Artist’s Lane – The Pagosa Springs SUN The most trusted source for news and information about Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Thu, 16 Jan 2020 20:29:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 That’s the way the cookie crumbles Wed, 22 Jan 2020 12:00:00 +0000 Call it a diet, eating right or just getting healthy. However you label it, it is that time of year. Neither habits nor pounds on the scale have changed since my son moved to Pagosa. His version of family dinner wouldn’t be complete without ample heavy cream and butter.
I have decided that this will be the year to lose the weight. I will have to get tough on myself, but I’m resolved. No more jumping on a diet on Jan. 1, only to slip back to cookies and cakes by Jan. 15.
I read in Proverbs, “Consider carefully what is set before you, if you are given to appetite, it is like putting a knife to your throat.” Well, I fit the bill. But, can it be that drastic? Yes, it can be. I am only a few days in and I already feel like my throat has been cut.
I was jolted into reality on Jan. 1. Day one of my diet was accompanied by frozen water pipes, a dead car battery and a daughter stuck in a ditch. Fortunately, I have lived here long enough to work through the mountain-living hiccups while trying to stay focused on my diet.
Famous last words: “No matter what freezes, dies or sticks, I’m going to drop these extra pounds.”
Recently, while filing through some old Artist’s Lane articles, I found one titled, “A cookie is a quick fix — eat it and you have nothing!” The article was based on a fortune cookie and difficult winter moments in Pagosa.
I wrote the “quick fix” article after receiving a call from my daughter. She said that she had read a Chinese proverb in a fortune cookie that said, “Hungry is the man whose salvation is in a cookie.”
I asked my Sweet Al what he thought the fortune meant. He said, “If your salvation is in a cookie and you eat it, you will have nothing to fill that need when you are hungry again.”
I realized he was right as I stood in my kitchen on day two of my diet. While eyeing a package of cookies on the counter, I had to ask myself. “Can I live without that cookie? What will happen if I eat one, but don’t have a second one?”
The cookie and winter article I wrote 12 years ago was just as insightful then as it is today. Below-freezing winters are all a part of what makes beautiful Pagosa our home. When we reminisce, we have some great stories to tell, maybe even a new outlook or revelation about something as simple as a cookie.
Our family is better for having to tighten up our belts and suck it up to get through another winter. In the end, we have received something far greater than a cookie: understanding, substance.
Long is the saying, “Once on the lips, forever on the hips.” There is probably even some truth to that when you personalize it. It is not the one cookie that puts pounds on the hips, but number two, then three and four. If we put our salvation in a cookie, we will never know anything but hunger. Clearly, what we want and what we need are two different things.
I visited our daughter in California two years ago. I was determined then to lose weight, and did. Our daughter had a great plan. I just needed to follow it. I lost the weight when I determined to push through. Then the pounds were back on over a short period of time. Apparently, I hadn’t learned how to keep my focus off the cookies.
Final brushstroke: Here we are again, another winter, another diet and new hopes for a new year. May I stay determined to keep my eye off the cookie and on the goal of living healthier. After all, “Hungry is the man whose salvation is in a cookie.” I already know how that cookie crumbles.
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J.L.G from San Diego wrote: “Betty, Loved the story on the Master’s Touch and about getting the kids off to school. It’s amazing to think what an important role a bus driver plays in our kids’ lives. I still remember my kids growing up years. Thanks for the memories and yes, we have to make the days special or they are just another day.”

Sugar or bitter pill? Tue, 14 Jan 2020 12:00:22 +0000 “I love this family. Thank you for letting me be a part of it,” said a friend.
“It takes a lot of grace to maintain a family.”
Lynne comes for a visit a couple of times a year. Her favorite time is during the holidays. At our house, that is the time when we all come together. For our friend Lynne, that is the time for her to witness camaraderie, commando style. (When a small fighting force makes quick destructive raids against others.)
