Trying to stay warm, I’m in my red flannel “buffalo check” pajamas. A fire is roaring in the old stone fireplace of this 100-year-old house. Above me, an “out of service” canoe, as old as the house, hangs from the rafters, displaying the beauty of its wooden slats and craftsmanship. The windows, fogged with mist, display the deep greens of the forest and old growth trees surrounding the house. Birds tweet feverishly, and the giant 600-year-old oak in the front is swaying to the breeze, while its branches reach out to cloak the entire cabin.
The Giant Sucking Sound
Each year a giant magnet pulls me to a place I love passionately. Though I’ve traveled the world, and love many places, there is something about the Adirondacks that has touched my life since the time I was introduced to it, over 30 years ago. I’ve always felt like it’s where I belong. Always where I felt closest to nature.
A Big Day Ahead
One of my biggest goals is to return here every summer, which is why, four miles up the road, there is a group of “campers” at my 9th Annual Publisher’s Invitational event. As soon as I finish my coffee and get ready for the day, I’ll join them in the cafeteria for morning announcements about where we’re going to paint today, our first day. Everyone checked in last night and we had a lovely dinner and orientation and a chance to get to know one another better. We’ll do this every day this week, painting all day, starting and ending with meals together, sitting up at night talking, playing music, painting portraits, and looking at our “catch of the day” — the paintings we’ve all done.
One More Time No Matter What
I set up this annual event knowing our time at the Adirondacks may one day come to an end because of the eventual sale of the old family home on the lake. This event allows me to return at least once a year no matter what. Only time will reveal how that works out.
Nothing like this had existed in my life since I was a kid. I remember going to summer Boy Scout camp at Camp Big Island two or three summers in a row, and also to the YMCA’s Camp Potawotami for a couple of years. It was a chance to see old friends that you saw only once a year.
For me, and others, this event fills that “summer camp” void. We start with hugs and will spend hours catching up about what’s happened in our lives during the last year. And there are new friends who join us each year, making it even more wonderful.
Eric’s Own Commune?
When I was a young man of about 30, I recall my big dream of buying a giant piece of property on a lake, inviting all my favorite people to build houses on that property, and having a lodge where we could all cook together and hang out all summer, every summer. I never got around to doing it, but this may have turned out to be better — I’ve made friends I would never have known otherwise, because of people who showed up or came with others.
This event has made me realize the importance of friendship and of making a point to spend time with friends every single year. Though some come and go due to family obligations, rarely does someone miss two years in a row. When someone is not there, it’s not quite the same without them. And I kinda hope this continues, in some form, for the rest of my life. It’s that precious to me.
I’ve often talked about the importance of family traditions, but I now believe that friendship traditions are also critical. Seeing those who are important to us at least once a year makes for a rich life.
Of course, local friends should be seen as frequently as possible, but even then our busy lives sometimes mean we get together only once or twice a year. I joke with a lot of my local painter friends that I have to go to the Plein Air Convention in another city to see them. That should not be.
Some recent tragedies in my life have helped me revisit my personal priorities. Though my mom’s recent funeral wasn’t fun, seeing family members and old neighbors and friends for a few hours afterward was a highlight of my life.
Finding more family time is at the top of the list … making more time for my kids, my dad, my brothers and their families, my wife’s family … and seeing the other friends has moved up to a high priority as well. All too often old friends are seen every few years, if that, and when we get together we wonder why we don’t do it more often. In reality, what can be more important? Without the rich experiences of friends and family, everything else pales.
I feel blessed that my painting events like the Publisher’s Invitational, Fall Color Week, the Plein Air Convention, and the Figurative Art Convention provide me with rich experiences with painting friends. But my focus is to find more time with everyone at these events, and outside of these events.
What about you?
Who would you miss if you got the call they had disappeared? Call those people NOW and find a way to get together with them soon.
Most good things that happen in life are not accidental — most are planned. Are you making enough of an effort to plan time with friends? If not, consider scheduling something now. Make a list and ask yourself who you most want to spend time with this year.
Also, where is healing needed?
A friend estranged from her dad for two decades recently told me that upon his death she realized her grievance was petty, and she now regrets the distance she put between the two of them.
There is no time like the present. Time is fleeting and lives are fragile.
Make time for friendships. It’s the one thing you’ll never regret.
PS: If we have not met and if this painting thing seems fun, I’ll do an event much like this one at Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch in New Mexico this fall, and then I’m doing an art lovers’ trip to Provence and the South of France, and Scotland too. Make some time for yourself. Let’s become friends in person.
Just want to let you know I really enjoy your writings in Sunday Morning Coffee. I can tell that you are a very deep person with a beautiful soul. My family also had a lake house where we spent many happy hours there. Many family members are gone now, but I will keep the memories in my heart forever. I just pray that my grandchildren will have the joy of a family get-a-way where they can get away from their electronics and distractions of the modern world and enjoy the beauty of nature. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us.
I always enjoy reading your Sunday coffee..thank you. Also do you know the dates for s of France and also for SCotland yet. If not can you give apps dates and place?
