“There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun.”
Today's post is dedicated to my mom. We celebrated her birthday a few days ago, and did one of her favorite things; went to the park and picked up hundreds of colorful leaves to iron in between waxed paper. She has always had the rare ability to be present in the moment. Now is no different. I'll never pick up an autumn leaf, an interesting rock, or a beautiful flower without thinking of my mom. Her love of and connection to nature, ability to seek out beauty, and her courage all come from her artist spirit. It defines who she is and how she's lived her life.
Painting and writing have been hard for me this week. My mind is too busy, my son's having his last high school football game, homecoming dance, etc., and I am constantly wondering if I am doing the best I can for my parents. Words have felt stilted, painting difficult, but when I think about how grateful I am for my mom's life and influence, and how she has helped me become an artist, the words have come.
The hardest part about writing this blog post has been to keep it relatively short. I could fill a book with all the ways my mom has shown me how to live the artist's way. How she prepared me to love, be strong, create beauty, seek out good. I hope I am able to convey at least a little of that here
Her first vivid memory is of Enid, Oklahoma , about 1947, when everyone called her by her nickname, Bobby Lou. She would run as far as she could in the fields, then lay down under the big blue sky watching a parade of cloud pictures drift by. She always said that was what real freedom felt like.
She translated that feeling to my brother and I by taking us into the fields behind our house with a new kite from Benjamin Franklin's dime store. After running with it awhile, we would eventually let it go all the way out, until there was no string left, and then a sudden gust would take it up and away. We'd run back to the house, jump in the jeep and chase down the kite on dirt roads until we found it or gave up. The fun was in letting the wind take it, even if we risked losing the kite.
Mom was a graduate student in Colorado in the 1960's who spent a lot of time painting murals on her apartment walls, and drawing sandals on her feet because she didn't like wearing shoes. She would advertise on the student bulletin board that she would trade her car for a jeep on the weekends so she could drive in the mountains. She got her master's degree. She passed at the doctoral level. She just did it having more fun than most.
My mom's art and creativity manifested in her life by teaching children and being a school counselor. She was amazingly gifted at both. She has that spark in her spirit that attracts others and she has always given generously and freely of her time and love. That is the kind of mom she's been as well; loving, creative, generous, present and secure. She was always there for us and being a mom and spending time with my brother and I was her favorite thing in the world.
As we grew up, we would joke about how mom would end up knowing the life story of every person she crossed paths with. In a dentist office or at the grocery store, people were drawn to her warmth and openness. I'm probably more of an introvert to this day because I was always trying to make a fast getaway!
But that is her gift. Not hurrying, not being worried about the next thing on her list. Maybe not having a list at all. She has always maintained the ability to see just like that little kid in Enid. Completely absorbed and connected with this moment in time. Accessible to the spontaneous. Thinking about ideas, and new ways to experience the world around her. And being willing to risk, choosing not the safest way but going wherever there is the most potential for creativity, beauty and love. Because life and art are never without risk. These are all things that make an artist great, no matter where their path takes them.
As an artist and as a woman, the things I've learned from my mom are immeasurable. She taught me how to how to see miracles in the ordinary and to be thankful for what I have. She taught me how to deal with challenges and put energy toward growth. She taught me how to be a loving mom and a grounded human being.
In the end, being a true artist is being able to access that part of you that remembers experiencing the world as a child; noticing a beautiful leaf falling to the ground. Running through a field, feeling your heartbeat pound on the hard ground while you look up at floating clouds. It's the instinct to know when to let the gust of air take the kite up, when to let it dance loosely in the breeze, and when to release it completely to the wind and revel in the joy of it's flight.
I'm thinking of and grateful for these gifts today as my remarkable mom begins her next journey around the sun.