Whether someone is throwing a biscuit across the dinner table or bringing up someone’s latest life’s-most-embarrassing moment, mealtime is family time. Something you can relish, lest you avoid it all together.
After we bless the food, we pass around the dry humor followed by a mix of quick wit. The silver plated entrée? Honesty! There is always enough to serve two good helpings, with leftovers.
If you didn’t know better, you would swear there was nothing but a lot of noise on our menu. For Lynne, it’s “Mi Familia! Realness” in every sense: speaking out of turn, no nets and no filters.
Over the years, we have learned how far we can push each other, even when it is just in fun. But be forewarned, spectators are not allowed. If you have a seat at the table, you better bring an appetite. After the amuse-bouche, service begins.
We laugh about everything. There was the time when we were stranded while out of town because someone forgot to book the hotel room. Then there was the time my Sweet Al’s 83-year-old brother said he had to go shopping in Las Vegas, only to find out that he was on a date in Scottsdale.
For dessert, we served up a video call with my daughter and son-in-law in Southern California. And, then we laughed some more.
At one point, Lynne said she wanted to record our dinner conversations because she was so entertained. For this household, it was just another chance to appreciate one another.
Somewhere between the clanking of the dishes and the rattling of tongues, I am reminded that not all family gatherings are so sweet. We have certainly had to stomach our share of rotten apples and sour milk over the years. Who hasn’t? Maybe that is why we laugh so much today.
Our nightcap was served fireside, the perfect time and place for an afterglow. Lynne reminded me about the purity of truth. If used unmeasured, it can spoil the mix. If we are not mindful, conversations can be painful, like pouring salt in a wound.
In ancient Hebrew society, salt was discovered to be a seasoning, a preservative, even a disinfectant. Spending time with my family and friends has taught me how important it is not to disguise reality, but to let it enhances me.
What is more pleasant when breaking bread? Serving up a conversation that is flavorful, nonperishable and with healing properties. Or, stirring the hash, which produces nothing more than a tasteless bowl of mush.
Final brushstroke: Walking in grace after experiencing life is wisdom, at least David thought so. He wrote in Psalm 90:12, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life …” It is, after all, like sweetening your breath after digesting a bitter pill. You don’t have to do it, but it makes moments more palatable.
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Take the lid off the vessel we live in Sun, 05 Jan 2020 12:00:36 +0000 A new year dawns. And, with it, the expectancy of becoming what we want or know we should be.
These days, it seems like it takes more than who I am just to make it. Even when my jar seems to be overflowing do I find the day requires more than I can actually give.
A quote from a book by Messianic Jewish Rabbi Jonathan Cahn captured my attention: “Only by opening yourself up can you come to know that which you don’t already know. And only by becoming an open vessel can you contain that which is greater than yourself.”
I held up my coffee cup and said to my Sweet Al, “This cup holds 8 ounces. How can it hold 64 ounces?” He looked at me as if I was speaking to him in Greek again.
“Is this a trick question? An 8-ounce cup can only hold 8 ounces.”
“No, I am not asking you a trick question.”
We have always taught our children, if you err, err on the side of generous. Keep your heart open, even to those who offend you. Forgive when you don’t think you can. Love when it isn’t in you. Be patient with the person who drives you up a wall.
Maybe we were guiding them to give as a cup that runneth over. Yet I recognize by my own asking of the question to my Sweet Al, “Is that actually possible?”
I hear my name called out each week when I drop off books at Ruby Sisson Library. The librarian from behind the desk usually follows that up by saying something that encourages me about my writing. There is a kindness and generosity that I experience, yet the person speaking probably doesn’t even know what her words mean to me. She is just being who she is. Thoughtful. Yet what I receive is likely far more than what she intended.
Not even the deepest well holds water, so then how can we give beyond that which we have? It starts by opening ourselves up supernaturally. In other words, “take off the lid” and let God flow through.
It begs the question, “Why are people stingy with their compliments when it doesn’t cost anything, yet it can mean more than the value of anything they would have given?”
