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.
Aunt Ruth’s was magical.
I always enjoy reading your article. I hope this tough time will leave us alone one day, so we can live a normal life again
If I sign up for Plein Air live, will I be able to watch all the oil painters paint in Plein air?
Quickly grab a pencil?
The lessons I’ve learned during these crazy times is to live a little more slowly, not to give in to the “hurry! Times running out! Sale ends soon!” mentality.
That will be my life moving forward. Life is too sweet to rush. I think I’ll take my time……unless painting outside!!! Lol. The sun waits for no one.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on Sundays.
Thank you for Sunday Coffee, I have had 4 videos from you this year, all fantastic. I wanted to thank you for these and for all the tips and encouragement you give so freely. Thank you very very much.
Finally I want to wish you and your team well and and all success for the Plein Air Convention, you deserve it. I am looking forward to reading the fantastic reviews that will be written afterwards. Go Make History!
Dave Clarke UK
A great uplifting article Eric . Best to you next week at the Plein Air Convention.
Here’s what surprised me most…
I’ve been an ‘artist’ since my grade school declared I was the school artist.
Art was always a companion, an escape, an entertainment and a passion.
Without really giving it deep thought, I assumed I was a person who ‘ stopped to smell the roses ” – someone who noticed the little things, someone who could fully immerse in the moment .
With this quarantine, I realize I was skirting the rim of the deep, deep well that we are all capable of dipping into.
I am aware of more of the present experience, instead of subconsciously diverting some of the attention on to my next time allotment mostly because of the multiple ways we’re giving pieces away to people or things that don’t really matter.
I loved your example of the memory grounding with the sound of the hinge on the screen door.
We need to remember who we are.
I think this situation slows us down enough to see who we really are, all the people around us, our joys and frustrations, how we grieve and how we reinvent our lives. Sobering but enlightening also. I pray we can return to the lives we lived before but taking with us the new wisdom of what can be lost in a moment. I thank my love of art that has helped me weather these times by myself and with my artist friends. Take care.
My first Sunday Coffee.
I was just telling my husband how much I enjoy this new group.
Getting my palettes ready for plein Air Live. I have been researching, listening and watching online the various artist.
I was hoping to have more Watercolorist And Acrylic Plein Air Artist, since these are my usual Plein Air mediums.
I loved the gouache demo, when I taught in China, a few years ago in a high school , I was able to see the wonderful work the student paint with this medium.
Eric, This has certainly been a rough year for artists and I was planning on signing up for Plein Air Live! but we are going to be at our cabin in Weed, CA, almost as remote as your Adirondak getaway, with little or no internet service. I hope it is a great success and you come out of this nightmare safe and whole on the other side.
Please stay safe and wear your mask in Texas during the convention. You are to great a gift to the art world to lose.
Eric, you are stunningly wise. You could have yet another business as a personal counselor, coach, inspirational speaker. My life has benefitted from Sunday Coffee!! Thank you so much for being the conduit for Providence. Bless you and yours and your business and May God keep you all protected! Safe flights.
“… Yet each of us has had a lesson to learn. What was yours?”
Here’s what I’ve gleaned from my thinking usually late at night and in no particular order.
Things mom used to say. (She graduated high school in 1931 and her plans were forever changed)
Nothing is for nothing.
She meant- you get to make of any situation what you will. It’s an opportunity. (Easy to say, hard to do without lots of practice)
Well then, this is something new to learn.
She had many opportunities thrust upon her. She buckled down and took on the challenge.
All my experiences, all of what I’ve done, all the good I’ve done for others, how I am now still counts for something no matter the external measurement.
How I think is the way I think. The thinking will not fail.
As an artist, I’m well-positioned in solitude. It’s where I spend a lot of time.
I took an online course in art business and have a mentor for a year with a 2-3 project to work through. It feels like a summation of my experiences and ideas. I am not afraid.
I look forward to receiving your Sunday article. It is filled with feeling, creative thinking and is extremely helpful. You offer many different ways
of looking at life – all creative and helpful.
Safe travels, Eric. I am signed up for Plein Air Live, and am really looking forward to it. I enjoy reading your Sunday Coffee posts, and appreciate your positive thinking about this otherwise difficult time.
Eric, on your podcasts their are mostly oil painters interviewed.
Just wondering if you ever interview watercolorists. Such as Alvaro Castagnet , Joseph Zbukvic. Mary Whyte, Charles Reid who is no longer with us. Maybe I missed these interviews