Tag Archives: coincidence

All the Way

“Go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

–Kurt Vonnegut

Monday  our writing group  held a discussion on “why we write,” someone offered this quote. Of course we laughed,but went on to share the ways writing has made our lives bearable and grown our souls  It was a powerful and moving conversation.

For years I’ve felt almost handicapped by being an artist. If I had a “real job” I could never give it my all, because my heart was in my creative work. In order to put my artist self first, If I don’t pursue my creative work, by soul shrivels. I’ve simplified my life,  lowered my material needs and expectations, in order to live the hours and days of my life as I choose: absorbing, reflecting, creating, sharing the wonder, beauty and terror of being alive.

alltheway_web_300x450_2The more committed I become more to living my artist life, the more old negative ideas slip away.  The quote made clear what is already happening: by honoring the Muse, by allowing the creativity to flow in and out, all my work is enhanced. Things I used to think were escapist, like watching television or reading, aren’t  ‘guilty pleasures,’ they’re sources of inspiration and understanding.

Last weekend I was in Boston for two days of mastermind meetings with one of my business teams. We shared challenges and  successes, and asked for solutions and support. I felt completely in my confident business self, not holding back, not afraid.

While I was there I learned that Bryan Cranston was on stage at Harvard’s American Reperatory Theater in a play called All the Way.

If I weren’t such a Breaking Bad fanatic  I never would have seen this amazing play. I I thought it was in NY. When I realized I was right there, I skipped lunch and got nearly the 17th of 20 standing room tickets. Bad knees or no, I was going to see Cranston on stage!

He plays Lyndon Johnson in his first year in the White House. Calling himself an accidental president, Johnson is challenged to carry on the bold civil rights mission of his predecessor, but also run for election. The play opens on the flight home from Dallas in November of 1963, and uses the countdown to Election Day 1964 to frame the turbulent drama of the times. Rev. Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, Hubert Humphrey, Stokely Carmichael, George Wallace, Robert McNamara make for a potent mix of characters.

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The challenge of moving forward while keeping the congress and the party together are remarkably pertinent today.

Of course, Cranston was incredible. I kept trying to see him behind the character, found him only in his animated face, and certain ways he throws up his hands. His LBJ was stubborn, foul-mouthed but funny, a Texan who both charmed and bullied his way toward his destiny. Having recently seen the very moving Lee Daniel’s The Butler, it was terrific to see the story from another angle.

It was thrilling to be there.

I’m just a painter of landscapes, a writer of little essays and stories, a marketing consultant. But the passions that flow through me are fueled by the media and art I consume, as well as the history I’ve lived through. My work with my art and blogging students makes me a better, wiser business woman. My fannish joy leads me to places I would never have discovered if I hadn’t been open to the stories, the colors, the people, the art.

Go into the arts. Seriously! You will have created your life.

One Pebble, Then An Avalanche

The day after was perfect day: palmettos rustling in the light breeze, ducks chattering on the ‘lake’, rippling patterns on the stucko wall. He would have gone down to feed them.

 My brother stumbles into the kitchen, rumpled, stubbly, and rubbing his eyes.

“Coffee?”

“Uh-huh.”

He grunts. I never see him like this.

We sip our wake-up drug for a while. Could be a scene from any south Florida morning. Except:

“We should call people.”

I nod. Hand him the phone.

He stares at it for a while.

“I’ve forgotten my own phone number.”

He looks up at me, and the incredulity, plus the grief on his face make him look like an old man and a little boy, all at once.

I start to recite his number for him and realize I don’t remember it either. I shake my head, dumbfounded. We’re not quite ready to laugh.

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After Dad’s funeral, there was the business of getting life back to some semblance of normal. For weeks life had been waves of surreal, from the miserable conflict with second wife Mary, to moving into hospice, and finally his mystical passing. We then faced the challenge of organizing his wake in another state. I felt tumbled like a stone, no more sharp edges, and not knowing which way was up.

After all was said and done, I headed home to DC. I had something great to look forward to: the opening of a gallery show on Capitol Hill. I was never so proud of my work – it looked marvelous, drew lots of praise, and I sold painting. It couldn’t have been a better moment to celebrate with my fellow artists, neighbors and art fans. Time to launch a new season, a new Millennium, and the strange new life without my father.

The day after that opening was another perfect day, this time, the September-in-Washingtonian kind. Who doesn’t love the blessed return of moderate temperature and low humidity, the arching bowl of blue sky without a cloud, with the trees still green and full? It made me want to reach up, stand tall and hope.

 I met a friend by the river for some optimistic early-morning exercise. We were both on course for a great new season of success, rebuilding momentum after summer’s travels. I went off on my bike while she walked.

West Potomac Park has waterfront sidewalks, some of which flood at high tide. Did you know that goose shit and algae make a slippery surface? Right across the river from the Pentagon, my wheels went out from under me. Sliding sideways I skidded along the slimy concrete. Somehow I made it back to the car, gashed, bleeding and smeared with a vile substance.

My friend took me home and helped me get cleaned up, tended my wounds. And thus I was not at work, but home when my cousin called, about 9:40am, nearly shouting:

marking 9/11: photographer peter neumann’s architectural abstracts of new york

“Are you OK?!”

He lives in Michigan.

I puzzled at the phone, smiling.

“Yeah, I’m fine. But how did you know I fell off my bike?”

A pause, then: “Bike, what? TURN ON THE TV!”

I comply, his voice was so commanding. And I stared in disbelief. I thought it was a bomb.

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My father died as predicted, as comfortably as possible with loved ones near. It had nothing to do with horrific terrorist havoc.

But losing a parent feels like the rug is pulled out from under you. The world goes wobbly, what seemed solid thins and becomes crumbly, transparent. Brick buildings that looked solid sag as if made of sand, just waiting for a gust to blow them down.

The walls came tumbling down. It’s a different world now.