Monthly Archives: September 2018


September. The calendar magically fills itself. Every square displays events. People want the fall color. So I sleep when I can, between work and meetings and celebrations.

I try to keep my eyes open… my mental and spiritual eyes… so that I take in as much as I can… as many opportunities to appreciate the season of plenty… as many opportunities to hug. To make a new friend. To grow.

The time and scenery of life zip past my backwards facing seat in the back of god’s station wagon. I can’t see what’s up ahead, but I know my father is at the wheel, taking me someplace good.

That highway of life has many exits and on-ramps, so the company on the road changes constantly.

We travel side by side, or we pick up a hitchhiker. Someone who needs a ride for a while.

We share our stories, and then we become a part of each other’s story when our paths diverge.

The scribbled notes on September become real life events, and often surprise me, because the chore or obligation I saw as a speed bump actually turns out to be a beautiful excursion or photo opportunity.



I am a Finn, an artist, a nurse, an ordained minister, a writer, photographer, a father and grandfather.  Those words describe me, or describe facets of me.  These are the types of labels we place on the jar of our particular expression of humanity.  They give a clue as to where I came from, how I make my living and what I do.  They don’t tell the whole story, of course.  If you read the fine print, I’m also a hard of hearing, dyslexic cat lover.  If I cover the jar with too many labels, you won’t see me at all!

Sometimes the labels loosen or come completely off.

My body is a collection of cells that interact with each other, and are contained within a barrier of skin, which is also made of cells.  They all function together to make me into an animated kind of machine, or distinct entity.  One day, even that label will fall off, and I will cease to be that anymore.

So what am I really?  Molecules that cling together for a while.  I’m an idea.  I’m an expression of the universe.  I’m a fleeting thought.  A minute part of a particular, temporary race of beings, trying to say something about my supposed existence before the cells of my body separate again and become part of something else.

But is that me?

Am I my body, or do I just live in my body for now?

Art Along the Lake

I will be the Artist-In-Residence at Kah Nee Tah Gallery (on Highway 61, between Lutsen and Grand Marais) this weekend, September 28, 29 and 30.

Starting at 11 am each day, I’ll be painting and talking with anyone who comes by. I would love to see you there! Starting at 2, I want to focus on a couple of my other projects. The Adventures of Mr. Pumpkinhead is a collection of fables that deal with a variety of topics including dyslexia, dementia, death, adoption, illness, etc., in a fun, kid and adult friendly way. I’ll read to anyone who wants to listen! They include digital art, and this time can include coloring, pumpkin carving, and as always, lots of talk. The Adventures of Flash Meridian is my Sci Fi autobiography, and includes topics such as creativity, self esteem and spirituality.

At around 4 pm each day, I will give an artist talk with wine available. This is where I will share the heart of my philosophy of life and art. Please come by if you can, I would love to see you, hug you, talk to you, and hear your story, too!


This is the art I live with every day. These have been hanging in my house for a long time. Most of them for about 15 to 25 years or more. They went with me to North Carolina and hung in the Melrose house. They came back home again. Each one has a story for me, in addition to the stories they tell for their artists. Since I am a painter, I thought it may be interesting to show you the pieces that I own and love.

Gateway. Stephan Hoglund

This painting told me that people are kind and generous despite my preconceived ideas about them. It came as a complete surprise just before my daughter’s birth, and her birthstone is embedded in the piece.

I was sitting in my parked car ready to drive away when this came with a sudden rap on my window that startled me.

He knew I liked it, so he wanted me to have it. What if every gift was so thoughtful?

Grave. Doug Todd

Gateway. Doug Todd

Untitled. Gina Macy

This painting changed the course of my artistic life. It saw that I was lost, and pointed the way home. Through the pain and loss (which I still feel), and through acceptance to celebration.

Walking Talking Jesus. Musa Abdel-Rahman

A birthday gift. Painted for me. I stare at it day and night.

The Beast Goes Walking. Anne Cervenka

Untitled. Maddee Young


I have a friend that I spend time with almost every day. We drink coffee and talk about life. The big issues of life, like our identity, our spirituality, our families. We talk about the small issues, too.

