Step Back

On the desk there is a wire and wood sculpture of a crow, a flour sifter stuffed with colored pencils, a little tiny picnic basket containing the sisu phone, a plant from Jen, a hanging jar holding rocks and crystals, stacks of paper and notebooks – each representing a project that is in motion, pens and pencils galore, three pink post-it notes with “right,” “left,” and “a gift from me to 2 U! Pass it on!” written on them. There is also a weathered orange post-it note by the computer with this much treasured-phrase: “I Love You, My D.Dot.” If I had to surrender all of my worldly possessions except for one, I would choose to keep the orange post-it

On Friday afternoon we will help John hang a memorial art show of his father’s paintings. It is how his dad wanted his life to be celebrated. As I was in the studio painting this morning I thought that, someday, someone might do the same for me. I wondered who might think to celebrate my life with a show of my paintings. Who might read some of what I have written? And, what if all that matters in this world can be expressed on a single orange post-it note? What if it is not the paintings or the books or plays – the things I produced? What if all that really matters is if I paid attention and loved mightily during the time allotted me? What more do I need than to have lived a life that warranted an orange post-it note?

Last night we had a band rehearsal in the sanctuary. I stepped away from Kerri, Jim, and John (the real musicians) and walked to the back of the sanctuary so I could listen to the song. It was gorgeous and they were unaware of how gorgeous it was – of how gorgeous they were. They were simply working. I was captured by the moment. I literally ached with how full and rich was the moment. I simply could not believe the depth of my good fortune. Kerri sang, Jim and John played, and I cried with the power of it all.

The moment was ordinary for them, extraordinary for me – and isn’t that always the way? The extraordinary is always waiting in the ordinary, in the post-it note, in the rehearsal, in the person passing you on the street, in the hard choice, making a meal, the sigh of the Dog-Dog in the middle of the night? Isn’t this very notion – opening the extraordinary hiding in the ordinary – the reason we live and make art? Isn’t the real practice of the artist simply a matter of stepping back so we might see it – and then share what we see?

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