Yesterday I made whole grain wheat bread for the first time. I had never made bread of any kind before arriving in France. A good first. Then I starting making the jam for the bread. Another first. We love the bread, but Dominque convinced me that we should try some whole grain. It was absolutely delicious! We both loved it!
It’s easy to let a day go by, days go by, and before you know it – you’ve lived a lifetime of sameness, or passed through a lifetime, but I’m not sure you’ve really lived. I don’t want that to be me. I want to taste something new from the palm of my hand. Feel something new from the palm of my heart.
I’m writing to you today from the airport in Amsterdam. My first blog from here. I’m sitting next to the first (and only) Frenchman I ever loved. The bread, the blogs, the travel, none of this would have happened if I hadn’t taken a leap of love and tried something new. Perhaps it takes a lot of firsts to find the things that last. And that my friends, tastes like a life!
My mother-in-law is without time. Some days she is forty years old. Some days 60. I suppose after nearly a century you should be allowed to choose your own age. And she does. Without apology, she is young, she has babies, and thinks you are the crazy one for getting older. She’s probably right.
There is a young girl that I have painted. Little girl blue. She is just about to dance. She’s just a tiny bit afraid, but determined. And you know she will do it. I see her every morning. In my bathroom mirror, her reflection is just beside mine. I put on my dress, and I too, am without time. I, too, have the legs of youth, and can hear the music. There is no yesterday, or tomorrow, just the open blue of today, and I can’t waste it. I let go the fear of time passing, and simply dance.
The Edina Art Fair was my first art show. I didn’t even sign up for it. A friend of mine filled out the forms. Applied. And I got in. She didn’t tell me until I had a booth assignment. There was no backing out. Sometimes decisions get made for you. And thank goodness for that!
My booth was very rudimentary. I had no idea what I was doing. But my mother stood bravely beside me, and we laughed from the inside of our hearts and exchanged the art for their money. I sold out the first day. I spent that whole night creating and creating. Fueled with a new confidence and joy. The next day. Sold out again. This was actually happening.
It probably took her 10 minutes to fill out the form. She maybe doesn’t even remember doing it. But I will never forget. It changed my life. It changed my mom’s life. What an impact!
Through the years, when I’ve relayed this story, some people have said – oh, that was way too risky. What if you wouldn’t have sold anything. She would have made things miserable for you. No, I say. Because just the fact that she believed in me enough to fill out the forms, that told me something, gave me something. That alone would have changed my life.
And we need to stop with all the “what if it doesn’t happen?”… and believe in the “what if it does!” Believe in each other. Stand up for each other with wildly high hopes. Stand beside each other with wildly full hearts! And believe that the best could happen! And what if it does!!!!!
I wish I could have learned everything when I was six. I wasn’t afraid then. I took swimming lessons every Saturday morning at the community pool. It was so easy to jump into the water. Even before we knew how to crawl stroke, we splashed and floated and became one with it. I guess that was the key. We didn’t fight the water. Oh, there was always one kid, terrified, kicking, thrashing, who would disappear from the pool never to be seen again. Never to learn how to swim. Never to join in the birthday parties, or summer afternoons at one of the 10,000 lakes. What a thing to miss!
Adult days can be overwhelming. We face unimaginable things. Things that seem unpassable. But there is always a crack to get through, if we become like water. Water can always get through, even the smallest opening. When Bruce Lee said, “be like water, my friend” he simply meant to be flexible in both mind and body. It’s about not being rigid and stubborn in your beliefs and practices. But instead, about being open-minded and able to change and adapt to the circumstances we are put into. The older we get, the easier it is to be rigid. But I don’t want to live like that. I want to be forever six, loose and open and possible!
Perhaps that’s why I paint the water, again and again – as a reminder to “be possible,” I tell myself with each stroke – find the openings, become the water, get through. The water moves through my hands, my heart, my head, and I learn today’s lesson again. And, I give thanks for the cracks, thanks for the six year old heart that beats within me and says, “Everything is possible! Don’t be afraid.” Because this day, what a thing to miss!
Yesterday I felt a little off. The whole day. I just couldn’t find my footing. My place. I don’t really know why it happens, but every once in a while it does. And why wouldn’t it? I guess it would be more strange if it never did. There is probably a way to live this life without feeling anything. Protect yourself from the lows by never experiencing the highs. Guard yourself from any sort of pain by refusing to love. But I don’t want to live like that. I want to feel it, really feel it. I want this life to shake me up with joy, dampen me with tears of tenderness, and rattle me to the core with love. Because that is something. That is a life lived! But with all that shaking and rattling, I know I’m going to get knocked off my feet once in a while. But, OH!, do I know how to rise!