I heard it said years ago, “If you’re stingy when you’re poor, you’ll be stingy when you’re rich.” I am not sure if that is entirely true. I have, however, come to a point in my understanding — what I give doesn’t depend on what I have, but who I am.
Cahn continues in his writings, “Your mind and heart are finite. Clay jars. But the truth has no end. God has no end. The Eternal is infinite … always flowing.”
When we open ourselves up to the life God gives, whether it demands us to love, forgive, pray or just be a friend, there is an abundant flow. Just as with any other blessing, there is not a start or stop. Just a current that envelopes us.
I came from a small town that sat in the eastern shadow of Wolf Creek Pass. In the simplicity of that time, I certainly never saw myself with much to offer. Let alone, I would have never thought that I or anyone else could ever pour out more than we were able to hold. The acceptance of Christ gives profound meaning when I think about where the Bible tells us that we are filled with living water.
Final brushstroke: How easy it is for us to live like a dried-up well that doesn’t have anything to offer. After all, if we don’t have, we can’t give. That is, until we discover that if we take the lid off of whatever vessel we live in, God will fill us. And not just to a topping off point, but overflowing.
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Candle in the night Mon, 30 Dec 2019 12:00:03 +0000 We are at the end of the year, when it’s natural to reflect on accomplishments. For some, it is a time to evaluate what we want to change or sustain in the coming new year. For some, it means recognizing the light that we have been to others, helping them find their own way to achievement — metaphorically speaking, a candle in the night.
I spoke at the Wolf Creek Christian Writers Network’s (WCCWN) annual Christmas party. I reflected on the group’s accomplishments in 2019, making note of how much the group has evolved in just a few short years, from a candle sitting on a lampstand in a corner of a house to a city on a hill which refuses to be hidden. These are writers whose published words appear as a light that continues to shine.
When the WCCWN started five years ago, it had a simple premise: be a light not hidden under a basket. So, we lit a candle in the daylight and watched it blend with the brightness that surrounded it. Even as day turns to night, we see the light of our efforts stay true to course. What started as a complement now stands in contrast to everything around it.
Being a light doesn’t limit itself to those who write. Each of us has skills and talents that allow us to be seen or even be a guide for others. But, on any given day, there is a grayness that can overcome us, a time when we seem to lose our zeal or lack vision.
One of the most difficult times to see or be seen is when day fades to night. We know this time as twilight, a period or state of obscurity, ambiguity or gradual decline.
I said to my Sweet Al, “I remember the days when everything seemed to be gray, not too much light and not too much darkness.”
Those were days when I thought I knew what I wanted to do, or what I wanted to say, but couldn’t seem to navigate myself through my own season of twilight. I can only liken it to a time of spiritual unrest. Something kept me from sharing what I knew in my heart in order to be a light to those around me.
I am reminded of a classic film from the ‘90s by Robert Benton. It starred Paul Newman, Susan Sarandon, Gene Hackman and James Garner. The title of the film was “Twilight.” Although there are many meanings that could be drawn from the story, at its core was a man who couldn’t see the truth that was standing right in front of him.
Newman was in the twilight of his career, an aging detective investigating the murder of a woman. His friend, Garner, an ex-cop on the take, was helping him solve the murder case. Their efforts to find answers seemed to be nothing short of a black hole.
Newman could only see what he could hear. This was the voice of a friend that caused him to doubt his ability to find the right answers.
The mystery in the film was solved by the troubled and broken-down detective, when he finally realized the truth that surrounded him. I won’t be a spoiler, but this happened as Newman stood looking out the window of a penthouse overlooking the lights of the city. It was there that he suddenly saw a light, in the middle of his twilight.
As we embark on 2020, it’s important to see the things that have brought us to where we are today. Whether it is to celebrate a success or acknowledge how we have stopped in our own tracks, there are lights that we can leverage in order to reach new heights. For those of us who find ourselves in our own twilight, it may be time to move into the light we have been given.
