The old green hammock sways gently between two old-growth white pine trees, a puddle of water and reddish pine needles in its middle. As I exit the house, the wet ground cover of deep green moss squishes like a thick carpet under my feet. In the combination of smoke from fires in the west and moisture from last night’s storm, the distant trees are a mustard bluish gray. The deep red geraniums in the flower boxes along the dock are worn and leggy from swimming in too much water.
This is the second-rainiest summer I can remember. The few sunny days are like Christmas presents. We look forward to them and cherish them as special days to get out for a warm, sun-drenched canoe ride.
Needles on My Face
My attitude about rain may be unique around here. Family members and locals have been complaining about all the rain. Though I can appreciate the desire for sunshine, I love the rain. Living essentially on an island and commuting by boat for groceries and packages, we’ve learned to accept it for what it is and plow forward. Just yesterday raindrops were hitting my face like needles as I sped across, trying to beat a giant storm and bolts of lightning.
Rain slows me down. The lack of light makes me want to chill, relax more, read a book. And my favorite sound is rain on the roof above.
The Dreaded Nighttime Call
Life also has rain and storms. Late one night this week my phone rang, with my cousin’s name popping up. “Oh, no,” I thought. Knowing my aunt has been hospitalized and in rough shape, I assumed she had passed. But instead, it was my cousin Tim, who passed away at a young 60 years old. We were all devastated. It’s never easy when we see someone’s life cut short early.
A storm hit my family hard in the last couple of years, first losing my mom, then my dad, then my uncle, now my cousin. Sometimes it seems hard to take, and we start asking why: “Why me? Why now?” When we should be asking, “Why not me? Why not now?”
Rain and storms hit us all, personally and professionally. Just when things seem perfect, suddenly there is an unexpected event. And sometimes they come in clusters.
Yet storms clear out the forests, bringing down the weak trees and branches, and the rain nourishes the land, lending a hand to nature’s new growth. Last week I weathered a massive storm — the wind was blowing so hard I couldn’t stand up, and trees were going down around me. The power went down and didn’t come up for a couple of days. But soon rescue workers were on the way, cutting the overgrown trees that had fallen on power lines. Soon, things were better.
Between you and me, we know of storms and rain hitting friends around the world, or around the block. Suddenly discovered illnesses, often life-threatening. Sudden passings, sudden financial issues or business challenges, and at the moment, floods and fires impacting lives.
No matter how prepared, it’s never enough. Yet ultimately, it’s how we process the storm. Last week with my kids, I had to be the voice of calm to help alleviate fears. And when it was over, I played the role of cheerleader, pointing out the positive benefits.
A Moment of Decision
A doctor friend once told me, “When I tell someone they have cancer, I can tell within five minutes whether they have a chance of beating it. They are all kicked in the stomach at first, but given a few minutes to process it, the ones who tell me they will beat it usually do. Attitude makes a huge difference.”
If there was a positive in losing my parents, it was connecting with their friends on a new level, or reconnecting with a long-lost family I’d not seen in 30 years and now staying in touch with them.
A Learned Skill
I don’t think any of us are naturally tuned to think positively, but those who do it have trained their brains to immediately look for the bright side. When they get punched, they get back up and keep going, and they look for a lesson or a benefit from being punched.
These are unusual times. None of us are looking forward to returning to lockdowns or masking, but some will be required. It seems like a time when a lot of things are changing, and it makes me wonder what lies ahead. But rather than dwelling on the negative, seek the lighter side and the reasons to embrace the cards we are dealt.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Always seek the light, the humor, and the benefits inside any storm. Storms strengthen us and renew us. Embrace them.
PS: Today is a red letter day as I celebrate the people I work with. Laura Iserman celebrates a decade with my company today, Dean Pickering celebrates six years, and Kelly Powers celebrates three. I cherish the people I work with, and love it when we see them grow with us over the years. Thank you to each of you for sticking with me!
It won’t be long until our Pastel Live online art conference featuring some of the world’s finest pastel painters. I’m excited about expanding my horizons by learning pastel painting. There is still room for you this August.
