Chasing the Dream Life

Two large loons are swimming at the edge of the dock. Their cry echoes across the lake, bouncing off the distant shore, where the deep green pine trees are softly covered with morning fog, making them a pale bluish-gray color. A hawk flies overhead, and it’s so quiet you can hear the whoosh of her wings and her loud call as well. Not to be diminished, a tiny dock spider spins its web across the seat of the Adirondack chair next to me. Though the birds, the streaks of sunlight, the beautiful views may not be there for my pleasure, they bring pleasure just the same. I can choose to ignore them or to embrace their beauty. Type AFor decades I’ve been a hard-charging, “Type A” personality, working endlessly to help others find what I have to offer, and often chasing shiny objects, often in pursuit of the things the media tells us will create happiness. Five Hot CarsLooking back, I can recall gurus standing in front of their five-car garages, each door open with an expensive car in every slot. They would stand beside their jets and tell us that this can happen to us, too. And I bought into much of


My Personal Secrets Revealed

A bright pink salmon-colored sky is glowing, with the black lace of pine trees silhouetted against its brilliant color. The lake is mirroring the sky, not a ripple in sight. The silence is beyond any level of quiet I’ve ever experienced. This is the true definition of peaceful. In the late 1800s, the Hudson River School painters were criticized for their brilliant sunrise and sunset paintings because the coal-smoke-filled skies of New York made such skies unbelievable. Yet, as I sit here on the dock of my Adirondack home, I’m a witness to confirm such brilliance exists here in this 6-million-acre protected park. The air is so pure I find myself taking deep breaths more frequently. A Boat Ride Away Just minutes from now, after coffee on the dock, I’ll put on my jacket and put the first ripples on the glass-like lake as I make my way across to a small, winding river through the weeds and woods to the next lake over, where I’ll pull up to the dock at Paul Smith’s College. That’s where I’m hosting my 11th annual artist retreat I call the Publisher’s Invitational. I’m hosting about 100 plein air painters, who will paint the


Finding Joy in Dark Times

The best night's sleep ever occurred last night, with all the windows open, the curtains blowing along with the cool breeze, and a wonderful 65 degrees. This morning I peeked out the bathroom window to see a red cardinal perched on a branch singing its heart out. I feel like I’m in a Disney movie, living in a perfect world. Of course, after a cup of coffee and a check on social media, reality strikes. Perfection isn’t possible. At least I had a great night of sleep to improve my focus and attitude, letting problems bounce off my chest like projectiles bouncing off Superman. Walking on AirI have to admit I’m still on a high from our big artists’ convention in Santa Fe last week. It was the first time in almost three years that our family of artists has been together, with the surprise of hundreds of new people joining for the first time, and hundreds of others joining online. I knew I missed it but did not realize just how much it was missed, because my energy comes from being with other people. I had not realized how low my batteries were and how being with hundreds of others who


Two Paths to Choose

Massive winds bend the thick trunks of scrub oak trees until it seems the roots will soon rip out of the ground. Birds fly against the wind, working extra hard to move from branch to branch, and the heat would be overbearing if not for the winds. I love nature, I love lightning, thunder and storms, even high winds … up to a point, until it becomes unsafe. In fact, I once rode out a hurricane in my car, stuck bumper-to-bumper in Central Florida as me and millions of others were trying to escape to safety up North. No cars flipped, but they were all rocking back and forth, bounding on their tires. It was more intense than any Six Flags ride and lasted for a few hours. Other than cowering in a basement corner waiting for an oncoming tornado, I think that is the most frightened I’ve ever been. The Struggle Looking back on childhood, I’m grateful for experiences that made my brothers and I stronger. I’m grateful my parents let us struggle and did not solve every problem for us. As a parent, my temptation has been to tell my kids what to do at every turn, trying


Your Favorite Lifetime Memories

The sun is streaming painfully into my eyes. It’s bright and brilliant orange, kissing tree limbs and the tops of grasses as it makes its way to me. I tip my new 10-gallon straw cowboy hat down over my eyes to find shade. This morning’s heat is intense. Today will be a candle-melter, and not good for the chocolate bar tucked between the seats in my car. I may come back to a bowl of soup. Walking on the deck in my pointy-toed boots, I hear the sound of cowboys about to go head-to-head in a quick draw. The only things missing are spurs and a six-shooter. I’m not normally a cowboy kind of guy, but I love watching it on Yellowstone. It makes me want to pretend. Finding the Impossible In 1980, two days before my first wedding, which was to occur in my parents’ backyard on a lake, I decided it would be cool to surprise the bride with a ride down the aisle in a horse and buggy. “But where can I possibly find a horse and buggy?” I wondered. Nothing was in the phone book, and the Internet did not exist. So I started thinking about


An Out-of-Body Experience

Buckets of BBs fall over my head onto the tin metal roof. The sound is deafening as gushes of water drop from the sky and make the roof vibrate with energy. The building shakes as monumental thunder roars overhead, the kind that is so deep that the sky rumbles and the earth moves as if a missile slammed into the ground nearby. Yet I sit here on the porch, covered and dry, feeling secure in my old Texas country ranch house where I can step back and observe the storm from safety.   Watching a storm from afar, or from a place of safety, gives you a much better perspective and state of mind than being pelted with wind-driven raindrops. If only we could look at our personal storms with the same perspective. Recently I heard someone say the difference between successful people and those who are not so successful is how they perceive and deal with their problems.  Have you ever had problems so big, so thunderous, that they become all-consuming? I can remember problems that were so big that I could not sleep, that I was pacing the floor, all my muscles were tense and I felt pressure


