The springs stretch on the screen door, vibrating with their high-pitched creaking sound. Seconds later, the screen door slams with a thump. It’s a sound I can remember from my Aunt Ruth’s porch at her little white farmhouse nestled among the high corn in Tennessee.
When I hear the sound from my own screen doors, it instantly brings back feelings of a better time, a moment when I was the happiest, the moment I got my first puppy, Pepper, who was born on the farm.
This morning as I snuck quietly out of my cabin, I accidentally let the door slam, probably waking Laurie, yet the sound transports me to that place every time I hear it. Now, as I sit in the 140-year-old screened porch overlooking the lake, my mind has wandered off to the past, to the moments imprinted on my soul. It’s the very reason I try to imprint memories into the minds of my own children, so they will look back on the good old days here at the lake.
Sometimes an escape is pleasant, even if only for a moment, to run from life in 2020. I’ve talked about the difficulty of having most of my business crunched like an empty aluminum can in the hands of a muscle man. First it was canceling one event, then two, then three, now four. Just when I thought there was a ray of hope that we would be free to meet, we returned to caution. Not a bad thing, just a disappointment that we have to wait things out.
I think if you were to ask any of us if we want to repeat this moment in time, we’d all say we’d rather get on with our lives and never think about masks or quarantines again. Yet each of us has had a lesson to learn. What was yours?
Though I have experienced many lessons, the best has been to slow down and enjoy my surroundings, my family, the people I love.
Before COVID I was spending 30 weeks a year on airplanes. Now, other than my flight to the Adirondacks in June, my only flight is today, returning to Texas to host our PleinAir Live event this week. And, though I’m thankful for this event and over a thousand people who are attending, leaving home and the quiet life is difficult.
I can’t speak for others, but I think the stimuli of life, the seduction of doing more and more business, the ease of travel, and the desire to be stimulated by the next trip, the next meeting, the next business opportunity, will be something that changes in me. It was an addiction, yet now I’m getting beyond the surface and finding that gold in my own home.
What have you found that has surprised you?
Returning to the Old Ways
My fear, frankly, is that this will pass and we’ll all fall back into our old patterns. I’ll mourn this time once it has passed, not because of the forced quarantine, but because of the forced opportunity to get to know my family on a deeper level. It’s been a precious gift.
A Quick Exercise
Quickly, today, grab a yellow pad and write down every good thing that has come from the past three months. Then write down all the things you don’t want to return to when it’s over. Circle the highlights, and build a plan to not return to the things you hope to avoid — and find a way to preserve the things you love. If you don’t do it now, before you know it you’ll be back on the merry-go-round and may not be able to jump off. Yet now, before you’re fully on it, you can still make the important changes.
COVID-19 had its blessings. Understand them, embrace them, and make the changes that need to be preserved.
PS: This afternoon I’ll put my mask on, drive an hour to the local airport, then board two different flights to return to Austin, where I’ll be hosting PleinAir Live Wednesday through Saturday.
We created this event as a response to people’s inability or discomfort with travel and their need to connect with other painters and friends, and study with the best painters in the world. And we’re doing it for a fraction of the amount they would spend if they were our live Plein Air Convention, which has now been canceled.
If you’re curious about this plein air thing I talk about, if you want to learn a little about each different painting medium, like watercolor, oil, pastel, gouache, and acrylic, and want to learn about plein air history, the movement today, and the way to paint outside vs. inside, our one-day beginner course is for you. It’s $97, and you can watch safely from home.
And if you choose, you can sign up for the following four days, filled with the top artists in the world, some of whom you’ll never have a chance to meet or study with in your lifetime.
In the three weeks since we came up with the idea, we have pulled off what I was told was impossible. We’ve put together a world-class group of artists to teach, and we are making art history with the first virtual art conference, the first worldwide gathering of plein air painters online, and the largest online virtual paint-out in the world.
I’d love you to be a part of it, and frankly, we could use the help. You can learn more at www.pleinairlive.com.