Bright light burns into my retinas as I step on to the back porch in my bare feet. The sky is intense, shining brightly after days of gray soup, sleet, and ice. Goosebumps pop up along with the hairs on my bare arm as I leave the warm air inside to be assaulted by the cold outdoors. Yet hope for a warmer day and early signs of spring are on today’s agenda.

I Met a Girl

As a young teen, probably 14, I saw a girl at a party, and she was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. I watched and stared until I got up the courage to ask her to dance, and we danced to “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” Slow dancing, with a beautiful girl, was something that had never happened to me. The feeling was incredible. 

Soon my mom was dropping me off at her house — supervised, of course. I remember one day, after a harsh winter, at the first sign of spring, probably 50 degrees, we walked to a local park and laid out on a blanket looking up at the sky, celebrating the return of warmer air and sunshine. The park was filled that day with others doing the same, as if it were summer. All celebrating spring in unison.

Old Flames Die Out

My time with that girl ended at some point, I’m not sure why, but to this day I hold that first innocent exposure to boy-meets-girl dear in my heart. Like many of our old flames, I sometimes saw her on Facebook. We were both in a local “Up with People” group back then, where we developed a lot of friendships. She married one of the other boys, and after decades together, he passed a few years ago. She seems to have disappeared. 

One Sunday, while I was still seeing this girl, we hopped in the car, drove an hour or two with her mom, and drove through the gates of a big property with lots of red brick houses, a vivid memory. Soon we were sitting and talking with her dad. Until then, I had no idea he was in a rehab facility. It was my first realization that alcoholism existed and that it could tear families apart. But weeks later, he returned home, and things felt back to normal.

Other Passions

Not only was I in love with his daughter (at least I thought I was), I had fallen in love with radio. I had managed to get a Saturday and Sunday radio show on a local college station, and so anything to do with radio was cool to me. Knowing that, her dad found and restored an old radio as a gift to me. That led me to a lifetime of collecting antique radios — a passion I lost a decade ago, selling most of them off, but keeping a few favorites. That one I’ll never sell.

Looking back on my passions, my interests, and even my love interests, some stuck, while others lasted only a little while. Some I loved so passionately, I made deep commitments, but others were shed after a season.

Few Things Stick

In almost every case, I had told myself that this interest, this passion, would never die, but only a few things have stuck throughout my life. It’s why, when I’m coaching my son about his passion for a girl who does not seem to share his feelings, I can lend the perspective that she probably won’t be the only one. But to him, as it did with me, it seems like the end of the world.

Love Lost, Again

I can remember sitting on the edge of my bed, sobbing, with my grandmother comforting me over the loss of another girl who was, at the time, my great love (there were many, till I found my true great love). It was the end of the world, I could not go on without her. But I healed, and when she came back to me many years later in hopes of getting together again, I had moved on. She popped in to explore getting back together several times over the years, perhaps realizing that she did feel the same for me as I had for her. Even toward the end of her life, she approached me again, but I was in a better place.

Floating in the Clouds

In the moment, we lose perspective, we are smitten with passion, we are addicted to the dopamine rush — there is no better feeling than floating on the cloud of new love. Practicality rarely enters the room when new love is present. But eventually it rears its ugly head, at which time we realize it’s either time to go, or time to stay. And if we’re really lucky, we realize that there is more to life than fresh and new, and it’s replaced by stable and secure, with the realization that the depth of love isn’t fireworks, but a small burning candle that never goes out, even when the trials of life and child-rearing take their toll. There are times when the wind is blowing and the flame flickers, and there are moments when it briefly seems to die but soon reignites itself. True love is an eternal flame. I’m lucky to have found that.

Fields of Flowers

Springtime, like fresh love, brings new hope. Soon, here in Texas, fields will be covered with bluebonnets as far as the eye can see, followed by fields of orange flowers called Indian paintbrush, followed by the LYFs (little yellow flowers). 

And spring will come to you soon. After the harshness of winter, spring renews our spirit. Life isn’t all springtime; we have to endure all the seasons, including the autumn, when the leaves of love and passion fall, and the winter, when everything freezes. But when facing those moments, there is hope knowing that spring and summer are around the corner, even though sometimes it seems the winter moments in life will never end. They always do. 

Eric Rhoads

PS: Lately I’ve been doing a lot of playing. Last week I tried my first portraits in watercolor. Though not terribly successful, I learned a lot and became inspired to master the medium more (using much of what I learned at Watercolor Live). This week, I bought about 50 pounds of Monster Clay and I’ve been doing my first full-size bust of a head, just to see if I can do it. I’m having a lot of fun trying things I’ve not done before, and it’s making me more excited about everything else. I encourage you to play, to get outside your comfort zone, try something new, get out of your routines.

This week, starting Wednesday the 9th with Beginner/Refresher Day, is my virtual conference called PleinAir Live. If you don’t know the term, plein air is a French term that has come to mean outdoor painting. This virtual conference is all about landscape painting (studio and outdoors), and it features 30 of the best landscape painters alive, including people teaching from other countries. We will have a massive audience, a chance to learn for three days, March 10-12 (four days if you do the Beginner/Refresher day on the 9th, which you can sign up for without the rest of the event). And there are replays you can watch if you can’t make the dates or if you want to rewatch. This might just be the thing you need to pull you out of your comfort zone.

Also going on at Streamline this week…

Plein Air Salon Entry Deadline

$30,000 Art Competition/Deadline: March 31, 2022

Annual Winners Will Be Announced Live at PACE on May 17 in Santa Fe, NM.

Enter this monthly online competition to win cash prizes and recognition. Monthly category winners will be entered into the Annual Competition where the Grand Prize is $15,000 cash and the cover of PleinAir Magazine. Enter one of our 18 categories in plein air and in studio painting.

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3rd Annual Plein Air Live Virtual Conference

Virtual Event: March 9-12, 2022

Beginners Day: March 9

March 6 is the last day to save up to $300 on a ticket

Replays available if you can’t make the date.

PleinAir magazine presents Plein Air Live, a 4-day online training event featuring 30 of the world’s top landscape and plein air artists doing demonstrations and presentations. Join thousands of artists from around the world to take your work to the next level and learn about the plein air lifestyle and how to become a part of it.

Learn more.