Monthly Archives: October 2020

They might

I have dabbled in a lot of artistic mediums over the years, and am primarily known for my acrylic paintings. If I had to choose another medium, I’d go with pottery. I’ve barely dipped my toes into ceramics, but I can already imagine what I would like to create, if I am ever able to spend time working at it.

Clay appeals to me because it is both beautiful and functional. It is made from the earth and dates back to ancient times.

When I make a pot, I can draw on the wet clay, and my drawing could be preserved for thousands of years. Hundreds of thousands of years.

My art could outlast the Human race, and maybe be found by alien archaeologists trying to figure out how we managed to destroy our planet.

They might marvel at my restraint in not smoothing out every surface. They might see my fingerprints in the clay and thus connect with the ancient earthling that I would then be.

They might envision the earth I depicted, where fish swam in the treetops.

They might wonder about me, as I am now wondering about them, and we will have made a connection.


Life’s transitions are not always easy. Perhaps they are rarely easy. That’s the nature of transition. It’s a change, and it’s most comfortable to continue what we are doing, or remain in our current state.

Even in a ‘bad’ long term relationship, we have our routines, and it can be a lot of work to end it. It can be daunting to contemplate sweeping changes. It’s a lot of work to pick up the pieces and rebuild.

What price would we pay for happiness? Or even the chance of happiness? Or the removal of a source of unhappiness?

Making a change to the exclusion of another person may make us feel bad, but the only thing we were guilty of was trying.

You know how gurus tell us to live in the present moment, with no past and no future? They seem to think that is the path to bliss. It isn’t. In fact, it’s a stupid idea.

I have been living with someone who tends to live only in the present moment. They don’t remember crucial conversations that will impact their future, and the only thoughts they seem to have of the future are delusions.

Our past gives us context. Our future gives us a reason to work at anything.

We do live in the present moment anyway. The past we remember only unfolded as the present, and the future is only present moments that are coming. Life isn’t actually a timeline, though it is easy to think of it as one.

Why be on a highway at all if you didn’t know where you had been and didn’t care where you were going?

Don’t forget your history.

Don’t neglect your future. You will need it one day.

There’s more to life than putting X’s through the grid of a calendar. Float above it and maybe you’ll see that the tightrope line you thought you were traveling was actually a sea of brushstrokes spreading out in every direction.

You can explore and make sense of it if you allow yourself to remember. You can shift your perspective and extrapolate meaning, forgive without forgetting, and chart your trajectory, all from this present moment.


I can’t see my finished artwork before I start it, just like I can’t see my finished life before I live it.

I often have a pretty good idea what it will look like, but that is only if things go to plan. I can stick with a plan, and paint a forest scene or whatever is in my mind, but I can also change my mind along the way. I might say I’m going to walk to town, and then see an inviting trail along a creek, and change my direction.

One time, I was all set to go to college in Arkansas, and then one day I suddenly changed my mind and went to one in Michigan. I already had my dorm assignment, and some of my friends were going, but they went without me.

Plans change for a variety of reasons. Something compelling and unexpected might lure me. I get caught in the gravitational pull of something else.

Maybe I just change my mind because plan A wasn’t working out.

Most things can be undone.

I do a lot of things, and many of them are creative. That doing inspires me. If I grab hold of that moving paintbrush, the inspiration is just there. The images trickle down my arm and onto the paper or canvas. If there is not a picture in the queue, then any brushstroke can inspire the next one. Sometimes I ask a brushstroke to look like a walrus, sometimes I don’t ask it to look like anything but a brushstroke.

I put messages in my work. Sometimes the message is “this is a painting.”

I have many themes that recur in my art. I reiterate them, but each time, they come out differently. I change from one project to the next. No two sunsets, no two bonfires, snowflakes, roses or paintings are exactly alike.

The messages are sometimes clear, and sometimes cryptic. I’ve been staring at an abstract painting that hangs next to my bed, and I keep seeing more and more in it.

Seeing is a process that I can’t rush.

I fall asleep in one painting, and wake up in another, even though the colors and shapes have not changed.

Imagine Doing That

I don’t remember wanting to be creative, or deciding to be an artist. I think your consciousness sort of grows as your brain develops. The lines are blurred, and to realize anything is to realize that it’s already happened, or started happening a while back.

I must have been very young when I first held a crayon, and touched it to some paper. I don’t remember. I must have liked it, because I kept doing it.

By the time I realized that I wanted to do it, I suppose, I was already doing it. I liked it better than I liked other things. More than math or spelling.

I think creative people get comfortable with art the way other kids got comfortable with numbers or labeling maps. People in all fields are creative, even if they are not all artists. Creative scientists discover new truths about the universe, or develop new medications or procedures.

Creative people pay attention.

People who are not creative kind of live on the surface, watching movies made by creative people, and following trends rather than being innovative. Maybe they look at the work of creative people and say to each other “imagine doing that.”

I’m not trying to be exclusive or judgmental. I’m not saying everyone should be artists. Everything I have experienced influences what I create. This includes training, but I don’t believe training is necessary in order to create art.