Final brushstroke: In light, or as day fades to night, the glow of a candle remains the same. There are times when we need to follow it, times when we need to embrace it. One thing for sure: A light will know its greatest power when it is used.
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Touch of the Master’s hand Mon, 23 Dec 2019 12:00:36 +0000 Imagine being touched by God and seeing his face. There is only one face we worship and adore and his name is Jesus; a face when seen unveiled allows us to see him in all his glory.
At this time of the year, we see the many faces of Christmas — music, bright lights, presents, busyness, family and smiling children.
I sat across from a woman at a friend’s house. Her smile was electrifying. I said to her, “Your smile is beautiful. It is undeniable that your heart has been touched by God as it shows on your face.”
I thought about the song of the old violin. It was just an old violin until the master violinist picked it up and played it.
The lyrics go something like this: “Well it was battered and scarred, but the auctioneer held it up with a smile. He said it sure ain’t much but it’s all we’ve got left. One, give me one dollar, who’ll make it two. Only two dollars, who’ll make it three. Three dollars twice, now that’s a good price. Who’s got a bid for me?
“From the back of the crowd, a gray-haired man came forward and picked up the bow. He wiped the dust from the old violin and tightened up the strings. Then he played out a melody pure and sweet, sweeter than the angels sing. And then the music stopped and the auctioneer said, now what is your bid for this old violin. Then he held it up with the bow and cried out, one, give me $1,000, who’ll make it two. Only $2,000, who’ll make it three. Three thousand twice now that’s a good price. Who’s got a bid for me?
“The people cried out, what made the change, we don’t understand. Then the auctioneer stopped and said with a smile, it was the touch of the master’s hand.”
There are many faces that we see as we go about our busy days. There is one in particular that I won’t ever forget. In our early years on the Blanco, snow had fallen 3 feet and the chore of the day was getting the children to the bus stop on time. If one child lagged, that meant all lagged and all were late.
Each morning, I prodded four children to finish their breakfast, put on their shoes and coats, and be out the door by 7 a.m.
If we weren’t there waiting, the bus driver would zip right by. Even if the children were only 20 feet from the stop, waving from our red truck, he would barrel down the Lower Blanco. His face was always angry. He was defiant and showed no mercy or compassion. That was our school bus driver at the time.
I prayed to God, more for myself than for the bus driver. Why wouldn’t he wait for us when he saw us? That meant I had to drive the kids to town on ice and snow or keep them home for the day.
Then one morning, we were about 30 yards from the stop. I put my foot to the gas. I knew I couldn’t catch the bus in time. But something was different that December morning — a change on the bus driver’s face. He was smiling. Not only smiling, he was waiting for us. I saw the face of God that morning and felt the touch of the Master’s hand.
We enter this holiday season with excitement, dread, vacation plans and other things that make up the season. It’s a busy time of stringing lights, decorating trees, buying gifts and attending holiday functions. But without a special touch, it would be just another day, just like the old violin.
Final brushstroke: What was the face that I saw on that cold winter morning with snow in the air? Why did my face reflect a smile as I wrestled with my children in bewilderment? Perhaps it was because I was touched by the expression of another, someone who had been touched by the Master’s hand.
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Making the best of life Tue, 17 Dec 2019 12:00:36 +0000 Mongo and Wench. Sounds like a gunslinger and his gun-toting side piece from the Old West. Those are also the adopted names of a couple who rode into Pagosa a few years back, infamous on the international stage of gunslingers in Cowboy Fast Draw.
As the sun set on their careers, these two found themselves as retirees, new characters in roles they never saw themselves playing. Mongo and Wench Miller have filled their new boots well and are absolutely charming.
I perused the Gunslinger’s Gazette looking for “Wench” Miller. I found her, complete in costume among a motley crew of old men with bushy beards and women in full petticoat and tight-fitting laced bodices.
