Better Put the Best Face I Can on It

Acrylic on paper: Silliness as Substitute BeautyComing up empty? Never! Well, okay: sometimes. That’s closer to the truth. I’ve managed to put up three years’ worth of daily blog posts thus far without missing too many beats, but do I have the occasional day of blanking on what I think would be of interest for me to write about, draw or photograph, and post. Outright brilliance would be a stretch for me on the best of days, and on many, it’s just good old showing-up-and-working that gets the job done.

Pretty much the way life works everywhere, isn’t it.

I get up and brush my teeth and take a shower and get dressed, and there’s no guarantee I’ll look less like a goofy, sleepy person than I did a half hour earlier. Some days, it’s flat-out worse, especially if I have to be up before about 9:30 in the morning. But I’m still me. I’m still going on to have a day, to do my writing and picture-making, do my household tasks, go to events, whatever the calendar demands. I’m always planning to have a really good day, if at all possible.

So whatever the agenda, I choose to give it my best, pretend (if I have to) that all is swell in the world, and see if I can’t do something myself to make it as good a day as I’m wanting. We can’t all be pretty all of the time, so I like to let my imagination offer me some fun alternatives to perfection and prettiness, and then the day has a better chance of hitting the happy mark.Acrylic on paper: Sneaking Up on Greatness

Lesser Lights

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The major stars are always more visible than those around them. It’s demonstrably true not only in the galaxies but in the more modest constellations of humanity. Our attentions are naturally drawn toward those who shine most impressively and dramatically—for good or ill; those more modestly gifted or less showy mostly find their own lights muddled or even eclipsed by the intensity nearby, and as a result we seldom spot and take note of them.

Even those of us who are not only accustomed to, but also aware of, being humbled and diminished by comparison to others’ flashier character can easily forget how this applies to others. Just because I might feel neglected doesn’t necessarily mean I notice others being equally shortchanged; indeed, it’s more likely that if I’m feeling under-appreciated I get too preoccupied with my longing to be Special and resentful navel-gazing to think that I’m probably in the majority rather than otherwise.

Still, there’s hope. Just as a supernova will someday burn to nothingness, human stars tend mostly to flash into the general notice, burn however brightly for however long, and be dimmed by eventual inattention or death. They, too, will eventually be outshone and/or replaced by other stars whose time has come.

And if I, or any other, should in the meantime feel unreasonably hidden from sight, we are still free to seek our own bit of gleam. For some folk, that seeking comes in ambitions for accomplishment and fame. For the rest of us, the surest way to kindle the blazing fire that gives off sufficient heat and light to be noted by anyone else is to turn our focus outward. Devoting energy, attention and love to causes and works outside of our petty selves, and especially to other persons, is the spark that, when kindled in their spirits, creates the steadiest, most lasting kind of light. Even the smallest and weakest among us shines brightly in this tiny act of selfless will.digital illustration

Oh, ReLAAAAAX, Dude!

I’ve said it time and again: my natural state is static. I love Doing Nothing. I avoid work and difficulty whenever I can.text + image

And I’m not exceedingly sorry about that. It’s clearly not perfect behavior; that’s a truth I will readily confess any old day. But I remain unrepentant. Inaction in and of itself generally has no inherent moral value. Leisure has been good to me.text + photo

You people who want to get all up in busyness’s business and do all sorts of things all the time, have at it. Feel free! Me, I mostly feel free when I avoid doing things. Goodnight, now. I’ll get back to you later. Maybe. If you really think it’s urgent, you can come over and slouch alongside me until I wake up again. Happy afternoon!

Tractor Pull

Unlike those romantic beings who imagine farming as a bucolic and sweet, easygoing fairytale of a life, I am thoroughly undone by the thought of a mere day spent living like a farmer. I don’t doubt that those who choose it can find beauty and joy in many times and places therein, but the sheer intensity of labor and the long, relentless hours required for such a way of life would be utterly and overwhelmingly consuming to a weakling like me.

Still, I have tremendous admiration and gratitude for the work that farmers of all kinds perform, and I am far from immune to the attractions of magnificent farm animals, crops and all of the tools and implements and structures that make farming possible. For starters, I would have a pretty meager diet and little to wear if it weren’t for farmers, so I’m very conscious of the gifts and comforts that are mine by virtue of their hard work and the gifts and sacrifices that they and their charges bring to my existence. You should all be thankful for the clothing contributions I receive if for nothing else, given that otherwise you’d be stuck seeing me flouncing around garbed in nothing more than what I could manufacture from leaves and bark, and that’s a frightening thought.

But it’s no surprise that in addition to my love of what farmers and farming do to give me a richer existence in such practical matters, as a visually obsessed person I am also admirer and fan of all of the beauties that are part of the seen aspects of farm life. I know I’ve mentioned this before in many ways, celebrating those subjects and objects that enliven my dreams and strike my fancy among rural locales and sights as well as vintage and battered, heavily used and aged, Stuff. If I’m not obsessed with the loveliness of rural life, I’m at least a serious admirer of its visible characteristics.