I think it’s easier to trust people with a little dirt on their knees. I brush mine off and tell you that you can trust me. I brush mine off and tell the mirror that I can trust myself. The sun has risen, and so have I! It’s going to be a great day!
In the first email I sent to Dominique, I said I hoped our two worlds would collide. I can’t ever remember using those words before – never the word collide. He said he would come to Minneapolis. I smiled upon reading, hoping, but not really believing anyone makes Minneapolis a destination from France. But he came. Upon leaving the first restaurant where we ate our first meal together, he picked up one of the postcards from the table at the door. On it, the word “collide.” Some things are just meant to be.
Married, traveling together to New Orleans, I took the photo at the Frenchman’s art market. It rests now in our office in France. I think we are meant to connect. Perhaps the world has become too accustomed to notice the differences. Differences are easy, maybe too obvious, so we focus on them. Our color, our voice. But if we take the time, make the effort, we can find the connections. And they can be so beautiful. And the changes don’t have to be huge. I’m not saying you have to go to a different country, or even a different state, (although I’m a firm believer in doing so, if you have the means), but you can get a different perspective just by changing the route you take to work. Trying a new restaurant. Reading a new book. Watching a different news program. Expand your view. You never know what you might run into.
Yesterday a friend told me I was like fine wine, only getting better. What a compliment! Isn’t that what we all want? To get better? Every day? I do – want it! And at everything. I feel like I should start a list here, but there’s so much, ok, well, at writing and painting, and cooking and loving, and friending, and wifing, and listening and noticing, and learning, and living! There’s more, (but you have other things to do than just read my list.)
And I want to be careful here – it’s not about more, more, more, it’s about better, better, better. There’s a difference. More is about need, not being satiated, but better is about becoming. Being. Being better.
There is a practice to it – this becoming, this striving to be better. It’s not a singular focus, but, I’ll say it, a vineyard. One good grape on its own can’t make a good bottle of wine. It takes a whole vineyard. And so each day, I work on my vines. My patience. My skills. My gifts. My relationships. And from the work, there is the wine. There is always the wine. “Quand le vin est tiré il faut le boire!” (When the wine is drawn, it must be drunk!) In other words, you don’t waste good wine – you don’t waste this day, this moment in time.
The sky is opening. Today is going to be delicious.
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Thomas Edison
I knew my parents went to “jobs,” but my first real lesson in work came from my grandfather. My mother dropped me off at the farm in the morning. It was a day that my grandfather was going to pick rock. (clear the fields of the big rocks so it could be prepared for planting). I told him I wanted to go with him. At first he said no, it was too hard, but my quivering lip made him give in and off we went. He told me that he couldn’t “glamorize the dirt” – it was dirt, and the rocks were heavy, but all you had to do was pick up a rock and place it on the trailer. That made sense. Seemed easy enough.
Each rock seemed to give birth to another. I was so tired. But Grandpa didn’t seem to be. He just kept picking those rocks, one after the other. He seemed to get stronger. There was precision in each movement. I watched carefully. It was like an oil pump that didn’t have a beginning or an end to its motion, but just kept going. I had been throwing the rocks with anger, but he moved them with purpose…and that was the difference. That’s how he could take such a mess and later make something grow out of it. He seemed to be grateful for all of it. The black that surrounded us would turn to green and gold. It amazed me and I wanted to be a part of it. It was hard, but that was ok. I kept picking.
People often ask me how to start their own art business. Like there is some magical solution. The simple answer is – you do the work. You have to pick the rock. You paint. You paint over again. You dig through the scrap pile and find your wood. You stretch your canvas. You study. You feel. You paint. You do it because you have to – you want to – you need to – and that is when you have something green that grows, something gold that shines. You make the work. In between all of that you study the masters. You improve from your mistakes. And you learn all of the other lessons of marketing and selling and collecting. There is work. And it’s not all glamorous, but it is wonderful!
I guess it’s true for any profession, and not only that, just for living. You have to do the work. You have to do the work just to get through the challenging days.
My mother, just like her father, is still teaching me. She picks the rocks of her cancered field every day. When she goes to the hospital, she puts on (not her overalls) but her best dress, her most joyful outfit, and she radiates in the hospital waiting room that illness seems to cover in gray. She is grateful for each day. She is green. She is golden.
There is work to be done. Every day. I tell you now, as I tell myself, “Clear the fields. The opportunity is here! Please don’t miss it.”