Soren Kierkegaard got his inspiration, his knowledge, by taking a daily walk through the streets of Copenhagen. He became known for plunging into conversation with everyone and anyone. He called these excursions his “people bath.” For me, the canvas is my Copenhagen. I explore the lives and stories of everyone I paint. They are as real to me as anyone that breathes beside me. Because it IS you. You are in the paintings. The stories you whisper to me through each stroke of the brush come through loud and clear. That is why, I think, when people see a painting, read the story, they say, “Oh, it’s like you know me. This is exactly me.” Because it is you. Isn’t it all of us? We. Kierkegaard knew he could discover all about living, by learning the stories of those who were alive. He bathed in the knowledge. He bathed in the people.
I took swimming lessons starting at 5 years old. To be honest, I don’t remember thinking this could save my life. Or maybe I could save someone else. What I remember is the joy of the pool. Fun. The fun of being with this group of other 5 and 6 year olds, all learning to navigate in this new world. I know there were rules in the pool. Of course. No pushing. No running. No horse-play. (That one always made me laugh as I imagined the horses in the pool.) What I don’t recall is anyone being told over and over to obey the rules. We just did. I think we new, not only the importance of getting this right, but the freedom it would give us, for the rest of our lives. We learned the strokes and swam the lengths. Maybe it was hard. I only remember the joy. I only remember getting out of the pool. To the lakes. To the ocean.
I share in the story of Alexandria pool. I share in the story of those who froze their hair waiting for rides from the winter lessons. I share in the stories of those riding their summer bicycles to one of 10,000 lakes. I share in the stories of those on the diving boards. The shifting sands. The comforts of shore. One story always leads to another. One story, one person. All important.
My “people bath” began in the most modest of ways. In the richest of ways. Wet and windblown, I carry these stories. I tread the water when I need to. I bathe in the warmth of those I have met along the way. One by one. Stroke by stroke. I paint my story. Your story. Our story. I don’t think about how this might save my life (as it has so many times) – I think about the joy it brings me, now, and for the rest of my life.