We’re always told – “look at the big picture,” “the grand scheme of things.” I understand what that means and most of the time I agree, but I must admit, I can often be overwhelmed by the “grand scheme” of anything.
Every day I swim laps in the pool. Often times 100. But I never start out counting backwards from 100. I tell myself, just do twenty. And when I finish twenty, I think, well, 30 is easy, and I can do twenty easily later. So I do thirty. And slowly work my way to 50. 50 is fine for the day, and if I want to more later, I do it. And most days, I do. Et voila! 100.
This is the way I do most things. It works for me. Bit by bit. I need the tiny wins. So I let myself have them.
It wouldn’t be possible to paint a giant canvas every day. Not for me. It would take too much of my heart and soul and brain. So I make sketches. Small paintings. And it fills me. Gives me practice. Gives me joy. Confidence. Sets me up for the larger works. So I paint a small vase with a small apple on a small table. And it is complete. It is enough. I am enough. And I guess that’s where I’m trying to get to every day — where we all need to get to every day — that place where we know we are OK, we are good, we are enough.
Take the journey today. Lap by lap. Table by table. And know that you are enough. What could be more “grand” than that?
I like to switch mediums. There is a feel to each. There is a feel that transfers from canvas to paint to brush to hand to heart. And so it is with charcoal and wood. The charcoal grabs onto the wood differently. Not smoothly, like the paint. It doesn’t have the same ease, but it wants to hang on, just the same. I don’t fault it for not acting like paint. It’s not paint. It’s charcoal. And it wants to be beautiful. It is.
I had lunch with a school friend the other day. We were reminiscing. My husband asked us about the diversity of our class. We struggled. Wanting to reveal it. It wasn’t there. So when I went to college, thankfully, joyfully, so necessarily, my world colored in so many ways. People of different color, of different country, of different religion and language. Every medium. And I had to learn. We all had to learn. (Have to keep learning.) People respond differently. And different is not wrong. Different is not frightening. Different is paint on canvas, charcoal on wood. And it is beautiful.
It’s easy to get stuck. Stuck in what we know. With who we know. And change can be frightening. Even a little messy. But if we allow it, feel it, let it move from hand to heart, oh, how beautiful it can be.
There is paint on my keyboard. Charcoal under my nails. Touching each word. Not perfect, but reaching out to you, with every medium of my heart, trying to be beautiful.
I suppose it’s not that exciting to try something new on December 29th, or the 30th. Nobody blows a horn or lowers a ball. But I thought it was fun. On the 29th I painted a woman on a block of found wood, in a style I don’t normally do. Crisp outlines. Bright colors. It was a good lesson in determined strokes. On the 30th, I painted a bird on crafted paper. “Well, that’s not new,” you must be thinking, but this time, I did it all with the same brush. No relying on the tools of the trade – testing my patience and skill.
January is almost upon us. I used to go to the New York gift show every January. I would come home with hundreds of orders to fill. Looking at the pile of papers was incredibly overwhelming. So I didn’t. I taught myself to finish an order. One at a time. Complete the work, box it, label it, claim the victory, then go on to the next. Clearly I wasn’t the first to think of this, but it seems to be a lesson worth learning again and again.
Yes, today is New Year’s Eve! And that IS special! But so is tomorrow and the day after that, and the one after that. I don’t know what lies ahead. And I can’t plan the entire year. I wouldn’t even want to. Today my hands and heart will covered in December 31st, truly worthy of celebrating! Happy Day!
I just finished watching the movie Power of the Dog on Netflix. The young cowboys of 1925 worked the cattle farms in the shadow of the mountains. I imagine, without maps, or education, they had no idea what, if anything, existed beyond the giant barrier. “What do you suppose it is?” one asked the other, as the sun lit the mountain.
Emily Dickinson lived all her life in the small town of Amherst, Massachusetts. When she died in 1886, her sister Lavinia found a single box that contained hundreds of poems. In all of them, she envisioned worlds far beyond the apparent simplicity of her daily life — looking for acts of light.
