Imagine for a moment a cathedral in the sky, filled with stained glass, backlit by the sun. This morning’s sunrise is so brilliant, so color-rich, it could not be reproduced by the greatest stained glass craftspeople, the most brilliant painters, the most skilled photographers. The great painter Thomas Cole was accused by a newspaper of having made up the colors in his Adirondack paintings because such colors “did not exist in nature.” Of course, the reporters were in New York City, which was filled with coal smoke and soot, and the Adirondacks then, as now, were pristine and unpolluted.
Ancestors Sat Here
As I sit in an authentic 1890 Adirondack chair, on the dock originally built in 1860, the sunrise I’m seeing is exactly as our forefathers would have experienced it in this place as they, like me, drank their morning coffee. We are accompanied by a symphony of loons, spring birds, and the slight sound of breezes rustling through the birch leaves above.
A Big Day
For the last three decades, I’ve described a place that is indescribable. Growing up in the Midwest, a million miles of protected state park was never on my radar, and I find few know of it even now. For this reason, I’m excited when new friends join me here. Last night I greeted a little more than 100 people, visiting for my annual painters’ retreat. In a few minutes I’ll join them for breakfast and take them to my favorite spots for outdoor painting, and we’ll repeat it all daily for a week.
I think just about everyone here was a bit nervous after a year of isolation, yet delighted to be in the proximity of others. It may have been the sweetest family reunion ever, with this being the first contact with friends and new friends for most of us. It’s a cautious toe in the water for a return to life as it once was.
If I were to ask you to take a year off, focus on doing things you love, and spend time with your family and your thoughts, you would tell me, “It’s not possible.” Yet now that you’ve done it, I have an important question: What will you do with it?
I cannot imagine there is one thinking person on earth who has survived without important lessons from the last year, and without a sense of how they want to reinvent their lives. And it would be a crime to have been given the gift of this year without taking advantage of your new perspective.
If you’ve ever read through previous years of “Coffee,” you’ve found that I’m big on the importance of defining what you don’t want to do. Though we tend to focus on dreams, I’ve found that eliminating the drudgery goes a long way toward happiness. And though we can’t always eliminate all of it, if we identify it, we can work towards elimination.
What did you discover about yourself?
Friends have shared their ideas with me…
- “I was wasting two hours a day commuting. Now I can work from home and be more productive and be happier.”
- “I was addicted to shopping and getting out. Once forced to stay home, I discovered how much more I like being home and am less likely to go out on a whim.”
- “I was flying too much. I spent too much of my life on the road. Once I stayed home, I got to know my kids on a deeper level and realized they did not know me, and I did not know them. I’ve already told my boss I’m not returning to that lifestyle.”
- “We used to waste hours every week in meetings. Now when we Zoom, we tend to get to the point and waste less time.”
- “When I was forced to stay home, I found myself making breakthroughs in my artwork because I spent more time painting and less time doing other things.”
- “I realised life is too short to spend my days doing what I’ve been doing. What if I had gotten sick and died? It was all a little too close to home. I need to get busy working toward my dreams and stop stalling with things that won’t contribute to getting to my goals.”
What would be on your list?
Now how will you change your life?
If you’re happy with the way things are, you’re in a good place.
If COVID has helped you see what you don’t want to do, consider it a gift, a slap in the face, an attention-getter.
Here’s a clue…
When life throws us these little gifts that open our eyes, we need to act fast. If too much time passes, we’ll fall back into our normal habits and not make the changes we need to make.
Oh, and if it’s uncomfortable, you’re on the right track. Discomfort is the magic dust that makes dreams come true.
Conditions will never, ever be perfect, the timing will never be right, there will never be enough time or money. Do it anyway.
Oh, and you won’t know how to do it. Just jump in. Find a way.
In Honor of Those Who Can’t
Think of all the people who never realized their dreams, who would give anything for another chance, who were taken away in the last year. We owe it to them to live our dreams, and to take advantage of the time we’ve got.
I know something you may not know … or believe.
You have it in you. You can do this. Only you can make it happen.
Go do it now. Don’t delay another day.
PS: I’ve had friends tell me, “It’s different for you.”
It’s not true. I get cold feet, I get scared, I get negative, I usually don’t have a clue how I’m going to accomplish something. And I’ve held back on opportunities because I did not feel worthy. I regret those lost opportunities.
I too have to reinvent. I too will be a different person after COVID. I too will use my time differently. I’m working on my plan now, and I’ll reveal it when the time is right. I encourage you to do the same.
PS2: Because our kids are in college and we no longer had to return to Texas for an August school start, we experienced the fall color here this past fall. It was more beautiful than I had ever remembered. So I decided to hold my Fall Color Week here this year only, in a new location, a camp called Saranac Village. It’s a classic old Adirondack great camp that has been converted to a kids’ camp. This is the only time we’ll be able to get in ever, and it’s only because of COVID. Though it’s too late to sign up for my Adirondack painting event this week, you should check out the event and join us this fall.
PS3: I’m taking a group of art lovers, art collectors, and artists on a European Art Tour. Fine Art Connoisseur editor Peter Trippi and I lead the tour, and this year we’re going to Vienna and Berlin. You’ll experience art like never before. It’s not a painters’ trip (though some do paint in their spare time). Check it out.
PS4: Making for an even busier fall, I’m taking a group of painters to tour and paint Russia. You can paint (and tour) the great cities of St. Petersburg and Moscow and the inland villages. It’s a rare trip that is not easy to create. We have 50 seats only, and I’ve just learned that two seats are still available. Because of visas, these need to be locked up soon.
PS5: I’ve discovered that paintings with the most vibrant colors are pastel. And if you want to learn pastel as a beginner, or want to improve by learning from the world’s leading pastel artists, explore our August Pastel Live event, which will be held online.