Friday, June 26, 2020

Making Sense

My field easel in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park while I work on my continuing series of plein air paintings from the park. Shown below is the finished piece, Great Smoky Mountains No 7 - Emerald.

As bad news pours into our lives during this challenging era for our nation, I'm using my "safer at home" time to to revisit why I paint. I'm not going to wax philosophical, but I want to say that especially now, I want to share with you the beauty of what surrounds us. As an artist, this is how I can contribute something positive to our world, and there's definitely an urgency to remember that there are still good things around us, even in these difficult times.

Great Smoky Mountains No. 7 - Emerald, 8 x 16 inch oil plein air oil on panel.

To cope with everything that's been happening, I've been visiting state parks in eastern Tennessee as well as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Shown above is a new addition to my ongoing series of plein air works from the park, "Emerald." Being outside in natural beauty restores my balance, and who couldn't use a little more equilibrium nowadays? 

While my art show van sits idle in our driveway (eye roll), I've been catching up on some reading this summer.

In addition, I've certainly had more time to read since I'm not traveling to my usual schedule of outdoor art shows. I recently picked up John Barry's The Great Influenza, originally published in 2005, and now back on the best-seller list. Hmm, I wonder why? What I'm learning is that we are repeating our own pandemic history, but not the good parts, unfortunately.

Finally, I turn to a poem that I've often leaned on during bad times. When I was a young child my Dad shared The Desiderata with me, a poem that he said shaped his view of the world. According to the venerable Wikipedia, it was first penned in 1920 by Max Ehrmann, just a couple of years after the 1918 flu pandemic. To me, it's more relevant now than ever before in my life:


Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.