My sold-out trip to Russia is no longer sold out due to some circumstances in people’s lives. I have a few slots open, and we still plan to go in mid-September (we won’t go if it turns out not to be safe, of course). It’s a lifetime chance to paint in an amazing place with the right guides at your side.
It won’t be long till the auction of my dad’s amazing property in the Adirondacks. I’m told there have been some celebrities looking. If you know someone seeking something rare and special, pass it on.
We just launched a new video showing how to paint watercolors from photographs with Michael Holter. I’m pretty excited about it.
My daily show is back, renamed Art School Live, with guests at noon (Eastern) every weekday. Join us one day.
Are you on Instagram? I am. Follow me @ericrhoads and I’ll follow you back.
There is always a bright light at the end of the tunnel. A silver lining. Thank you Eric for the words of wisdom
I’m looking forward to seeing your art. You definitely write as an artist, a fellow observer of the beauty around us, a journal keeper, I’ll bet.
Thanks for sharing.
Thank you for your insights, so inspiring.We are certainly facing the unknown especially as life shifts into a new normal with the ups and downs created by the Pandemic! However, it’s good to stay focused on the positive and a bit of optimism. Best, enjoy your Sunday! Denise
I am thoroughly enjoying these Sunday chats, and have passed them on to our grown kids. Thanks!
Thanks. Your message today meant a lot to me. I appreciate your insights.
Really appreciate the timely positive wisdom of this blog! Thanks for fighting the good fight and cheering us all on.
Always enjoy our Sunday statements. I say the prayer of “Serenity” everyday. I need to get on Instagram and start publishing my own work but a little hesitant because it might become very time consuming. I least have a professional website. I’m finding out that it is still necessary to have a professional website even in this world of the internet.
Oh my go(o)d(ness) keep that property!
God bless you, Eric, for continuing to spread hope and encouragement.
I found myself agreeing with you about the rain, I live in the desert near Palm Springs and I so love the rain. We are teased so much during the summer with these huge billowing clouds and dark skies and then no rain. The other day, Josuha Tree National Park behind us had huge storm clouds and lightening that was fun to watch…again no rain for us. When it does rain it is so fun, large drops, and so hard where you can’t see much, and then within an hour our overflow ponds are full. And then slowly over a number of days that pond drains into our underground streams and storage areas. Rain for me is certainly a gift. Thanks again for you newsletter. Elaine Trei
Although your message was indeed personal, it reaches all of us in some way or other. Thank you for sharing and encouraging us to look a little deeper at ourselves and each other. You have inspired me and I am certain many others.
Always happy to learn somethibng new
I forward your Sunday coffee essays to my children who seem to like them. At least they don’t tell me to stop. My time is taken up these days by the Huntsville Museum of Art Guild. I am president until June 2022, but after that, I’ll be attending the Plein Air Convention, etc. again. Sorry it rained a lot during the Adirondacks week. Best wishes
As usual your Morning Coffee hits home. Many of us have had similar experiences that sometimes one thinks will drop us in our tracks but, like you, I think its all about attitude and a positive outlook. As I approach becoming an octogenarian in one short month I wake up each day with a prayer, thanking God for yet another day and next month it will be another trip around the sun. 80 is a milestone but in reality it’s just a number, isn’t it? Life is Fragile and embracing each day given to you is essential. I also pray for our country that is in such turmoil and for our leaders..who sometimes I think, “such as they are” …to do the right thing. Optimism, Hope and perhaps a sense of humor about ourselves is the answer, I believe.
I was thrilled to be able to participate in the ADK 10th Anniversary Paintout even with my night in the ER. I still feel emotional thinking about the wonderful week and the wonderful folks I met there.. Thanks for the big hug. You’re One in a Million!
I love your writings. I look forward to them each week. I receive most of your offerings. But most of all I have to say, my favorite is Sunday morning coffee. These writings are so touching & beautiful that some bring me to tears or filled with joy at receiving them.
I often print them out, put them in my backpack, to read when I am somewhere I don’t have access to my book or need to bring my emotions back to positive.
I just wanted you to know how much I enjoy your style of writing. Thank you for doing these pieces and sharing from the heart. They bring me much joy.