at www.NonLocalFlow.com. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Homeless Emergency Project in Clearwater, an organization Tanya had helped in the past.
"Profit from the book was never a motive," Ellis said. "It is my way of keeping Tanya alive. Paintings and books are enduring, and through them, she will be remembered long after the rest of us are gone."
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Tanya was born in Dunedin in 1985 and grew up in Ozona. She graduated from Palm Harbor University High School in 2003.
When she was 6, her mother read her the story Aladdin, then asked her what three wishes she would make if she had a magic lamp. Her answers: her own home (so family allergies wouldn't prevent her from having a cat) and a car (yes, the wanderlust was kicking in).
The third wish was the kicker.
"She wanted her best friend Chelsea to have three wishes as well," Ellis said, fighting back tears. "What 6-year-old would be that giving?"
As Tanya grew, her altruistic nature flourished. She never had much money and painted on whatever material was at hand including used sail cloth, marine charts and squares of drywall. She gave away her creations to friends, family members and admirers. She enjoyed helping the less fortunate. She was quick to lend a hand, and heart, to those who were different.
Freedom is the ability to feel love for everyone.
If I can say to somebody else, 'I love you,' I must be able to say,
I love in you everybody.
I love through you the world, I love in you also myself.
— Tanya Orme from Non-Local Flow: Good Chi, the Sea and Me
Tanya rode the waves of life without fear, whether it was backpacking alone in the Mexican desert or sliding down a steep waterfall in New Zealand.
After graduating summa cum laude from Florida Atlantic University, she joined the crew of the Bounty, a replica built for the 1960 movie Mutiny on the Bounty. It's used for filming and touring purposes and was docked in St. Petersburg for a while. Soon Tanya, the brave one, was furling and deploying sails 100 feet above the deck.
When Bounty reached the end of its six-month sojourn in San Diego, Tanya jumped ship and headed to Mexico — not for the tourist spots, but to abandon her comfort zone and experience some primitive, third-world adventures.
Months later, she was penniless, hungry and sick from living in filthy conditions with no running water. She hadn't washed her clothes for three months. She needed to return home.
Later her mother learned about her deliberate attempt to sacrifice comfort when she discovered this passage among Tanya's writings:
If self-acceptance is to be formulated in any situation, no matter how far-reaching it is from what I accept to be right and true, then I must venture outside of my comfort zone.
About six months before the accident that took her life, Tanya held her first art show in Ozona. Admission was $1, with 25 percent of her sales going to the Homeless Emergency Project. She had donated a piece of art for one of HEP's silent auctions and wanted to help again.
She sold one painting that evening, Iceberg, for $400. Its owner has lent it to the exhibition.
In the book Non-Local Flow, Christine Garrison, former development specialist with HEP, describes how Tanya eagerly brought in her donation of dollars stuffed in a glass jar.
"She practically danced down the hallway when she returned with the cash donation from the art show proceeds," she wrote.
• • •
Ellis said that until she read the journals, she really never understood her daughter's nonconformist ways.
"I just didn't get her," she said. "In the way of material things, she had little, but in her mind, she had it all."
Tanya's news release for her first, and what would become her last, art show was telling.
My art focuses on where I am standing now and where I have been, it read.
My life is so rich, and I want to share that.