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.