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.
Very well said. Thanks
Thanks for sending Sunday Coffee! I can always find something thoughtful and encouraging in your writings. I can remember when our three children went off to college, one at a time for three years in a row. I cried for days. It was bittersweet, but that’s what we wanted for them. It was hard to let go, but now some twenty-five years later all are happily married and we are enjoying our lovely grandchildren. Several grandchildren will be off to college in a few years. The cycle continues. I have learned to enjoy each day more than ever now as I battle cancer hanging on to any time that I have left here. So far, I am doing quite well. Hoping to get back to painting again soon. Again, thanks for being an inspiration to me and to many artists who follow you through your talks, videos, and magazine. You keep us all connected!
I enjoy reading your Sunday Morning Coffee, even if it is Monday morning. You have done so much for the art community during these uncertain times. Just wanted to say thank you.
Thank you everyone for your kind comments.
Dear Eric, As neighbors go, we believe we have the best!! Because of Covid-19, we’ve recently had to borrow money from 3 sets of them and all were kind enough to respond positively. Should the reverse happen, I would hope that we would have cash enough to respond likewise. These folks have been very dear over the years and these recent “borrowings” have shown how willing they are to help out. We are extremely grateful!! Thanks for the chance to comment. I love Sunday Coffee!!
Eric the first few days that your children leave for college are difficult. You and your wife will readjust. You ill enjoy your new found freedom and do things that you love to do together. My father traveled for business all of his life. When he retired, he was so happy to go downstairs to the beteautiful beach outside their high rise, sit in a chair under the umbrella, take his newspaper, headset and radio, go for a lovely swim, take a walk on the 3 mile boardwalk, swim in the pool, ect. He was finally able to relax for the first time in his life. He really was not crazy about flying here and there any more. He wanted to enjoy what he had worked so hard to provide for he and my mother. He played golf, tennis, bridge, followed the stock market, took cruises, looked forward to vacations with friends, dinners, dinner parties, and a nap in thec afternoon when it was very hot. You too may not want to travel like before. It all works itself out. You will look foward to your children’s visits and you visiting them. ENJOY LIFE!!!
I have come to look forward to Sunday Coffee. Your openings are lovely descriptions of nature . They take us with you, and encourage us to be aware and appreciate our surroundings.
Then you find a way to look at a personal experience and express you thoughts in a way that makes it universal. Never red or blue, but human. Then somehow you find a way of viewing it in a positive light, or at the very least, a learning experience.
Thank you for this. I am enjoying – and benefiting – from my weekly dose of UP.
Terrific article Eric, I think you’ve hit upon a lot of thoughts that most of us have only barely begun to think of about the future of our country, & in the world. We will look back on the date that we began to experience Covid 19 as a milestone as was the Black Plague, the Great War, The flu epidemic of 1918, 9/11 and many others. We are only just now feeling the effects in the art world-we will change.
Love your beautiful poetic descriptions of coming autumn. I look forward to reading your articles every Sunday.
Hello, I am wondering if there is going to be much offered at the conference on watercolor painting? Thanks!
I left southern Indiana in 1964 when I was 19 to go to Los Angeles to try to get into the then Art Center School of Design. It changed my life once I got in. Both of my daughters went to college. I tried to talk them both into “going away to college” for the experience. One did and one didn’t. Both interesting experiences. We all grew because of their choices. Both are now independent, working and successful. What more can you do for your kids?
I watch your daily talks and videos. I have learned a lot. I had gotten jaded and now have found out I can still learn at 75. Thank you.
I think back on what my parents did and went through in their lives. The depression and World War ll. And yet here I am complaining about how hard things are! We’ve got it made. History can put things into perspective.
Thank you for your daily talks and videos and now Sunday Coffee. We all appreciate your efforts.
hi Eric, thank you for your thoughts and thank you for the magnitude of all the various things you do for and with our broad artist community.
Things in our world may never be the same as we knew them and you are right…at least for now we have no bombs falling here… we do have to count our blessings for the good things that we still have and try to remain positive. As artists we are so very fortunate to have a way to express our feelings ,a way to escape what is real and ability to , , transcend others through our work andaproductive way to spend our days. Reality recently set in for me this week as I just had a total shoulder replacent. With a very long recovery ahead i miss going into my studio or being outside to paint…. Thank you for the daily streamline art videos and the great interviews…this does help keep me connected….thanks to lili
dahl and all the generous artists that keep me inspired…..without all of this I would be so isolated thanks again
….with gratutude l
Good luck with settling the kids. It is a big life change and I didn’t have to do my kids all at once. The adjustment takes some time, but I bet you and Laurie will find a lot of joy in the empty nest. And it really doesn’t stay empty for long. They bounce back a lot. Thanks for reminding me of a special time in my life. Best wishes.
I, too, have been greatly saddened and alarmed by the degree of incivility and hatred that is gaining momentum as this pandemic continues. The media abounds with fear messages that increase our suspicion and judgment of those around us and social media is simply a conduit of hate. We no longer watch the ‘news’ and avoid all the social media simply because there is no truth only bias and certainly no wisdom to be gained. Personally, I believe our country needs a revival of faith in God, repentance, and conversion. (2 Chronicles 7:14) I, too, remember when our daughter left the nest some 30-plus years ago. Now we watch our grandson growing up realizing that in a few short years he, too, will launch out into the world. Realizing that day is coming all too soon is the reason for my fervent prayers for our country and the world!
Love your Sunday morning writing! I feel for you – your kids leaving . We just watched our 4 boys leave for college. We’re very close with our boys, too. Although I can completely understand your reaction, mine was different. I did a jig when they left – for me, and for them. Funny, same ride, different reactions. I too remember leaving at 18, never to return. It was one of the most liberating & exciting times in my life. All the possibilities. All the excitement of learning new things. Seriously now, that feeling only ever came back when I took up painting, now at 64 years old. Please take good care of yourself. It’s everything.
I never read Sunday Coffee and I don’t know why I did this morning. It was a beautiful thoughtful piece, very well put. I’m not sure if it helped me move from the dark place I’m in now.
Hoping peace and meaning for life will come threw painting and maybe your Sunday Coffee.