Among the dressed-up trollops of the Cowboy Fast Draw, Wench fits perfectly in her roll in the association. She admits that she joined just to play dress-up in crazy costumes, but ended up competing in a shooting contest. She didn’t even know how to load her own gun when she came in 13th in the 2004 World Championship. She would go on to hold national titles in 2013 and 2017, winning the Worlds Ladies Shootist in 2018.
Wench and Mongo joined the Cowboy Fast Draw Organization in 2004. While in its infancy stage, the two became life members, numbers 57 and 58. Mongo would hold the position of regulator posse sheriff for 10 years.
The fast draw group stresses “Safe Friendship Rules”: 1. Safety; 2. Fun; 3. Competition.
Wench’s and her husband’s names light up billboards and marquees. They travel nationwide from border to border and coast to coast picking up world and national awards. They are having the times of their lives and are comfortable in their new skins.
Visits to secondhand stores for the perfect costume to match her name, now her standard uniform — a gun drawing, sharp-shooting floozy.
Shirley “Wench” Miller wasn’t always the scarlet woman she portrays today. She was a nurse for more than 50 years and wore the name tag “CFF, Certified Fun Fairy.” She threw herself into her work, where she managed 150 employees and cared for more than 500 patients.
I asked her how her husband deals with her charismatic, over-the-top, fun-loving personality. She said that he loves her for who she is. He’s an introvert and encourages her and enjoys seeing her operate outside the lines of convention.
As an Air Force child, her life has always stretched beyond the norm. This is something that would become evident at the young age of 5. It was then that she became the first Caucasian to win a hula solo in a competition in Hawaii. For Shirley, life has always found comfort under a spotlight, something that isn’t positioned to fade any time soon.
Shirley visited our little mountain community when she was 8 years old. She knew then that this was the place where she wanted to one day live. Shirley and her husband moved from Denver to Pagosa Springs in 2006. Today, she is on the board of the Loaves and Fish organization feeding Pagosa. She is the welcoming force who embraces everyone she meets with a warm fun smile.
Final brushstroke: Retired and in Pagosa. Whether holding a gun or a syringe, this is one character who makes the best of every hand dealt. She is a daddy’s girl who carries his words even up until now: “We can find bad where we are, but let’s find good.”
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Finding your voice Tue, 10 Dec 2019 12:00:34 +0000 “Don’t sound like a grandmother with all your emotional Christianese when you talk to him,” my son said reprovingly.
“Then what do I say?”
One of my grandsons called me a couple weeks ago. He is an up-and-coming screenwriter in Hollywood and on a mission to make a difference in the movie industry as a Christian author. He just finished a new script and asked if he could send it to me. It felt special to know that my grandson was entrusting his creative work to me, so I told him to email it over.
He asked me if I would read the script and then tell him if I could “see the light.” I did, but I certainly didn’t. As I read, I found myself asking the same thing over and over, “Whose voice is this?”
The writing didn’t sound anything like I would have expected from this grandson. It is almost as if he has plunged headfirst into the same darkness as that of some of his colleagues. He had written a generational piece which seemed to lose his voice while trying to appeal to a specific audience.
As a writer, I know just how important it is not to dash another person’s confidence. I have had that done to me a few times and have even done it to others in the past. It is a lesson we can’t learn quick enough when dealing with the like body of work of others. It is important to approach the work of a creative person seeing things from the value of an artistic accomplishment, not a critical point of view.
His screenplay is professionally written, creative and engaging. It is a complete page-turner from start to finish. It is something that I would think someone would want to grab ahold of. But, some of the dialogue was too hard for me to swallow.
I asked my son how to approach my grandson, how to provide feedback on writings that beat against my moral convictions. He said, “Approach him as a writer, not his grandmother.”
He told me not to dwell on the darkness I felt. “As a writer, tell him how to appeal to his generation without the need for shock words. Ask him if he knows he is opening a door that may become difficult to shut. Specific to the original ask, you don’t have to ask someone if they can find the light, if it is not hidden.”