Many thanks, Mrs Marie-Louise Mills
Oh how I wish I could carve out the time and that the money would drop from heaven to attend one of your workshops. However, I find myself with little time. See, I have been doing exactly as you recommend as far as putting friends and family first. Didn’t realize I had so many that I am now limited in who I can visit. They are all jostling for a place in line. The blessings I get from seeing them outweigh the fret of a messy house should someone stop by unexpectedly. I wish to express my condolences on the loss of your mother. I know from experience having lost both sisters and parents that “mom” is always the hardest. Just rest assured that she is smiling knowing what a fine boy she raised (boys are always boys to their mom) and must be so very proud of who you have become. You have the most beautiful of souls. Can’t ask anything more than that from your son. Job well gone mom. I hope to read your writing for many years to come . It brings me joy. For that I thank you sir. God bless you.
ERIC……I JUST HAVE TO SEND YOU A BIG HUG BY EMAIL, AS I HAVE NEVER MET YOU, AND WILL NEVER GET THE CHANCE….BUT I LOVE YOUR SUNDAY EMAILS, AS WELL AS YOUR EMAILMESSAAGES OF WHATYOU OFFER TO PLEIN AIR PAINTERS….I’M 93 YEARS OLD, DISABLED FROM WALKING AND/OR TRAVELING, AND HAVE BEEN A PART TIME PAINTER SINCE AGE THIRTEEN, WHEN I ATTENDED LIFE DRAWING CLASSES AT AN ART UNIVERSITY IN DES MOINES, IA…..WAS OVERSEAS IN NAVY IN COMBAT AREAS OF WWII, BUT MADE IT HOME TO SPEND THE REST OF MY LONG LIFE IN SAN DIEGO, CA….MAINLY AT MY EASEL DAILY DOING PORTRAITS IN OIL, AND HAVE MANY IMPORTANT PRO ARTISTS AS FRIENDS…..MY CAREER WAS IN LAW ENFORCEMENT, AND I FOUND IT SO REPUGNANT, THAT PAINTING WAS MY THERAPY, AND GOT ME THROUGH AND ON PENSION HAVE DEVOTED MYSELF TO DRAWING AND PAINTING, BELONGING TO ART CLUBS, AND DOCENT DUTIES IN GALLERIES….PLEASE KEEP ME ON YOUR MAILING LIST FOR MY REMAINING YEARS, WHICH WON’T BE TOO LONG…JUST FINISHED A SELF PORTRAIT TODAY….IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE IT, LET ME KNOW WHERE TO SEND IT…..THANKS AGAIN FOR ALL YOU HAVE DONE FOR MY ELDERLY MORALE…..GEORGE
Your Sunday morning letters are always inspiring but the one this morning really resonated with me. I, too, have gone through losses of family and friends over the past 3 years, and I have given my relationships with remaining friends and family renewed importance. And I, too, share a passion for a place. As you have spent many summers in The Adirondacks, we have spent part of nearly every summer for 49 years at a cottage on Georgian Bay in Ontario. It’s where I feel closest to my artistic self! I will be thinking of everyone as you paint in that glorious setting, and I will be painting in my natural and spiritual home. (And DO think about publishing those letters. I know there would be many artists who would welcome that!)
I look forward to your Sunday letters. Your comfortable wisdom always blesses me. Thank you, Eric.
Thank you Eric,
You are so encouraging. Two friends and I are heading off to Golden Bay on Friday for a girls weekend, I’m so looking forward to it! I don’t have an artists get-aways in my life though. I’m wondering if I could organise one. There are so many beautiful places to go plein air here in our region of New Zealand. I’d love to know how to organise such a trip, any tips?
I’m also a bit (nervously) excited because my web site is up, complete with my beginner plein airs?! Have to start somewhere?! And I’ve done my first blog… Eeeeeek!
Once again, thank you and God bless you.
My best girlfriends from high school had always talked about getting together for a weekend. You would think that living in the same state would make that easy but 47 years went by with just the Christmas card greetings. That’s just sad.
Last year in January, I sent them all a copy of my annual art calendar, with a note that said we will decide on a summer date and get it inked on before any other “obligations” could encroach.
We did it! That was an amazing 48 hours; eating delicious food, wine, laughing as we shared our lives in a lakeside cabin. Stories were told, secrets revealed, and wounds healed. One of us went home hoarse.
It was fun to be around them as teens but to get to know them as the women they became is a treasure.
Take the effort, make the plans and get together with those who count.
Thanks Eric for the evocative post. I will be at one of your retreats soon.
Thank you for your writing, I enjoy it very much. I am trying to solve my health problems, and I did found a gallery for exhibition, so glad? it’s pushing me to work, and that is good kicking me up
I wish you the best Eric, and keep Following you and those other painters.
Take care Fragal
You are Very fortunate, and I’m pleased that you have enjoyed and continue to enjoy your life, activities, art and friends. Good for you!
I’m amazed you had time to write this. Thanks for sharing the Adirondacks with us, Eric. It’s beautiful.
Thanks so much for your thoughtful insight into looking up old friends. I don’t allow myself the time to make it happen. It seems like it is always on my to do list…at the bottom. I moved it to the top!
I just love Sunday morning because of your writing. Thank you
Wise words good sir! I look forward to meeting you one day hopefully in New Mexico that truly sounds like a fantastic idea. Bless you and yours and thank you for inviting us into your life and art world. The tribe is pretty darn awesome.