The scent of balsam fills my lungs as I take long, deep drawn-out breaths not just for the scent and the freshness, but for the medicinal effect on my state of mind. Adirondack pines reach their roots out to the edge of the water to drink its mineral-rich nectar, which invigorates its deep green needles to spread like open arms, welcoming us back in the Adirondack Mountains. The eerie call of the loons reminds us that they will soon congregate to make plans to fly south. Instinctively they know the cooling air and water will be their formal invitation to a winter in Florida.
Soon, probably in a week or so, we’ll start to see the first indications of brilliant reds pop out for an early fall, with the rest of them a few weeks to follow. Rarely do we get a chance to see such brilliant fall color, when our mountain turns red and the reflections of color will dance in the water. Our forced summer returns for school have prevented our time here in this soon-to-come season of beauty. We’re looking forward to it, though deeply missing our newly appointed college students.
Roasting in record 106-degree temperatures for the remainder of the summer did not seem like an option, so Laurie and I returned to the lake as empty-nesters. After an exhausting 10 days back in Texas to pack and prep our babies for adulthood, we made three round trips to three colleges, putting in well over 1,000 miles driving and seeing parts of Texas and Arkansas we’ve never seen. We’re adjusting to the quiet, and occasionally break into tears for no apparent reason. It’s a new season, which we dread and look forward to.
This morning, like any other Sunday morning, it’s quiet, though the kids are not sleeping in and won’t be coming in for a late breakfast today. And it feels very empty.
A walk through the cabin is filled with mementos of times together as a family that triggers sadness, and then joy. Joy that we made it through the years of raising kids, sadness that it’s all suddenly over, and adjusting to the quiet. Suddenly there is pressure for both of us to “entertain” the other. It’s a strange place to be, an adjustment. If you’ve been there, you know. My friend Peggy told me she broke out crying at the grocery store because she only needed two chicken breasts instead of enough for the whole family. But we’ll adjust.
I choose to look at this as a fresh start, a new season, a new opportunity. I realized that I was painting less because I wanted to spend time with the family when I would have been painting. And, if I want, I can apply myself more, and throw myself into my work to accomplish things I have not had time for almost two decades. Laurie feels suddenly creative again because the pressure of daily household management is gone. We’re looking forward to seeing how that is manifested.
Sometimes life throws us curveballs. I’m thankful we don’t have to adjust because of a disaster, a health issue, or worse. But in those times it also feels empty, because empty is simply the need to fill a void we have not anticipated filling. Yet as soon as it’s filled, the emptiness is reduced, never completely gone.
This new season has been a learning experience, and reinforcement that how we choose to process our new circumstances has a huge impact on how we react to them. Though empty, I’m encouraged, because I’ve convinced myself that I can’t cling to the status quo when it’s been taken away — therefore I can only adjust, or stay stuck in sadness.
I’ve had moments in my life when I’ve stayed stuck without knowing it, pining for the past that has moved on, wishing for something to go back the way it once was. I’ve wasted too much time wishing something had not changed, cried too many tears, and watered too many years. I’ve decided it’s no longer an option.
Have you been stuck?
Are you stuck now?
Are you clinging to something you wish had not changed?
Lick your wounds and make up your mind to not allow too many cobwebs to form before the next chapter begins. Take fast action because every day is precious, and being stuck, depressed, or bothered by change, isn’t healthy for too long.
We do it in lost relationships, the passing of loved ones, even in politics. Yet moving on is always the answer. Change what you can change, accept what you cannot, and take action toward the new chapter.
Remember, our stories define us, and we can change our stories.
PS: I know you throw hundred-dollar bills around like they don’t matter, but I like a bargain whenever possible. The new Realism Today online art conference promises to fill your life with painting and drawing joy. Chances are you’ll want to attend, so if so, August 30 is the date the price goes up $100. Why pay more if you don’t have to? Learn more at RealismLive.com.
This week I’m announcing more superstar artists who will be part of it (you can see me live daily on YouTube and Facebook at 12 noon Eastern, including today, which is day 151). Go to either and search streamlineartvideo to find my daily live broadcast.
this weekend we had to say goodbye to our beautiful, smart, loving little companion Silky Terrier due to sudden cancer. We thought we had 6 mos. at least with her, we had only a few days. So, in a way, I joked and said – we are childless parents again but, we are heartbroken. But, as you mentioned, we have much less responsibility now and will be putting more effort into ‘self ‘ projects. It does feel weird. Best to you.
Thank you so much for all the time and effort you put into your job! It sure has helped me this Spring and Summer coping with Covid. And, I’ve learned so very much!
In regards to your boys. Since I am the mother of 2 boys, now grown in their 30’s, I must tell you the feeling you are having now will soon be a thing of the pass. Your boys will always need you. My husband and I are more involved with our sons now than ever before and it’s wonderful! Keep the faith and pray they stay in school! The separation now will strengthen your bond.
All the best, Sally Booth
Eric, I can relate to the empty nest situation. I raised four children and know the pain when they leave to pursue their own lives. Keeping busy, whether out of necessity or otherwise is the best antidote. I had to work, sometimes two jobs, so I didn’t have time to cry or paint too often. I’m now retired and paint almost every day. I’m trying to paint enough good ones so I can start showing them on a site. Thus far I’ve only entered neighborhood shows where I have achieved awards for my work.
Perhaps some time you can help me.
I know it is hard now and the emptiness is overwhelming. However, the next chapter of your lives will come upon you sooner than you think and once again your home will be full of monumentmental moments even more gratifying than before. There will be marriages and grandkids, and great accomplishments to fill your hearts with laughter, joy, and pancake breakfasts for the whole gang, and all will be well in your world, once again.
