Silhouettes of pine trees glow against the deep indigo sky with a waning gibbous moon illuminating the scene. Hints of red are streaking across the nearby ocean as the glow of sunrise is about to blast its color into the atmosphere. Sounds of seagulls whining, waves crashing, and a foghorn seem unusually loud on this quiet Maine morning on Schoodic Point, the lesser-known and more spectacular branch of Acadia National Park.
A giant Tudor home with exposed beams, built by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., is my home for the coming week. Though new on the inside, with modern conveniences, the exterior looks as it did when Rockefeller donated the building to the park he loved so much. Here with me in the surrounding rooms and apartments in this former military base are a group of passionate painters.
Sharing our love of painting and the desire to fill our canvases with bright fall colors, waves crashing against the rocks, lobster boats, lighthouses, and quaint fishing villages, we gathered here on Friday night, in time for a full moon and some nocturne painting after cocktails. The air is crisp and cool, the sky is clear, and the weather is expected to be perfect.
Happily on My Own
I’m not sure if it’s the pride of doing something entirely on my own in the midst of my busy life, but this event, which I call Fall Color Week, is my own. It’s just me. No helpers, no staff, no photographers or videographers. Though I love their company, I also love knowing that two times a year I do my own painters’ event for 50 or 100 people with no help. Oh, everyone steps in, but if they didn’t, it would still go smoothly.
This event has become one of my favorites. Each event has its own flair, its own culture, its own regulars. Some attend more than one event, and some prefer the exotic trips to Cuba, New Zealand, or Africa. But at this event, I’m in the exact same boat as my attending friends. In the Adirondacks, I sleep in my own bed every night and am able to kiss the wife and kids goodnight. Here, Facetime or e-mail are my only options.
When we held our first event here, I had the realization that I’m rarely alone. I can’t remember a night alone in my own home. Usually, I’m the one leaving. And though I’m with friends all day here, as we have breakfast and dinner together and we paint together all day, after we finish our evenings of portraits or music or jokes, I return to my room and I experience being alone with my thoughts.
Those who follow this Coffee thing know that silence and quiet are worth getting up for before everyone else arises. Even here, though I’ll be walking out to host breakfast in the next hour or so, I awaken early, with the dark outside, the spooky and soothing silence.
Oh, how I cherish my time at home, my family, my busy life, my insane business life, my columns, articles, marketing videos, magazines, and so much more … but they take their toll, and having this respite, before and after our days here, is special time too.
Hard to Leave, Great to Be Here
I have to admit, though I was looking forward to coming here, to being with old and new friends and painting every day, I had a hard time getting on that airplane and saying goodbye to my family after so much time away in my busy season. Last week it was Russia, and I’m probably just getting over the lag. Yet now that I’m here, I can say with enthusiasm that there is nothing like painting all day every day, seeing new and different scenery, painting alongside others, and developing new friendships. It doesn’t take long to bond.
Benefits are like a horn of plenty. After just two days, I’m tuned up and painting well, and by the end of the week, after two or three canvases a day, I’ll return with a fresh catch for my gallery, and I’ll be painting at my best. It’s the inspiration of the place, the people, the color. It’s also the break … time away, time to myself, time with friends, time singing at night and playing music.
As much as I write, I cannot capture in words the magic that happens here during this week. It’s one of those “you have to be there” moments. And it’s different each year, with new stories. Much like the movie Same Time Next Year, where a couple meets for dinner and catches up about their year … every year. I am blessed to hear about kids, families, adventures, and of course painting. I feel blessed, and I wish you could have been here to experience it.
Well, coffee awaits, I have to walk to the lodge to get mine. Everyone will be gathered for breakfast. I’ll make some announcements, some folks will have some ideas or painting tips to share, I’ll tell everyone where we’re painting today … and then there will be about 60 of us lined up painting together — aside from some who may go off to their own secret spots.
Time for yourself is critical. I’ve said it before … put on your own mask before helping those around you. You need oxygen. We all do. Find a way. Even a quiet corner and getting up an hour before everyone else can be a gift to yourself.
If you happen to be in the area today and you see a row of painters with big smiles on their faces … beep the horn and say hello!