I believe we’re all creative in our own way. We’re enough as we are. We also have the ability to learn new skills, especially if there is a reward in it.

For me, the reward is in telling my story through words and pictures. I acknowledge and validate myself, and in the process, I gain new insight and forgiveness.

Think for yourself

I used to think, and often said, that my parents didn’t like my friends.

I sort of get it now. I admired the kids who were different from me. The ones who did and said dramatic things. They swore and smoked. They didn’t inherit conservative religious views from their parents, or in some cases, they rejected them.

One of these friends ran away from home, and I was called into the principal’s office because I was one of her few friends, and I had recently been seen talking to her.

I went out with my parents and her parents to look for her. We found some of her belongings in a wooded area, but we didn’t find her. She had cut her long hair off. Sometime during the next week she was found, and ended up in a car with my mother in our driveway, where mom suggested she might need a good spanking, and she told my mother to go to hell.

Her dad had been a Boy Scout leader, and she was used to camping. I was a bit envious because our family never went camping.

Years later, I lived with that family for a while, and then I understood why she had run away.

The last time I remember seeing her father, I think I got out of his car at a stop sign. It’s all a blur, but I think we were helping someone move something in winter. I just knew I wanted to get away, and I did.

I thought of several of my friends and relatives as rebellious. Now I just think they were normal people who expressed themselves in ways I didn’t dare to, and I admired them for it.

I was impressed by what I thought of as shocking behavior. My mom probably knew this. I never wanted to get into trouble, but I wanted to be interesting.

A lot of what I heard in church, or read in the Bible didn’t make sense to me. Naturally I had a lot of doubts. But we believed we had all the right answers, so if I had doubts, I was supposed to just accept what I was told. I was supposed to have faith. When it came to anything outside of our accepted doctrine, we were supposed to study it carefully and then reject it… or simply reject it right from the start. The one exception was conservative evangelical fundamentalism. That, we were to accept without question, whether it made any sense or not… whether it was kind or not.

One day I asked my mom how we could know that the Bible was true, and that Jesus really was who he said he was. She told me that she just knew it in her heart. She said she knew it so strongly that she didn’t have any doubt. I don’t have that kind of faith. So I asked her about Muslim suicide bombers. They believe in their religion enough to die. Was her faith stronger than theirs?

I asked this question at a youth retreat during my senior year of high school, and all the other kids gasped. I wasn’t trying to be difficult. I struggled with doubt, and I wondered what was wrong with me that I couldn’t just believe what I was told.

Probably, my doubts came from it being all made up, just one of thousands of supernatural myths, the followers of each believing theirs is the right one.

I’m not trying to convince anyone to agree with me, but just to think for yourself.


Somebody recently asked me who I would be without kids. It’s an interesting question, because I tend to think of myself primarily as a parent. The nursing, painting, writing, photography, performing weddings and all the other things I do are in support of my family. I will never be without kids, even though my kids are now adults. I was changed forever when I became a parent.

At the same time, I was painting long before I had kids.

I don’t want to reinvent myself, but here is another example of this retrogenesis that I’ve been noticing since early summer. It’s the opposite of reinventing when you discover something from your past resurfacing.

I don’t want to reinvent myself, I want to embrace who I already am at my core.

As my kids get older (and I get older, too), I find myself returning to things from much earlier in my life.

If I return to drawing the way I did in Jr. High, I do it with the addition of everything I have learned and experienced in the decades between then and now.

If I return to my childhood bedroom, I see it through the layers of time that has passed since I lived there.

It’s the same place, but it is not the same. It is like visiting the ruins of Cair Paravel, and finding the knight from your old chess set.

I’ve dreamed of that place. I’ve strained to remember as many details as I could. Going back fifty years later, I found that I remembered it well, though the house and I have aged.

I went by Brabb Cemetery where Elisha and Mary were laid to rest almost 150 years ago. I imagine them returning to the farm and walking through the same rooms, as I did. What stories might they tell… how the house and the world have changed since their time.

When I was young, I didn’t think of history. Maybe that is because I didn’t have much history of my own. I was interested in the Brady Bunch, Wizzzers and playing with my friends. I never guessed that one day I would cherish those days. I would not have thought it would take me 50 years to loosen my grip… that I would cling so tightly for so long. I don’t need to. It is in the fiber of my being.

Maybe it is time to loosen my grip on a lot of things.

I think of people I have known. Friends I have lost touch with, or maybe connected with briefly via social media. We never had a falling out, but at some point one of us took an exit ramp and followed the highway in a different direction. Now we are strangers who remember a brief time together.

It can be fun to reminisce, but I don’t need to be reminded of how goofy… how crazy I was. I was compensating. I was insecure and hyperactive. I was unfocused. That’s why I acted that way. I was imaginative and sensitive. I’m sorry I was obnoxious.

The same person asked me what I’m going to do different now.

I still want to help people, but I can’t save the world. I still want to entertain, but I’m not happy-go-lucky. That’s how my mom described me in a questionnaire before I went off to summer camp in fourth or fifth grade. I’m not the loudest kid on the church bus anymore.