I don’t know if it is luck, chance, fate, that gives us our place in the world. We all begin somewhere, at some time. I guess the key is to be forever curious, no matter where we are, what time we are in. We don’t know what lies ahead. But I’d like to believe it will be forever well lit.
So today, I hang the Christmas lights. I hang the lights to welcome the songs and the gathering. To welcome the questions and the faith. To welcome the joy of the season, and of the coming year. Forever envisioning the worlds within and beyond my simple life. I welcome the comfort, the warmth, the kindness of simple acts of light.
I think it’s safe to say I am acquainted with quite a few people in this world. But it is even safer to say, I know, really know, only a few. I guess to know someone, you can’t just see the lovely painting of their life. The finished product. Perfectly on display. When you are privileged enough to really know someone, they let you see their palette. All the messy colors that created the art of their life. The colors of each lesson learned. Each struggle survived. The tears and laughter. The victories and burdens. The efforts of each application to the canvas. Sometimes thrown. Sometimes stroked.
It’s messy to love people. But what a beautiful honor. When someone offers you a peak into their soul, a walk through the palette of their heart – take it! But also, take care as you step through the vulnerability of the beautiful imperfections. Meld their colors with yours and see what life can bring.
Sometimes, when wearing my painting clothes, (or in most cases, I could just say clothes, because they all eventually get a little splattered), I remember which painting the color belongs to. And I am connected to the art. The memory. I am connected to my own life.
Often in the art world, people want a certificate of authenticity. Proof that it’s real. I suppose we all want that in everything. So I show you my heart, my palette, the paint on my hands, on my pants, and give you this vulnerable view so you can know that it’s a safe place — a safe place for us all to show our true colors — and delight in the the wondrous splatter of it all!
An Italian Fizz cocktail, with Dutch tulips, in front of the Mediterranean Sea in the south of France – this was yesterday’s lunch. Of course we had a few healthy things like calamari, fish, and carrots. But sometimes (all the time) you have to feed your soul, and not just your stomachs.
It pleases me to see how the drink matches the tulips. The colors meld into each other. This is so satisfying. This was not vacation, but a Sunday, a day — a day that could have easily been ordinary. They all can be, I guess…but we need to give ourselves permission to enjoy. It’s so easy to let the days just go by. But we’re not given that many. Each one is priceless. I don’t want to let any of them slip through the cracks, my fingers, my attention.
I don’t know what colors today will bring. From my desk, I can see the golden leaves of the apricot tree — shining against the evergreen of the pines. They tell me to look around. Look within. There is so much to enjoy. See everything. Feel everything. Fill your heart. Feed your soul. Taste this life!
We got a new plant for our library. She is a fern. I named her Fern. (Everything doesn’t have to be hard to be delightful.) She sits beside the antique typewriter we got from Dominique’s mom. So in my head, Fern works in this office from the 1950’s. Every morning, when I open the shutters, let the sun in, I say in my most boisterous, yet cheerful, of voices — “Good morning, Fern! Take a letter.” I hope you’re laughing. It makes me laugh every day. I’m smiling as I type this.
It really takes so little. Today, (well, and every day) find something that tickles your heart from the inside. I’m old enough to know about the Reader’s Digest magazine. They had a section in there called “Laughter is the best medicine.” I was probably six when I started reading them. I didn’t always understand, but I knew I liked to laugh, so I hopscotched through the words and found myself laughing just the same. I guess I had already started making a choice to find the good. And it is a choice.
So fling those curtains, those shutters, those hearts wide open. Greet the day. And find the good — it’s out there! Good morning, Fern!!!
Opposites, in painting, are also referred to as complementary. Isn’t that interesting? They are on the opposite side of the color wheel, completely different, but when placed next to each other in a painting they create the largest contrast, making each color the most vibrant. In other words, they bring out the best in each other. Hmmmm….
I think you can see where I’m going with this. It’s strange that we haven’t found a way to do that for one another. We could, you know, be joyful in ourselves, and stand next to our opposites, those different in race and religion, those with different ideas and lifestyles, different interests and bank accounts, different capabilities… we could stand next to our opposites and bring out the best in them, and they in us. What a tableau that would be!
Maybe today I could be the yellow to your blue. And we could both be vibrant!