Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Doors, they open, and they close. They are portals in life and they are also ending points that cause us to redirect where we thought we were going. Some are opened for us to pass through and some are slammed in our faces, abruptly changing the course of our thoughts, intentions, and actions. They can be, and usually are, invisible, and can take many guises.

 Like water passing through the channel of a mountain stream, directed by the boulders that shape its course downward to the next placid pool, we drift along subject to these external forces that form our lives and the paths we are led along as we go. The difficulty is our thinking that we do have a real say so in our destiny, but no, we really don’t control much. Life just happens, and that’s the ride we take when we are born.
In April, with the death of my mare, a door in my life was slammed shut. It was rudely done, unexpected, painful and numbing, leaving me in a vortex of a loss of focus and direction. You are what you spend your time doing and the things I had focused on so hard, for the many decades, was ended in a brief flickering moment, and as that mare closed her eyes for a final time, my life changed. The door to that part of my life as a horse breeder,  a major portion of my identity for the past years, was closed, and locked.

I have spent the last several months adrift with no rudder and no compass, floundering in the question of who am I and what to do next. Some days I have been washed in a deep brooding melancholy that left me in a paralytic state unable to make the simplest decisions of what to do next, simply drifting. There have been the good days as well, some that gave me hope that the next door was soon to open, to what I have had no idea, but the belief that one was there, has kept me hanging on.  When the rational and the irrational collide and chaos prevails, the only way out is by hope. It is in hope, that we wait for something to change and open the way to the next portal, to set us on a new path.  
This past weekend we traveled to Nashville to attend the wedding of my nephew. We traveled to a place where I had been before and had a connection to, but it had been many decades ago. During the phase of my life when I last visited this place, I was immersed in competing horses. This place I revisited is called Percy Warner Park, a huge estate lined with old stone walls, ancient trees, thousands of rolling acres for horse shows, and a grand old house, Cheekwood, which is now an art museum.
The reception was to be held at Cheekwood and I was curious to see it, as I had only been to the horse show part of the estate before, but I had another prior connection with the place from many years preceding that. Years before being caught up in the horse stuff, I had been seriously pursuing learning the craft of water color painting. Fairly new into learning to paint, and being quite naive, at someone’s suggestion I sent a slide of a painting I had done of a Kestrel, a small falcon, into a jury for a show to be held at this former house. Strangely enough my entry was accepted into, what I later learned was a very prestigious  and highly regarded show that many enter and few are accepted. We built a box to ship the framed painting in and off it went to Cheekwood. Lacking funds to attend the show, I never saw the painting hung in the show, and I never saw the painting again as it sold, cheaply but gratefully, and it did not make its way home.
Recently Mark found an old Kodachrome slide of the painting and was able to make me a print of it and it was nice to see it again after so long.

As we walked up the hill to the reception which was being held in the courtyard of the carriage houses of the estate, I was very surprised to hear that my former water color teacher and sole source of any art training at all, was there too. I was stunned, actually, as I had not seen John and his wife Patty in several decades. The coincidences of the past and present and my connections to horses and art, and how they were surrounding this scene at the reception were getting weirder. 

Many moons ago my mother had seen a drawing that I had done of a lioness, thought it was pretty good, and had contacted John to arrange a  series of lessons with him for me. A week’s worth of his teaching me about colors, techniques, tools, began with a beer to steady my nerves and ended with my carrying away knowledge which before for me, had been shrouded in mystery and was thought to be unattainable. This experience, afforded and set up by my mother, and played out by John, was a huge door opened for me. 

This door opened a new path for me and set me in motion to later paint the water color of the Kestrel that hung at Cheekwood, as well as many others that followed. I traveled that path until the horse show thing and other life diversions drew me into different realms and my brushes  largely remained dry for many years. I heard that somewhere along John’s path, that he too had put painting aside to deal with life’s other distractions.
We chatted after hugs, taking each other's news  after decades' distance . He asked me what I was painting now and I had to say not much. He admonished me and told me that I had too much talent to waste to not be doing so, that he was returning to painting himself, and laughing, said that we were going to open a gallery in NY together. Laughing too at this fantasy, I realized that mentally he was kicking me in the butt and I was surprised.  John had never given me any indication of what level of ability or potential he thought I had back then, and over the years I had thought my lessons were regarded by him as just another paid lesson. Now to learn of his regard, and to hear his encouragement for me to pick it back up in earnest was a bit overwhelming.

There have always been horses somewhere in my life and there has almost always been my painting, but somewhere along the way I let one get more important than the other and things got out of balance,  and then crashed. Perhaps going back to prioritizing my painting is the the next door, standing wide open inviting me to cross the thresh hold.  It seems rather ominous that the craziest series of coincidences of people, a place, and the things that happened there, and all of it colliding together seem to be pointing me in that direction.

I have ordered new paper and have taken inventory of my ancient sable brushes and paint tubes, and spent the better part of the day going through my old sketch books. It was great to see the memories, many forgotten, and I am a bit intimidated by what I have forgotten how to do, but am anxious to begin again. I am stepping through.