I have walked a creative path for years and have asked myself if my viewers and readers can “see the light” in my own work. Now I have grandchildren following the same creative bent, asking the same question.
As a Christian artist, there is an interesting balancing act that takes place when putting yourself out there, all the while maintaining your own voice — meaning something to others while staying true to yourself.
We all need to express ourselves, that’s how we are made. Painting was my expression. I threw myself into it for 45 years. Words never came easy for me. Even naming a piece of art work seemed much harder than it should have.
A friend whose words trickled off her tongue like honey always gave me such swelling titles for my paintings. I loved hearing what she would come up with, but when all was said and done, they weren’t my words. They were words that were missing the true expression of who I was as an artist.
How do we find a persona that is our own voice when certain passions scream inside us? It probably starts by recognizing and appreciating what our voice sounds like in the rough. Dare I say that it is important to honor the direction we think we want to go, before we ever move an inch. If we move before we think, we may find ourselves mindlessly off course. Once we acknowledge where we want to go, it makes it easier to determine the width of the lane in which we want to run.
I can’t kid myself. Even my voice has evolved over the years, but never outside of certain guardrails that I have put in place. That is the beauty of truly knowing our own voice. We always know just how much we can move to the left or right before falling in to a ditch that we may or may not be able to get out of.
Final brushstroke: So, what did I tell my grandson? “Give your main character strong ethics and unmovable morals. Do not let your hero fall below a certain standard. This way others will see his light through the darkness — not in spite of it. It is OK if the protagonist needs to evolve as the story unfolds. Just make sure his transformation doesn’t take him further than you yourself are willing to go.
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When you’re gone, you’re gone — no offense Tue, 03 Dec 2019 12:00:10 +0000 Have you ever experienced the disconcerting feeling of being irrelevant? Like the world has moved on without you? Or, when people talk about you as if you’ve left the room?
It makes you want to say, “I can hear you. I’m still here.”
My Sweet Al and I are certainly not ready to go, but for the last few months, we’ve been letting go. Friends and family said, “You need a trust.” So, we gave in and started the process. After all, it’s not for us, but for those we will leave behind.
We sat and listened attentively during a recent visit to our attorney’s office. He asked us a number of end-of-day questions which he followed up by saying, “When you’re gone, you’re gone, but no offense.”
“None taken,” I said as I thought about the reality we are approaching. I wondered if this is how it felt to be a first wife, letting go of my Sweet Al and telling the second wife, “Be good to him. He’s all I had. You might get him, but I don’t think you’ll appreciate him like I did.”
After all, few people outside of the home know what a couple goes through. Like old furniture, there is a story about every bump and scratch. There is even one about the table leg that looks like the dog chewed on it.
There is much that goes in to all that we worked so hard for in life. The sweat and tears, laughter and love. All of it, the carving out we call ours that bares our fingerprints.
I am sure our attorney hadn’t planned on story hour when we came in to work through some of his questions, but he sat patiently as my Sweet Al and I recounted things — serious things, hard things and a whole lot of funny things. Besides, humor is a great antidote when you need to neutralize an unpleasant feeling or situation.
We were at the point in our meeting when our attorney asked, “How many days would you want to be on the machine? Five days is adequate. It gives time to bring in the family and say goodbye. After that it costs a lot of money to keep a person alive.”
We had previously discussed this with our children. “More than five days and it will be eating into your inheritance.”
With that, our son-in-law said, “Could we make it two?”
The conversation with our attorney came around to who was going to take care of Al’s dog, Whiskey.
I told the attorney, “When Al is gone, so is Whiskey, no offense. When one goes, so does the other.”
At that, my Sweet Al gushed over his dog. I thought that maybe I should be more loving of her since Al loves her so much. But, then I realized I’m not that noble.
Al spoke up and relayed his mother’s wishes before she passed. “My mother was worried about her cat. She gave me names of two women who would take it.”
“So then, who got the cat?”
“The woman who I later found out stole my mother’s diamond rings and watch. By the way, it was really difficult to take my mother off of the life-support machine when she died.”
