Sifting Our Personal Sand

A glowing, dark yellow sky, along with a stillness in the eerie calm of recently blowing trees and distant thunder and flashes of light, reminds me of my childhood in Indiana’s Tornado Alley. Warnings were issued today, but thankfully we’re hearing none of those sirens we used to fear as children. We knew if one went off, it was time to take shelter. Storms come in all forms, and we’ve been living in a storm for around 60 days, a storm that ripped up the green trees of our economy, destroyed everything in its path, and leveled households. There was no warning, and no one before has experienced a storm quite like this, the mother of all storms. How will we rebuild? How will we survive? We feel helpless. For each of us, life has brought frightening moments and problems that seemed insurmountable, impossible to get over. Yet we got through them somehow. A Giant Rock Much like the frustrated rock climber at the bottom of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, it seems impossible from the bottom, but everything seems much easier once you’re at the top.   A mountain cannot be conquered in one leap, unless you have a


The Secret Motherhood Club

A pinkish mist fills the sky and the distant mountain is glowing a vibrant purple. The twisty trees with umbrella-like tops are silhouetted against the eerie light, making them feel like a Sydney Long painting; the only things missing are flute-playing nymphs.  Looming Overhead No matter how lovely the scene, a giant dark cloud hovers overhead this morning, a cloud that will be here each Mother's Day forever. This past week was the one-year anniversary of my mother’s graduation to a better place. Though it’s a week we remember her, celebrate her rich life and her new home, the dark cloud of sadness will never completely lift. Landing on “Go to Heaven” I like to think of it as a graduation — life provided the lessons needed here to move to the next level. Some learn the lessons at young ages; others, like my mother, absorb them over 93 years. She would have been 94 on April 8. Life, like a big game board, lands us in a better place once we land on the right square. Unknown Depths With a year to think about my mom, to relive special memories of our lives together, and as a parent who


Our Beliefs Are About to Change

Droplets fall patiently, one at a time, slowly and methodically, thundering loudly like a stick on a snare on the metal roof above my little brown clapboard studio. Wet decaying fall leaves cover the ground as bright, twinkling blades of springtime fight to take over the ground cover as if to say ‘My turn now. You can come back next fall.” Lasting Memories As I gaze at the walls inside my studio, my equivalent of a man cave, with paintings instead of posters, and model lights inside of neon beer signs, my life flashes before me with each painting a memory of a time and place in history. A little brown church with a glowing red door, surrounded by fall color which I painted beside friends Don Edic, Rick Wilson, and Frances Pampayen. Painting in Bruges Another memory of painting quaint canal-facing homes in Bruges which I painted beside Rick Dickensian, Michelle Jung, Roger Rossi. I remember when a local newspaper reporter talked to me, took my picture and it appeared on their website. Friends painting together A distant foggy mountain peak painted at my Adirondack event has been hanging here for nine years, a scene I’ve painted over and


Coming Back Stronger

Perky little yellow wildflowers are showing their faces in the bright morning sun. Greens are bright and happy after last night’s bucket brigade of nourishment. My symphony of birdsongs is performing from all directions, as if to say, “It’s spring!” Not all of life is about birdsong. Sometimes it’s the deadly squawk of a vulture. Horrible, unpleasant things happen to us. Loss of Love Looking back on my life, I’ve fallen in love many times, and every time a breakup occurred, I’d be devastated for months, sometimes years. I fall in love deeply, and when it ends, it hits me hard. I feel battered and bruised, as if my parachute didn’t open and I slammed into the ground at the speed of light. But sometimes you have to be pushed or jump out of the plane. Frequent Failure Miles I can count the failures, too. I can clearly remember the day my bookkeeper came into my office to tell me, “Eric, you’ll be bankrupt in three weeks.” There was no way out. So I did what any self-respecting businessman would do. I went into my office, laid on the couch in a fetal position, and wept.  I could not see


Never, Ever Give In

Goosebumps pop up on my arms as cold air blasts me when I open the old screen door to the porch. The long, wet painted floor planks with peeling paint reflect the sky, and the distant fog has turned the mountain a light gray-purple color, barely visible. Wet spring greens contrast brightly against the dark sky. Carefully, I make my way to my favorite experience — sitting under the long porch roof during fierce rain and thunder. As a child, we had no porch, but we would roll up the garage door to sit and enjoy storms, and every time it thundered, we would say that God was bowling. Counting my blessings this morning, knowing that being cooped up with a wooded backyard and a neighbor with 40 acres helps me cope with knowing others are stuck in a tiny apartment and can’t even go for a walk for fear of infecting or being infected. Last night this masked, gloved hombre risked his life driving three minutes down the road to pick up a bottle of wine to make our Saturday feel a little more special. It’s the first I’ve been in the car for two weeks. Even though I


The End Is Near

Tiny buds with the colors of spring are popping out on the tops of the hundred-year-old twisted oaks. A view of the distant mountain shows dark patches of trees with bright new growth creating a patchwork pattern. The air is balmy and fresh, the songbirds are loudly celebrating the arrival of spring, and the distant cattle are munching on tasty new wildflowers. Life is good. Spring comes after a harsh winter or a mild winter. But it always comes. The cycles continue and always will. And when spring comes, we get out and enjoy it and rapidly forget just how harsh the winter has been. Instead, we enjoy life a little more once we get outside after being cooped up. Patterns of Downturns Amazingly, there have been about 47 economic downturns in the history of America, and after each of these winters, spring always came. Sometimes it roars in like a lion, other times it creeps in like a lamb, but it always comes. Clearly I don’t want to make light of the absolutely frightening moment in history we, the residents of the world, are living through. This virus has already touched my life, in the sense that I actually