Seeds That Grow Into Oaks

Giant oak tree branches are swaying gracefully like ballet dancers, but fiercely, as spring comes roaring in like a lion. As I open the old screen door, the springs squeak like fingers on a chalkboard. Then there’s a loud, abrupt slam behind me, amplified by the wind.  Green specks of pollen have covered every square inch of the newly painted back deck and the old wicker couch. I dust off the couch, making for a cloud of green and a quick sneeze, and sit here observing dancing-tree entertainment during this gray overcast day in hopes of some sprinkles to feed the wildflowers, which are hiding their beautiful heads just under the blades of grass, waiting for nourishment to come. Spring always excites me as it leads to summer, my favorite time of year. One of the great joys of my life was spending lots of the summer at my grandparents’ old clapboard house at 317 West Wildwood Street back home in Indiana. It too had a squeaky screen door that would slam loudly. Because I grew up in a single-story ranch house, it was a lot of fun to stay at my grandparents’ home. They had two stories, a basement,


How Will You Accept This Challenge?

I feel like I’m living a scene from a James Dean movie … it’s so hot that everyone has stripped down to the bare minimum, they are fanning themselves, and sweat is rolling down their hot red sunburned faces. Texas heat isn’t for the faint of heart. Our springs are short here, jumping right into the heat of an early summer. The ice in my cup has melted and the outside of the glass is sweating and my sticky fingers keep slipping off the keyboard.  Have you tried to buy a bag of ice lately? A bag of ice has doubled in price. And it seems like the cost of everything is rushing out of control due to scarcity, supply chain issues, and just plain inflation. Child Labor I remember the stories my dad would tell me about the Great Depression. He was just a child, but he had to work to help support the family, and they had to rent out the home they owned in order to survive. They moved to my Great-Grandfather Rhoads’s farm out on Illinois Road, which was 88 acres. Even though they grew much of their food, they barely survived. Inflation is not necessarily


Letting Go

The scent of concord grape soda fills the air as purple Texas mountain laurel trees are in full blossom. Bare twisted live oaks with thousands of tiny twigs are starting to sprout little brilliant green buds. Following a brisk wind, the air is fresh as I deeply fill my lungs to enjoy the arrival of spring and the sound of songbirds. I keep filling up the bird feeders to support my local bird choir (and a few dozen random squirrels). A small aircraft flies overhead — the view of the blossoms from the air must be a beautiful sight.Any pilot will tell you that when flying a small airplane, if you get into a spiral dive, you don’t even really know it. You can’t feel it, and can only tell from your instruments. If you try to control the airplane at that point, you won’t be able to, and holding on to the controls only makes things worse. A Death DiveWhen I was a child, my dad went into such a dive, and in spite of all his training, he wanted to control the aircraft. But in the back of his mind he remembered something he had read in a classic book


There Is No Time Like Now

Little tiny buds are peeking out of the flowerbeds and grass. Brilliant green is starting to come out of the otherwise dead-looking trees, and the warmth of the sun and longer days are strong indicators that spring has arrived. Bluebonnets are covering local roadsides, and soon, maybe today, I’ll be out painting them.Like spring, I love the reckless unbridled passion of youth and its boundless hope as we bud and blossom into adulthood to take us to our careers and our purposes. As a young budding entrepreneur in my 20s, I was filled with passion, hope, and giant dreams. But I was also smart enough to know I did not know it all (though there were times when I thought I did). So, to grow my skills, I went to a seminar and saw the legendary insurance billionaire W. Clement Stone (1902-2002) . At the time Stone was probably 70 and filled with incredible wisdom and energy. He was the first motivational speaker I ever saw.Desperate and in DebtI remember Stone talking about his plight growing up, his circumstances of being extremely poor. His dad died when he was really young, leaving the family with a lot of debt, so to supplement


See Through Your Filters

Peacefully, I sit staring out at the gnarly oaks, twisting and moving in all directions. In the distance, a barely visible gray mountain and a dull white sky. Soon sprinkles begin, and the mountain disappears as the clouds move toward this old porch overlooking the vast Texas land. Suddenly, I’m disrupted by barking dogs, tearing off my red wicker couch to chase a rogue squirrel who dares to dart into their territory. Sniffing and barking, they look aimlessly around, not understanding the squirrel went up a tree. It’s entertaining the first time it happens, but by the fifth time, it’s a little disruptive. The Camera Lens Years ago, when I was in my early 20s, I supplemented my radio DJ income as a wedding photographer. I had studied under Rocky Gunn (1940-1983), who was considered one of the best. He taught me a ton of techniques to make spectacular and interesting photos, one of which was the use of filters. For instance, I had a filter that made the photos look dreamy, another that colored the entire photo in a color like red or blue, another that made the sky darker. Anyone who knows photography knows filters. But most of