I’m sure the attorney didn’t want to hear another story about Al’s mother, but he had one queued up and ready to go.
“My mother passed more than 30 years ago. My memories of her are as if it happened yesterday.” He couldn’t find the word resuscitate, so he said, “I had her cranked up again and again. I wasn’t ready to pull the plug.”
I leaned over and said, “Exactly, that’s why we have to check that box on the document before we sign it.”
Knowing my Sweet Al, he is too sentimental and would try to keep me cranked up for years. Apparently, our children think differently. It seems they have already figured out how much it will cost after the fifth day.
The meeting with our attorney finally came to an end. We walked out of his office with confidence that we had thought of everything and that we had made every decision we wanted to make.
I’m sure our attorney scratched his head as we left, thinking he had just witnessed the last episode of “The Honeymooners.”
Final brushstroke: King Solomon in the second chapter of Ecclesiastes wrote, 19a: ”And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the fruit of my labor for which I have labored by acting wisely under the sun.” Isn’t it interesting how the end-of-days process is called a trust?

Displaced in my own corner Wed, 27 Nov 2019 12:00:52 +0000 One thing about scaling down to a smaller home — all space is shared space.
Each person has his or her own things within the confines of a house: hopes, dreams, projects and clutter. All of which are held close and called sacred.
“I just want my own space, a place where I can hide away from the noise of the house.”
My son said, “You have a whole house. What about your aqua desk in your bedroom?”
“It’s next to the television. When your dad watches TV, I can’t concentrate on my Greek. I need a bigger space in order to spread out. I have lots of Greek books.”
“You have your desk upstairs.”
“Yes, but that desk is dwarfed by your dad’s hunting paraphernalia. There is a bearskin on the wall, a stuffed goose flying overhead, and a wall-mounted wild boar behind me with its mouth open ready to pounce. Then there are all those deer and elk horns, and duck and turkey feathers scattered about. I share my office with your dad’s gun cabinet, which is dressed in finer furs than me.”
My Sweet Al seems to light everywhere I land. For the past 12 years, I have created and written under a cloud of dead animals overhead. My friend who stayed in the loft said she couldn’t sleep because there were eyes looking down at her all night. As for Al, he likes to sit up in the loft and dream about a once-served meal as he dishes up a hunting story or two.
While cleaning out a storage shed to free up some space, I ran across an old dirty buffalo hide. Al immediately asserted, “It is worth $900. We need to drape it over the stair railing so we can appreciate it.”
My Sweet Al is still moping around over my response. Although we have learned how to co-habitat over the years, I had to give Al an ultimatum. “Either I put my foot down on that hide, or I’m kicking one.”
Moving back into peacekeeping mode, I know that it is important to be open-minded about the things of the people we love. What others find of value is paramount to them. What we do or say about it, although impactful to others, is only meaningful to us.
In the same way that I need to be surrounded by my literary and reference library, my Sweet Al needs to be surrounded by those things that inspire him. And while these “things” may only provide feel-good moments, they can be purposeful in transporting us to a place few others understand.
I don’t see the need to stalk an elk in the forest or to be able to call down birds from the heavens. But for my Sweet Al, this lifts him high in the sky then drops him into a field of dreams.
I wrote the following words 10 years ago. If only I had known then just how much they appeal to my understanding of others.
“I believe that as artists and writers, we sometimes find ourselves elsewhere, untethered or even on the edge of something great. Something we may not be able to even speak about, yet with feelings that are very real.”
At the time, I was struggling to respect the creative gift that was developing within me. Today, these words still ring true as I try to find some floor space that I can call my own. I’m not asking for much, just my own space to be me, a place to store all of the hopes and dreams that I carry in my heart. Such a double-edged sword when your partner in life is doing the same.
We do not always know the why in what others hold on to. In fact, we may be discovering things today that we didn’t know we were holding on to ourselves. Things that are part of our DNA or our history, some we can’t even explain, yet frustrates us about others.