Time To Create Memories

My feet tingle as they hit the cold, wet deck of the covered porch that goes the length of the front and back of this “Texas farmhouse.” Pussy willows reach for the sky with their arms out in praise, their soft buttons of fur standing out in contrast against the darkness of the woods behind them. A Christmas amaryllis in full bloom adds a splash of red color against the greens of spring as though it’s Christmas again. Crunching leaves of fall remain interlaced with new blades of grass, and Texas wildflowers start to show their cheery faces as the old tree at the edge of the property blooms with white blossoms. A roar of rain slamming into the tin roof drowns out the distant birdsongs. There is simply no feeling quite as good as spring. Winters, even the short and warmer ones like this year’s, are always long, and we await the new season with hope and anticipation. Fields of Flowers Yesterday, Laurie and I were explorers on a quest for fields of bluebonnets. Roadsides here are covered with them, thanks to Lady Bird Johnson, who had seeds handed out with license plates and encouraged Texans to spread the


This Virus Will Not Define Us

Opening the squeaky green screen door to the old porch, I’m expecting a jolt of frigid air, but instead I’m met with the sound of palm trees gently blowing in the warm breeze. Yes, spring is here, and judging by yesterday, it may be an early summer. Speaking of palm trees, this week is Spring Break, and our plans to escape to a hidden tropical paradise have been replaced by a staycation. It's just not worth the risk of infecting or being infected. So, to give my lovely bride the week off she hoped for, the kids and I have agreed to cook all the meals for the week. And since we’re staying put, we have time.  This week I’ve been pondering what I might say today in light of what our world, and our country, are facing. It’s not an easy task, because ignoring the situation and pretending it does not exist would not be prudent. On the other hand, overreaction and panic aren’t very pleasing either. A Rant I have to say that I’m highly disturbed by the irresponsibility of the media, and their bloodthirsty taste for ratings. They are so driven to drive ratings and ad dollars


How to Get Really, Really Rich

A big yawn and outstretched arms start my morning as I look around and see familiar surroundings. Eagerly I make my way to the kitchen to brew a cup of coffee and walk the squeaky wooden deck of the porch to my little brown wicker couch with red cushions in the corner. I sigh, take a deep breath, and tell myself that the world has much to offer, but home is still the best place of all. Deer stare me down, then skittishly run off into the thicket of distant oak trees and brush, leaping gracefully as if to give me a ballet more beautiful than the Bolshoi in Russia. The symphony of birds cannot be topped by anything man made. After two weeks away in Russia, I’m where I belong. Though on my last day there, I felt like I belonged in Russia. “You must come to my village,” said my friend Andrey Lyssenko, a Russian artist whom I met over a decade ago on Facebook. Knowing it was an hour and a half outside Moscow, and knowing that my calendar was full of interviews for two upcoming documentaries, I politely suggested I’d have to wait to see if


Doing The Impossible

I must be dreaming. I awoke thinking I was in the beautiful countryside, surrounded by old wooden dachas (country cabins), fields of ancient windmills, and onion-domed churches. The wind is blowing briskly, and I’m awakened to the sound of someone throwing logs into the wood-burning stove. I get out from under the thick down comforter and walk out into the kitchen, which is over 120 years old and as primitive as when it was built, to have my first cup… Russian coffee as strong as its people. But I’m not dreaming, I’m in the dacha of a friend, master artist Nikolai Dubovik, in a small Russian village. A village so small we had to drive 40 minutes to a town where a mobile connection was available so I could send this to you. It’s Sunday morning here, and nine hours ahead of my home in Austin. Pinch Me I’ve had an amazing first week in Saint Petersburg, living a dream life. Not only was I in what is arguably the most beautiful city in the world, I was in the presence of people who are icons in the Russian art world, and who have influence over the entire art world.


Never Waste a Good Tragedy

In the distance, in all directions, I hear a chorus of chirping, and then, from my own trees, the sounds of birds fill the cool air.  It’s cool enough to wear the “Asilomar” sweatshirt I bought at the second Plein Air Convention in Monterey, yet I celebrate “cool” instead of “cold” after a few weeks of winter. The good news is that I’m back outside on the long back porch, sitting on the squeaky brown wicker couch with Coke-red cushions, where words flow like soft ice cream pouring out of the machine at Donnelly’s, my favorite spot in the Adirondacks. As I started to sit, another indication of birds perched overhead made me clean the seat before parking myself there. But any sign of spring is a good one.  Hello from Russia In reality, I should be saying the view from my hotel window is a frigid and snow-covered city called Saint Petersburg, in Russia, where I will have just arrived after 24 hours of travel, leaving yesterday. I knew I’d be exhausted, and writing this and getting it to you on time would be impossible. A Vivid Dream Rarely do I remember dreams, but last night's dream was of


The Art of Backing Off

Speeding through the hills on the winding road, I desperately rush from the house once I see the drawer where we keep the coffee is empty. First, I scoured the shelves in the pantry, then I remembered Laurie telling me, “Don’t forget to pick up coffee.” But, alas, I forgot. So to the car I went. As I reached the intersection between our country road and the big four-lane feeder, it was emptier than a teenager’s gas tank, a rare sight. Usually mornings are packed with bumper-to-bumper Austin traffic. So I take my time, ease out, and make the one-minute trip to the gas station — which I’m dreading, because how good can the coffee be, after all? I’m surprised to see machines with grinders, and hopeful, but alas, the watered-down coffee is not my normal rich brew. Guess what I won’t forget to do today?The air is thick with humidity, slightly cool, but signaling a nice warm day, though I’m guessing without glancing at my screen that it will be rainy. I like rain; it removes the pressure of getting out and keeps me home to do a stack of projects that have been building up and calling out


Eric Rhoads
Entrepreneur, writer, artist, marketer, and speaker.
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