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.

Clearing Trees

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.

Eric Rhoads

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.