Category Archives: Art

Asking is better than wishing

I work part-time at a library. Almost every day this happens:

A child about 7 or 8 years old enters with a parent.

"Mommy (or Daddy), do they have books about____________ (dinosaurs... Lego... unicorns...)?"

"You'll have to ask," the parent says.

The child slinks behind the parent's leg, unwilling to face the scary prospect of talking to an adult. "You ask."

Last week a similar scenario unfolded beside me. A young boy asked his father about a book and his father told him to ask me.

After some time the boy worked up his nerve. “Do you have The Mysterious Benedict Society?

“Yes!” I said. “Right over here.” We walked together to pick up the book.

“See?” his father said. “Asking is better than wishing.”

The rest of the afternoon I pondered,:

  • Have I been wishing for things without doing the asking?
  • Could I receive those things if I voiced the request?

If you could work up the nerve right now, what would you ask for?

A child's drawing of a house full of cats. The heading reads: If I had one wish, I would wish for 18 kittens."
My daughter once wished for 18 kittens. She never ASKED for them though . . .

Living the first draft

I posted this on a previous blog. It’s come to my mind again in recent weeks.


Sometimes I wonder . . . Did someone ever say to Mozart, “Ya know what, Wolfgang? I think that should be two quarter notes instead of one half note.”

  • Have you ever been lost for words in an emotional moment only to think later, “I should have said this . . .”?
  • Or perhaps you said the absolutely worst thing possible only to think later, “If only I hadn’t said that!”?
  • Or maybe you have thought, “If I could do that over again, I’d do it differently.”?

We don’t get to edit our lives before publication. Everything we do is first draft.

Anne Lamott encourages writers to “Write shitty first drafts.” She knows that getting something—anything—down on the page is key. Writers can’t believe that words are supposed to sprinkle gracefully onto the page in perfect pearly rows. We’d never get anything done, we’d be so frozen with apprehension.

A mediocre mess of an idea out there is better than a perfect pearly idea hidden.

Every day we meet people and choose words to speak to them. Sometimes we choose appropriate, helpful words. But sometimes we choose hurtful ones.

Every day we choose clothes and do our hair. Sometimes our wardrobe and hair could be on the cover of Vogue. But sometimes we manage only sweatpants and a washed face.

Occasionally  life kneecaps us with unexpected blows. Sometimes we rise above it with wise, rational choices. But sometimes we solve problems with beer and a whiskey chaser.

We can’t edit our lives before publication, and that means our words and actions won’t sprinkle gracefully in perfect pearly rows. We have to live our delightfully shitty first draft and forgive ourselves for it.

Because one mediocre mess of a life out there is better than a perfect pearly one hidden. 

Rose petals scattered across an light pine hardwood floor.
Scattered rose petals. A beautiful mess.

Seek, and then keep seeking

An empty row of seating in a church. A sign hangs from a barrier blocking access to the row. The sign reads, "'When you seek me, you will find me.' Just not in this pew."
“When you seek me, you will find me, when you will seek me with all your heart.” –Jeremiah 29:13

I attended a concert on Friday night. Due to COVID restrictions, the venue needed to bar access to every other row of seating. They did so with humour.

The sign above made me laugh, and think.

We often seek some wonderful new event or item for our lives, and we expect it to appear immediately and directly in our path. POOF!

Not so fast. Maybe we can find what we seek, but not right away and not in the first place we look.

Seek, and then keep seeking, with the whole heart.

Ioan Harea on violin and Judy Ginsburg on piano
Ioan Harea on violin and Judy Ginsburg on piano. Lovely.

A fairy tale of crossed lines

Once upon a time a three-year-old boy sat in a church. At the front of the cavernous space, far away from him, an adult voice yammered on. The boy squirmed. Squiggled. Stretched out on the floor.

To entertain him, a woman handed him an activity sheet. It had a maze printed on it, full of dead ends and clever diversions.

Child's activity sheet maze where a squirrel find an acorn

Happy to have any distraction, the boy sat up and began to trace the path with a finger. He made his way through the maze with delightful disregard for the lines. After blowing through any twists and turns that might have blocked his progress, his finger reached the end.

He raised his arms in victory. “I did it!”

“Yes, you did,” the woman affirmed.

Why tell him that crossing lines isn’t always that easy?

Why burden him with the idea that some lines are best left uncrossed, and sometimes it’s hard to figure out which ones.

Better to send him out into the world excited about obliterating barriers blocking his path. Better to equip him to cross the many lines that need to be crossed.

And, far away from him, the adult yammered on.

Find things beautiful: van Gogh and us all

Vincent began to make his presence known in my life. Books about him passed through my hands at the library where I work.

The book Vincent Van Gogh by Mike Venezia

A library patron returned the DVD Loving Vincent and took time to tell me how much he enjoyed the movie.

DVD cover for Loving Vincent

A blogger I follow wrote about Vincent in A Sunflower Story.

And then I immersed myself in his art and his thoughts at Beyond van Gogh: The Immersive Experience. (Go, if it comes to a city near you.)

At the exhibition Vincent himself melted from the ceiling.

His brushstrokes came to life on the high walls and the floor all around me.

His artist soul reached out to my creative one as if he had written sentiments to me personally across centuries. I am certain every person immersed in his experience felt the same.

Quote, text against van Gogh brushstrokes: "I also believe that it may happen that one succeeds, and one mustn't begin by despairing; even if one loses here and there, and even if one sometimes feels a sort of decline, the point is nevertheless to revive and have courage, even though things don't turn out as one first thought." To Theo van Gogh, The Hague, 22 October 1882
Quote, text against van Gogh brushstrokes: "...I always think that what we need is sunshine and fine weather and blue air as the most dependable remedy." To Theo van Gogh, Arles, 29 September 1888

Vincent told me to enjoy the air and sunshine. He urged me not to despair.

He reminded me to seek out the beautiful. A message sent to me, and you, from 1874 to the present.

Quote, text against van Gogh brushstrokes: "...find things beautiful as much as you can, most people find too little beautiful." London, January 1874

Giants

My final poem for Poetry Month. A tribute to people doing important, unacknowledged work.

Giants

Giants are the smallest men
As measured by scales of Job.
With poison scorn and fountain pens
They slash and jab to rule the globe.
 
In glass towers they strut and spit.
The height a craved collusion.
Fragility keeps them separate
In fantastical delusion.

For city smog mugs their glass
Dying skin cells dust book spines
Ink-stained downsizings fill the trash
And stains streak their ample Calvin Kleins. 

The humble arrive and quietly hedge
Their mops, dusters and garbage bins
Around the small mighty who can't acknowledge
That cleaners are our greatest ones. 
Hand with a cleaning glove, squeezing a sponge.
Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com