Seeking My Best Self

trying to make sense of my life – and lose some weight

The Appointment

The Appointment*

What if, on the first sunny day,
on your way to work, a colorful bird
sweeps in front of you down a 
street you’ve never heard of.

You might pause and smile,
a sweet beginning to your day.

Or you might step into that street
and realize there are many ways to work.

You might sense the bird knows some-
thing you don’t and wander after.

You might hesitate when the bird
turns down an alley. For now
there is tension: Is what the
bird knows worth being late?

You might go another block or two,
thinking you can have it both ways.
But soon you arrive at the edge
of all your plans.

The bird circles back for you
and you must decide which
appointment you were
born to keep.

— Mark Nepo  (from Seven Thousand Ways to Listen)

I’m surprised at  how many people think the life of a full-time artist is purely idyllic. In their minds, we do nothing but sit around all day, paintbrush, camera or keyboard in hand, allowing the sweet breeze of creative inspiration to carry us along as money pours in the door. (Though they do think, privately, that we charge a bit *too* much for our painting, print or poem.)

An acquaintance once said, “It’s like being retired, isn’t it? You only work when you want to.” Well, yes. As long as I want to work long hours. LONG hours. I’m a one-woman shop, the cash flow is variable, and it’s hard! I’ll admit, we artists sometimes spend sleepless nights worrying about the basics of life – housing, health insurance, food. Things my acquaintance, with her government job, doesn’t experience or understand.

The solution is obvious, right? Go get a *real* job. Practically speaking, no one should choose art as a profession. And that’s why most talented people do take other paths, consigning their artistic expressions to hobby status. I applaud them. I often envy them. In fact, I used to BE them.

For years, I worked in corporate America. Lucrative professional positions. Job security and great benefits. But then my husband died. I was torn from my comfortable world, torn from myself. When I finally found my way back and stuffed myself into the hole that was me, I must have crawled in backwards, because things looked very different. I tried to go back to what I’d been, but the path – and the person – was gone.

So here I am.

I’m an artist because I can’t not be. It’s the only song in my ears. I’ve kept the appointment I was meant to keep, and my life is filled with love and beauty.  

But it’s NOT like being retired.

* My thanks to  fellow artist, Cher Odum, for sharing the poem. It explains we few – we eccentric few – we eccentric, inspired weird few.

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What I Would Show You

A photo odyssey of my graduate school, Pacific University, and what I would show Lee, if I could. (Lee, my late husband, took his life on October 3, 2002.)

A classroom of fellow students. I would have known them better, but your shadow loomed between us, and I burned my foot when I tried to step across

A classroom of fellow students. I would have known them better, but your shadow loomed between us, and I burned my foot when I tried to step across.

She bears the weight of the world on her shoulders. Even with extra arms, it's sometimes too much.

She bears the weight of the world on her shoulders. Even with extra arms, it’s sometimes too much.

Here's where I sat when a ready reminded me too much of you. I called a man who wasn't you, for comfort.

Here’s where I sat when a reading reminded me too much of you. I called a man who wasn’t you, for comfort.

Scattered patterns of clustered blossoms. There are some patterns I choose not to repeat.

Scattered patterns of clustered blossoms. There are some patterns I choose not to repeat.

I still don't like impatiens. They look too real, or not real at all. They look too good to be true.

I still don’t like impatiens. They look too real, or not real at all. They look too good to be true.

This bench has the best breeze. A man, not you, showed it to me, and we sat and talked. About you.

This bench has the best breeze. A man, not you, showed it to me, and we sat and talked. About you.

This reminded me of me: a curvy, sweeping path of a life. There's you - see the narrow, straight road that suddenly veers away?

My curvy, sweeping path of a life. There’s you – see the narrow, straight road that suddenly veers away?

I thought I caught a glimpse of you down the straight path, but then you got lost in the shadows.

I thought I caught a glimpse of you, but then you got lost in the shadows.

I'm sure there was a message, but it's unreadable now.

I’m sure there was a message, but it’s unreadable now.

I still don't know who Alice Hoskins is. Amazing how you can spend years in a place, and still not know someone.

I still don’t know who Alice Hoskins is. Amazing how you can spend years in a place, and still not know someone.

I couldn't catch a clear photo of the butterfly. It's because my camera was set to manual. I tried for too much control. Sometimes you have to let the camera, or the butterfly, decide.

I couldn’t catch a clear photo of the butterfly. It’s because my camera was set to manual: I tried for too much control. Sometimes you have to let the camera, or the butterfly, decide.

I don't have to look up to know the season. The dappled grass tells me summer has returned, that the trees are in full leaf. Deep maturity allows the light through in the most beautiful patterns.

I don’t have to look up to know the season. The dappled grass tells me summer has returned, that the trees are in full leaf. Deep maturity allows light through in the most beautiful patterns.

Hydrangeas still bloom, even without the man who loved their color best.

Hydrangeas still bloom, even without the man who loved their color best.

I know you assumed seminary, but I chose writing.

I know you assumed seminary, but I chose writing.

Time hides its face from me. At least, that's what I tell myself.

Time hides its face from me. At least, that’s what I tell myself.

The rock weeps, but I don't, not anymore.

The rock weeps, but I don’t, not anymore.

A spray of grassy blades, reminiscent of water fountaining up - life renewed again and again. I could have moved to my shadow didn't show, but I decided it was part of the picture. Your shadow isn't here, not anymore.

A spray of grassy blades, reminiscent of water fountaining up – life renewed again and again. I could have moved so my shadow didn’t show, but I decided it was part of the picture. Your shadow isn’t here, not anymore.

Transmuted from flora to fauna, from fixed to free, the feathery frond is poised to fly.

Transmuted from flora to fauna, from fixed to free, the feathery frond is poised to fly.

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