Last night I learned that she and I have both invented sparkling, shimmering planets, the stories of which we have told to our children. Hers was made of glass while mine was made of gemstones. Is this a common thing? Do people imagine faceted planets?


She recounted the feeling she had more than 65 years ago, telling her stories to her little boy and girl.

She cried when she told me, and I understood.

Every night, I read to my children at bedtime. We would read the same books over and over and over so that I still have them memorized to this day.

I made up a story about an elephant that wanted to go to daycare, and my daughter begged me to tell it to her every single night… in the characters’ voices, of course.


Telling stories is important. Not for the information they contain. But for the sound of a voice. A voice that is speaking to you, unhurried, as you drift off to the realm of your dreams.

My mother read to me. She prayed with me, and those bedtimes taught me how to be calm and present for my kids. Once in a while, she would fall asleep in my room, her back against my bed. Those were good nights. My cat, Minnie on my bed… my brother in the bed next to mine, and my mom… present.


My ideas come from anywhere and everywhere. A conversation, a song, beautiful landscape, a dream. Anywhere.

The raw material comes in through various input devices built into my body. My eyes, nose, my ears, my mouth, the nerves in my skin, and also from the amalgamation of that material in my brain’s software.

In addition to the input devices I have already mentioned, parts of my body also serve as output ports. Neurons transmit information in and out. They trigger movement of large and small muscles to manipulate the tools I employ to make my idea tangible in the physical world.

I can transcribe the images in my brain into a form that can be scanned and received into the brain of another human being!

Bits of me then become bits of other people. Without touching, without meeting or even necessarily being alive at the same time, humans implant messages in one another.

We do this through images, spoken or written words, music. Also through touch, and a myriad of other non-verbal ways that we communicate.

Once that information leaves me, and goes into you, it is yours. It is you!

We can’t unsee things or unhear things.

What you do with it is out of my control.

Some people seem to think they can use creativity to escape. That would be like one woven loop in the fabric of my cotton shirt wanting to escape. We are intertwined. We are one thread. There is no escape. There is nothing to escape from, and nowhere else to go.

That’s how I see humanity. The collective unconscious binds us together.

This is not a bleak picture! It’s a wonderful thing to be so connected. And yet we are individuals within the whole of humanity.

My thoughts and my imagination help to make humanity what it is. It is not separate from the rest, no matter how novel, how surprising or bizarre my idea might seem.

So be creative. Be brave. Be kind. To hurt someone else is to hurt yourself.


Bullying doesn’t only happen to kids. It can happen to anyone. Those of us that grew up with low self esteem can be particularly vulnerable when someone in a position of authority disrespects or disregards us. It can be a boss, a romantic partner or anyone that we allow to have more control over our lives than they should. Bullies are not looking out for your best interests. They may say they care for you. They may even say they love you.

They want you to cower and cave. They want to be right, and point out the many ways that you are wrong. They do not have empathy. They say love when they mean control.

I was bullied as a child. When I was in elementary school and Jr. High, I knew I would be bullied to one degree or another every day that I left the safety of the house and got on the school bus.

One day I was being harassed at my locker by a guy named Joe. He wouldn’t let me unlock my locker, and was about to make me late for class. In desperation, I turned and punched him in the face. I unlocked my locker, got my books and went to class, leaving Joe in the hallway crying, his hands over his face.

The image of shock on his freshly belted face is indelibly etched in my memory. I saw tears run down his cheeks before I walked away, and he did not bother me again.

I’m not condoning violence. I was cornered, and acted in self defense.

That experience gave me a clue that I was more powerful than I thought I was.

Even as an adult, I let people bully me. I once quit a good job because I worked with a condescending tyrant who made my life miserable. By giving in, I was agreeing with them… that they were stronger. Better.

I don’t think it is about strength at all. I think it has more to do with confidence. I’ve seen large dogs intimidated by tiny kittens.

I hope you and I can find the confidence to stand firm and say You don’t have permission to treat (or talk to) me like that.

That is something you can state with kindness and respect. Their tyranny is a dead giveaway that they lack confidence, too.