Do others understand us as artists and writers?
We are excessive and over the top and in your face, so to speak, when we are in our moment. If you are reading this article then you are in my moment as a writer. You might cry, laugh, roll your eyes, shake your head, disagree, but if you understand, then you have entered into who I am and what I do.
In Grass Valley, Calif., we spent a Sunday afternoon at the Arts Fair. We milled around the art booths, talked to artists and craft people. They had paid their booth fees, filled out the forms, met the deadlines, set up their tents, displayed their wares, and pleasantly waited in the hot sun for a possible sale or two. They did what they love to do. Make art!
Financially, some artists broke even, some made a killing and some went away empty handed. I’ve experienced all three in the past. But as a spectator, I wasn’t thinking about all the work the artists had done preparing for my enjoyment. I meandered among the arts exchanging ideas with the artists, and as I did I entered into their moment.
Two weeks prior to this, Al and I were on our way to California for a Mexican cruise which our children generously gave to us for our fiftieth anniversary. Our oldest daughter made all the arrangements for an elegant experience. She spent hours charting our course down to every detail.
She called occasionally confirming the plans. I gently rebuked her for spending so much time on our trip, we didn’t need it. She was happy to do it and was in her element. I had not understood why anyone would enjoy doing such laborious and detailed work. I was looking at the job as who I am, not who she is.
She had mapped out each highway sign, exact mileage from our house to the ship, from the ship to their house. Details for the exact fee for parking, tipping and anything else we might need.
She made it possible for a worry-free and easy trip. She understood our biggest fear, the Los Angeles freeways. She also took into account our slow reflexes; that her Daddy doesn’t see well, her mother doesn’t hear very well either and we only drive 55 mph on two highways, 84 and 160.
We entered the jungle of the freeways of Los Angeles. Al is at the wheel going 85 miles an hour and the other cars are flying past us. I am navigating with our daughter’s instructions. As I held the well-thought-out plans clutched in white knuckles, we flew down the freeways. We entered into the moment which she planned strategically. Previously I had thought her planning was over the top; now I’m clinging to it.
The freeways were laced in and out like a loose-weaved picnic basket. I looked at the Atlas, shook my head and went back to the white paper which bore deep embedded finger prints, all the time mentally thanking our daughter for what she had done.
The exits came quickly and I told Al, “Stay to the right, the turn is coming up.” I didn’t calculate the merging Highway 91 East and West. There it was and we were on it. Finally back on the right freeway, but going North instead of South, we exited and made a shot at it again.
By this time it was now 5 on a Friday evening. Every one was off work and hurrying home and I wished we could go home. We can’t go home; the kids have paid for our trip. Buck up, get back on the freeway, so for the fourth time we tried it again.
We have again increased our speed and Al’s phone rings.
Not now. Al is looking for the phone.
“Where’s the phone?” Al has taken both hands off the wheel and I am still looking for thse right exit and we are still going 85 miles an hour.
Exasperated, I tell Al, “Leave it alone, I’ll look for it. You keep your hands on the wheel.”
I retrieved the phone which had fallen to the floor. No answer.
“Al, put on your blinker.”
Al replies, “When you put on your blinker in California, it signals the car behind you to speed up. They do it every time.”
After a total meltdown, we finally arrived at the motel and collapsed, vowing never to get into the car again. Knowing tomorrow we would need to find the ship, and like Scarlett O’Hara, “I’ll think about it tomorrow.”
The lesson I learned from this was not about freeways, but our daughter’s personality and how she is put together with wonderful structured attributes. I didn’t understand them before and probably discounted them because they were different from how I thought. I guess I thought she needed to be like me. Oh me. Maybe it took the Los Angeles Freeways to show me differently.
The things artists and writers do probably do not seem reasonable at the time; but when someone enters into our world and we point them to something beautiful; or they read a word or two which makes them think, then they understand and appreciate the free spirit of the artist. We also as artists need to learn and understand about people who are different than we are. We will miss them if we judge them before we know them.
The final brushstroke: We will not appreciate another person’s gifting and passion until we enter into their moment and it becomes our moment.
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“No one ever attains very eminent success by simply doing what is required of him; it is the amount of excellence of what is over and above the required that determines the greatness of ultimate distinction.” — Charles Kendall Adams, author, professor of history.