My mind flashed to a scene in The Hobbit as I looked across the glassy lake, not a ripple in sight. The reflections of the tall, dark pines are perfectly in focus in the still water, and a layer of thick fog at the shoreline is making the lake and the trees blend together as though airbrushed.
The bright golden morning sun is blinding me as it reflects off the lake, and, like clockwork, the fog is burning off before my eyes.
There is a chill in the air leftover from the passing hurricane, which brought rain and a cold front. I can feel the goosebumps on my exposed legs as my warm red-checked flannel shirt cuddles my core and the hot coffee dribbles warmly into my system like water in a radiator.
Every year for the last 18 years, August signals our last week or two here, knowing we are beholden to the schedules of schools back in Texas. With the idea of leaving come the thoughts of all the things I intended to do this summer but never got around to, the sadness of departing our favorite place on earth, and the end of something we look forward to each year. Though this year, we’ll return, once three colleges are visited and our kids planted for their next chapter.
Laurie and I are experiencing anxiety we’ve never felt before, the idea that the little birds we nested are about to fly south to their own lives. I left at 17, never to live with my parents again. I tried to be independent and self-supporting, and I wish that for my kids as the way things should be. It’s still a medicine I hate taking, though I know it’s the right prescription.
My wife and I have spent almost two decades getting these kids ready for this moment, and the hardest thing to communicate is the need to think for themselves, to use their brains, to not believe everything they hear or everything their friends are saying, and to not succumb to peer pressure.
It made me pause and wonder … am I following my own advice?
Am I able to be objective?
The last four months have taught us that what we expect in life is no longer a guarantee. That freedom isn’t guaranteed, though we’ve been told our entire lives that we are free. Even toilet paper isn’t guaranteed.
It has helped us not to take things for granted, and yet our minds have changed about things we never imagined we would be willing to do.
Behavior has changed. People are seeing things come out in themselves they never would have guessed were there. Just doom scroll through social media and you’ll find people attacking people because they are mask-free. Social media has become a breeding ground for cowards who destroy people with vitriol, saying things they would never say to someone’s face.
COVID times are challenging our previous standards.
I’ve always been told it’s easy to treat people civilly as long as things are going well, but the real you comes out when you’re fighting for your survival.
What about you? How have you changed?
I’ve had to bite my tongue a couple of times when I’ve felt the need to speak up about someone not following “the rules.” But then I remember that I’ve not walked in their shoes, I don’t know their circumstances, maybe they are doing their best.
But can we find a way to remember that?
Can we stop being critical because of our fear? Can we still allow a little grace?
My ex-mother-in-law, who lived in Germany during World War II, once told me that you really learn about your neighbors in the midst of tragedy. Some will step up and help, others will be selfish, others will turn on you or turn you in for a piece of bread. She once said, “You want to live in a place where you know the character of the community, because if things ever get bad again, you want to know you can rely on your neighbors.”
But how many of us even know our neighbors anymore?
How many know we can trust our neighbors with our lives if we need their help? How many would share what little they have to help everyone survive? How would we respond if they need us?
I’d like to think I would respond well, but I won’t know until I face those moments. Hopefully we never will.
What we’re going through at this moment in time is hard. People are struggling, people are out of work, suicide rates are climbing, and yet, as I’ve said before, at least there aren’t bombs dropping on us or explosions destroying our cities. (My prayers go out to the people of Lebanon.)
Yes, circumstances awaken us. Sometimes our minds change when we’re shocked into changing them.
You and I will look back on this date a year from now and realize how much has changed.
Our society will change, our belief systems will be tested, our civility will be challenged, the ways we work, learn, travel, communicate, and celebrate will change, and we will change our minds about things we never believed we would.
Adapting to change is the most important survival skill.
Are you ready?
Ready or not, change is upon us. Try to keep an open mind.
PS: Airplane seats and hotel rooms are no longer my weekly routine, and I’m thrilled about it. Never again do I want to spend that level of intensity “on the road,” and I may even end up doing fewer events because of it.
Change was brought on my business without even asking my permission. We don’t always get a say in things. Yet adapting to change is our only chance of survival.
I’m hopeful our virtual art convention that teaches realism — in painting and drawing the portrait, the figure, the landscape, flowers, still life, and more — will help us recover. More importantly, it will help you learn art (we have a Beginner’s Day), help you get to the next level, and expose you to some of the best artists teaching in the world. It will open your eyes and change your mind about a lot of things … especially your confidence in your own ability to paint or draw.
I hope you’ll join us October 20 for Realism Live Beginner’s Day, and October 21-24 for the Realism Live virtual convention. The reviews for our last convention confirmed that people made friends, felt the sense of community, and learned volumes. And if you can’t make the date, replays are available to all who sign up (but not to those who don’t). The price is increasing on August 30.
Sign up at RealismLive.com.