It has taken me a lifetime to feel “placed” in who I am as an artist and writer. It’s a place that doesn’t always calculate with the practical-minded person who is trying to make sense of their own life. Suddenly, the last 60 years make perfect sense.
Final brushstroke: There is a saying, “Stay true to your art.” Maybe I made that more exclusive than I should have. Perhaps a better way of saying it is, “Be true to who you are … all of us.” While part of our life’s mission is learning how to live in the fullness of who we are, that doesn’t mean we ignore or displace those who are learning to live in the fullness of who they are. Although, I am still looking for at least one undiscovered corner to call my own.
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Purchasing a field of treasure Wed, 06 Nov 2019 12:00:07 +0000 This week, I came to a new understanding about an age-old parable. It is a familiar story about a treasure hidden in a field. A man sold everything he had in order to buy that field, then knowing the joy of possessing the treasure within.
I said to my Sweet Al. “I think I bought the field when we got married.”
“What are you talking about?”
“A field of treasure. I had no idea what treasure I would find within the boundaries of our marriage. Neither one of us knew what we would discover in each other when we married. So, why did you choose me?”
“Because you were as cute as a button, fun and I loved your ducktail.”
Needless-to-say, my ducktail got an updo around the same time that Al’s widow’s peak faded from view, but I digress. Yes, I also chose my Sweet Al because he was cute. Because he had good manners and a beautiful heart, too.
We bargained for each other. I would take care of his home, raise his children and be a good wife. In turn, he would love me, provide for me and protect me. Pretty simple. That was what marriage was all about, or so I thought.
After attending a concert in Albuquerque, a few nights before my “field of dreams” revelation, our family stopped at a fast food restaurant. Our son and my Sweet Al were in one car, two of our daughters and I were in the other. We parked side by side and talked through the open windows while we waited on our food.
Al reminisced. “This reminds me when I would go to Bob’s Drive-In. I would park, then meet a girl and make a date for Friday night. When my buddy arrived in his hopped-up Mercury, we would drive to the other side, talk to some other girls, and set up a date for Saturday night.”
Heavens, my Sweet Al had transformed into a16-year-old like in his high school days. He became Mr. Personality, full of wit and flirtation. He even tried a few pick-up lines on me then asked me out on a date. It was cute and a little corny. Mind you, three of our grown children were listening to their dad, snickering as they look at me and waited for my response.
Flashbacks flooded my mind of a time when Al had only 19 cents to his name, just enough to buy a gallon of gas to take me home. He had a wolf call button installed in the floorboard of his 1955 Chevy and wasn’t shy in using it. Sure enough, that was the field I fell in love with.
I chuckled as I listened to my 82-year-old husband flirt with me across the cars. Today, I know fully what treasure I inherited in “the field” I married 59 years ago. It has taken years of digging to find it. First with a shovel, then a backhoe. But eventually, I found the hidden, priceless treasure that lay beneath the surface.
Somewhere between the rocks and tumbleweeds, and the days of our youth and now, I’ve gained a clear vision of something I didn’t know I would find all those years ago. It is interesting that it would take going to a concert with our children for two old dawdling seniors to relapse in to a teen’s world.
My Sweet Al and I each brought different elements into our relationship. Al felt an obligation to work hard for the family so I could be a stay-at-home mom and spend time working on my art. My work, however, didn’t bring much financial value, but certainly required I make whatever we had stretch as far as it could.
When we needed extra money, I’d pick up an old piece of furniture from the thrift store, paint on it, then sell it to fill in any gaps.
The things we needed “to do” to survive have always been important. But the things we have uncovered as we have walked through our field together seems to yield a greater deposit.
Final brushstroke: Over the years, the fields we purchase uncover so many treasures. For me and my Sweet Al, there is love, trust, peace and so many other things that made a good marriage and home. Little did we know all those years ago that we would uncover diamonds in our own backyard.
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