I see I am not the only one that enjoyed your positively beautiful words. Like many of the others I can relate to the empty nest. Now there are not only grandchildren, but great grandsons too. The country’s health issues and politics are both raging. This is not time to turn our backs on such important matters, but to step into my studio with some pleasant music is a real blessing. I so appreciate your positivity in your writing and art endevers. Over time I have welcomed your publications both magazines and programs. My you and your family be well and relax into the next phase of your lives with joy and a return of the happiness you have brought to so many others.
With much gratitude,
It is extra hard for you and your wife, because they all three left at one time. Our son was almost 3 years older than our daughter so we had some time to ease into it. Good luck, and be glad you did a good job raising them. Eventually you will have grand-kids, and visits, and children as adults are especially enjoyable. Mine are both grandparents their selves so we have even more in common now.
Eric and Laurie,
Congratulations for making it to this point with Triplets! That is an accomplishment in itself.
Don’t be sad, you have ALOT of excitement ahead!
1. prepare for family weekend or whatever the quarantine has in store for parents. Virtual meeting settings in their favorite room of the house.
2. start gathering those little extras for care packages: homemade cookies, special pens, a new mask, a nice piece of new art, something cute for their desk, then the packaging is always a challenge. I find UPS to be most reliable to track and delivery. Each holiday will bring a new theme for the package.
3. set dates for video chatting and check in days. Don’t wait for them to set this date, Sunday time slots are probably best.
4. Mix up the video chats with your favorite thing that happened that week, ask them their favorite event or feeling that week.
5. remember the goal to stay safe, it’s a time to learn and also set aside time for their favorite hobby or exploration safe walk to escape the New normal. It is only till hopefully January.
In trying times, as you have shown, we need to be appreciative of the freedom we have and creative ways to make it work.
I have been trying to subscribe to Sunday Coffee Emails for some time now – – – and I do not get it in my emails. Wondering if the Covid19 has anything to do with it. Right now I am lucky to have a friend send to me each Sunday.
Thank you for your profound message today. My Husband passed last November and grieving is a natural process. However, I knew that I had to start thinking to my future. How does one adjust. In some ways this pandemic has been a challenge in many ways, but the best part is that so many opportunities were presented to our community of artists. My spirits were lifted and I am at the easel more and also enjoying the videos from Streamline. Even though I am still finding my way, the healing process has started. The road ahead has become more clear.
Thank you for all that you are doing for the community of artists. Stay well.
Bursting into tears in the market is entirely normal! They even talked about it at parent orientation at the University of Southern California – whose motto by the way is “Fight On”! Gotta love that – it applies to just about everything in life, not just football! Hang in there you two!
When my son would be home (and even still) I would happily call it “four plates” – for you it will be “five plates” and your hearts will be so full. Remember to make that plan as to when you will see each child again – something to look forward to is like the vanilla cream in your Sunday Coffee.
My thoughts have been confirmed! Glad to know you’re back in the ADKS. Hello to Patty when you talk. I’ll be back at camp soon and give you a call to paint!! Lots to share.
Great post, Eric. Thank you! I can feel the stillness of the Adirondacks, smell the aroma of the pines in crisp almost-fall air, feel your melancholy and sense of hope for a new calling. Your life has surely been blessed by great things. Somehow I know you will turn your empty nest into a thrilling world of new opportunity. Go for it! And thank you for Plein Air magazine. My one must-have printed publication. I love it!
Eric, I love your posts and have been where you now are. It is an adjustment for sure. I think we are given “spaces” in our lives to accomplish what we couldn’t do otherwise. Since OVID 19, I have been able to compile a collection of essays and poetry (much about art and how it changed my life) into book form (my sixth). Title: OUTTA MY MIND AND INTO YOUR HEART, now published and on line. I’ve written to you before – an almost 92 year old woman who will die and artist and writer, still thinking there is more to accomplish. So, relax, your kids have been given wings to fly, and you and your wife have been given another season of life in which to love. What you are doing for the art world is priceless, and you may have just begun. Best wishes, Marie
It’s always a pleasure reading something new from you. I’m eighty-five now and self-quarantining as a protection against Covid-19, so your reflections about being in the Adirondack Mountains helps me to be “in nature” again. I hope to do some more oil painting before my hand gets too shaky. I’m looking forward to Christmas, too, especially for its music. I listen to my many Christmas CDs from November through February, making this extended period one of the “best times of the year.”
Glad you guys could get out of this Texas heat and spend more time at your cabin. Sounds like a wonderful place! Your descriptions of the lake take us there. Thanks.
I swear I hardly remember the challenges and heartaches of raising 2 children; like childbirth, the joy and satisfaction that results eradicates the means. Letting go seems more difficult, with a speck of light pulling me forward to new vigor and discovery. As my sister is also saying at this poignant time, “parenting is not for sissies!”
A time of change for us both – for me a move and the start of a new job, that six months ago was unforeseen. I am moving to a new area, which means making new friends, finding out where things are and rebuilding a life that defines me. I have done it before, but starting over is no small thing. I will miss the friends I have made, who have supported me through some very difficult times and the community I have been part of for only a year, but who have had a profound effect on me. For all that I hope I am a better person and that there are good things to come. The uncertainty is always daunting, but once you are in the midst of it all the in trepidation is quickly forgotten and you soon adjust.
I hope with your children at college that you both too quickly adjust and are able to share quality time together that you had to previously devote to the family. With you both feeling creative the opportunity for you both to create something wonderful and with it new memories for you both to savour must be enticing in this moment torn between bitter sweet thoughts. With the Autumn spectacle fast approaching and the wonderful hues and colours that Fall produces I wish you both happy painting. With Thanks Giving and Christmas a little bit further round the corner it wont be long before your house is full again. God Bless Peter
I am stuck and so needed to read this profound message. I’m going to print it out and keep it in my studio.
Thank, you Eric!