I guess it was my turn.
My turn to have a crappy week…or two.
Let’s face it: I lead a pretty charmed life. I’m self-employed doing what I love; I’m active and in good health (I haven’t had a cold in five years); I’m reasonably financially secure; I live in desired solitude in a beautiful, soulful part of the world . I have no dependents, so I’m able to wake up quietly each morning and make each day my own. I’m blessed with a Good Man, a Good Pup, a big circle of friends, and come from a family that I’m infinitely proud and fond of. My “problems” are minuscule to nonexistent compared to what some people have to deal with, maybe even most people. In general, I believe in the power of a positive outlook on Life and therefore strive to make the most of what comes my way, so maybe that’s helped to bring grace to my life. Who knows.
Having a positive outlook though has been harder to maintain these past couple of weeks.
Mid-February I returned home from a midwinter trip with the plan of immersing myself in my studio. My calendar was wide open and I could spend two whole weeks with no distraction. I even had it on my calendar: A block of days with STUDIO written in bold across each day.
Yet within 24 hours of returning from my travels, my Pup needed surgery. Within 24 hours of that, my utility closet—home to my hot water heater and furnace—in my kitchen started flooding with water, as did my neighbor’s (we share a wall). Now we are going into week three of mold eradication and repair.
This, of course, was the perfect time for the “check engine” light of my car to come on.
And what better time to get bulldozed by one helluva nasty head cold—my first in half a decade?
Couple all of this with the nauseating political shenanigans going on in our country and it was all I could do to crawl out of bed this past Monday morning.
Having had to vacate my place while the mold work was being done, I had camped out for several days at My Good Man’s place in ABQ, where I mainly coughed and sniffled and whimpered through sleepless nights while phlegm slugged down the back of my throat and my head expanded within the clamp of a vice grip. Exhausted, frustrated and a bit disgusted with myself as well as the world, Monday morning came and I didn’t feel particularly grateful for the “extra” day of February.
A message in my InBox from Seth Godin reminded me it was “Leap Day,” and the importance of taking leaps in one’s life and one’s career.
I shuffled along hacking and packing up my things. Arranging stuff in my car I shoved aside my massive LLBean canvas tote containing my plein air paint kit. I’ve been hauling it around all winter, thinking I might pull over somewhere here or there and knock out a quick painting.
I haven’t done a single plein air painting since August.
The voice that put the kit in my car weeks ago had said ‘get to it’ while another voice heavy with laziness countered every time with ….you don’t have time…it’s too cold….wait until spring….there’ll be more color…
In other words, put it off.
UGH. My head was pounding. I was in no mood to hit the highway and drive I-25 home to Santa Fe during Monday morning rush hour.
But Seth’s words nagged at me:
Leaping powers innovation, it is the engine….of a thrilling and generous life.
Of course, you can (and should) be leaping regularly. Like bathing, leaping is a practice, something that never gets old, and is best done repeatedly.
And it occurred to me, I should take the back way home….and paint along the way.
Screw waiting until spring. I should just do it. Leap in now.
The “back way home” is Route 14 along the historic and storied Turquoise Trail . I don’t know why I hardly ever go that route. I suppose because it’s a little slower and so a little longer. It’s also a whole lot more pretty and interesting than the Interstate, and has hardly any traffic this time of year. And—AND—there’s not one but TWO decent coffee stops: one in the village of Cedar Crest and one in the funky art hamlet of Madrid.
My Pup and I piled into my car and I drove.
An hour later as I sat sipping good coffee and twirling my brushes, my Pup asleep near me in the back of my car, the morning sunlight of a weirdly mild February warming us both along this peaceful stretch of New Mexico blue highway, all concern of my “problems” evaporated.
And I thought why the hell don’t I do this more often?
Too often I resist the urge to go out and paint en plein air because…. because…. because…. I don’t know why.
Because it’s a little bit of a hassle?
Because it involves time? a little bit of planning? and the arrangement of my stuff and inevitably getting paint all over me and my hands and just about everything I look at?
Because it’s actually really kind of fun and so doesn’t feel like work, and I’m constantly beating myself that I need to be working?
But that makes no sense because ALL the art-making I do—whether plein air or in my studio—is pretty much fun.
I think mainly it just comes down to making the decision to do it, to take the leap. To plan ahead, get all your gear together in advance and get in your car and drive. And then pull over, pull out your paint box, nuzzle your pooch, take a swig of coffee and leap into painting.
And that’s exactly what I decided to do two days later, on the 85th anniversary of my dear late father’s birth: To do it, to take the leap. To plan ahead, get all my gear together and get in my car and drive. And then pull over, pull out my paint box, nuzzle my pooch, take a swig of coffee and leap into painting. For what better way to honor my father, who loved art and the outdoors and who provided for me to be an artist. My Dad whose own life led directly to my charmed life—head colds and mold and car repairs and paw surgeries notwithstanding.