Not smallest among these delights are all of the wonderful and sometimes mysterious machines that populate the properties of farmland. I may lack any ounce of desire to operate any of them, not least of all because I know how hideously dangerous many farm machines are, but I do love to see them, whether in action or at rest. The latter, truthfully, is all the more appealing when it’s of a machine that is so long and hard used that it can’t be operated any further no matter how much elbow grease and baling wire is applied, and it now resides as a totem on the front forty, weeds or flowers embracing its long-flat tires and curling up around its blasted motor. When I think of it, perhaps that’s because I like the thought that I will be held in such an embrace, metaphorically, in my old age. In any case, as I wander through the farmlands along the way of my own life’s passage, I do find they have a great pull on my soul.photo

I Made a Wreath

I did make a wreath, really–well, two. And as usual, they got a little more complicated and veered from the original plans all along the way, and the wreaths sort of made themselves, with a little elbow grease from me. That does seem to be my modus operandi most of the time, doesn’t it. I like to think of myself as an artist and the chief inventor in my colorful little universe, but when I’m being honest with myself, it’s more like I’m the cheap labor. Once the particular puzzles announce themselves to me, I may be able to offer the valuable skill of problem solving to make them possible (or as nearly so as I can), along with the effort required to bring them into existence, but in truth I’m often as surprised by the end product as anybody.P&IThat’s not entirely what I meant to say in this little post, of course. What I intended was to say that my time among you makes me think wreath-making a particularly purposeful thing to do, regardless of its utility or lack thereof as an object. Because to me, they represent all of the good and cheerful things contained in holidays and celebrations, and bring fine and flexible attractions to the decoration of home and garden. But further, and more significant in this difference to me, a wreath is a way to publicly express personal happiness through a small creative act. I make no claim that this is deep stuff. It’s a small pleasure and a minor artistic outlet, a rather insignificant creation even among the doings of a humbly insignificant artist. But as a token of well-being, contentment and hope, and no less, a mark of my understanding that I am privileged to feel all of those and know that I do so in large part thanks to the fine company I keep, this is enough cheering reason for me to make such playful little artworks, and even make artworks about making the artworks. Odd, I know, but in that alone, well suited to represent me too.digital illustrationI confess, silly as it is, it kind of leaves me wreathed in smiles just thinking about it.

Of Frontiers and Pioneers

I stand in perpetual amazement and awe at the courage, will and dedication it takes to live on the cutting edge of things. How is it that people find those first inklings of a new trail and then, also, the nerve and wit to set foot on it, the persistence and bravery to pursue it to its unknown, unforeseeable end? Seems to me that there’s far more than a hint of the miraculous in the whole enterprise: to recognize that there’s something utterly new and unprecedented Out There somewhere is astounding enough, but to have the wherewithal to pursue it with passion or plain doggedness is much more remarkable, in my view.

It’s rather beyond my ken, this intrepid spirit–or willful folly–that moves anyone to go off into the great unknown and sail over the flat edge of the earth in a pipsqueak of a boat, looking for answers, or for adventure. While I know from my own very limited experience that those things in my life I’ve most treasured generally came at the price of a certain amount of risk beyond my usual, I’ve never quite been able to imagine how there can be people who actually seek such danger, who desire huge challenges. My idea of a grand showdown with Fate falls somewhere between going into a different grocery store than my usual ones and putting on pants that were a little too tight last week.

I am sincerely grateful that there are other people on this planet willing to plunge into the unknown and take on its vagueness and vagaries head first, for without them I wouldn’t exist. It’s not simply that I wouldn’t live in my accustomed comfort and safety, but indeed that I wouldn’t know what was safe-vs-poisonous to eat, let alone which of the seemingly available house-caves were already occupied by less than teddy-cuddly bears. On top of all the basics of safety and shelter and health I am glad that there have been explorers and inventors and pioneers of every sort, all out there avidly finding, making, fixing and each in his or her own way advancing the things that make life so livable nowadays for me and for others like me who are equally unprepared to live on the razor’s edge.

And I’m especially happy that so many survived these trips to the borders of reality and came back to tell the tale. It’s pretty swell for the rest of us, and I’ll bet you, too, are glad to be among the surviving heroes–especially if you’re among the handful that eventually came off the high of discovery and achievement and said to yourselves in a faint echo of what I was saying all along: ‘What on earth was I thinking!‘ If you’d like your thanks at your personal high noon or any other time, I’ll be right here in the safe and comfortable reality you bought for me, slinging no guns at Destiny other than those housed in my safe and comfortable internal universe.digitally enhanced drawing