Vibrant red-orange light was about ready to peek over the Atlantic Ocean. Giant granite rocks and rows of majestic pines were silhouetted against the golden sunrise while the upper part of the sky was a deep indigo blue with a single star glowing in the distance.
A gentle mist dampened the grass on this almost-freezing morning, and I was rubbing my hands together to keep them warm. Overhead a bald eagle spread her massive wings and squeaked as if to let me know I was in her space.
My headlamp was glowing on my easel in the pre-sunrise darkness as I hurriedly laid in my shapes with paint, knowing I’ll have little more than three minutes to capture the rapidly moving colors of sunrise.
This morning I’m back in Texas, looking out over my backyard’s own beautiful light, but remembering that just two mornings ago, I was up at 5 a.m. to experience the sunrise on Schoodic Point in Acadia National Park.
Lingering memories are going through my head as I return to reality from my little artists’ retreat where about 60 of us gathered to paint for a week that passed far too quickly.
Memories of lobster, caught that morning by a local fisherman, on our last night together. Memories of a room filled with probably 700 paintings we produced during our week. Memories of endless laughter, silly jokes, dancing and singing to nightly music, and painting portraits on several nights.
Up early each day, we had breakfast together, then set out hopeful of finding a masterpiece or two. Some produced as many as four or five paintings a day, others just one or two, each representing an amazing spot and a memory of that time painting with new and old friends.
Last Sunday I awoke in that place; I had already done a touch of painting and begun developing the friendships that deepened over the week.
A show of upraised hands filled the room when I asked on Friday, our closing morning, how many had developed new and deep friendships that could last a lifetime, though most of these people had never before met.
Of course, there were also many returning “regulars” who connected with friends established in the last two years of Fall Color Week. But everyone, including myself, made new friends.
It was a feeling of mixed blessing. A week of painting was enough, and the anticipation of returning to my family was a joy. Yet sadness filled my heart and those of people around me, thinking of this special week of special moments.
Goodbyes were tearful. Hugs were heartfelt. Some didn’t want to let go, and one woman started crying on my shoulder, knowing she had escaped a difficult time in her life and a looming divorce, and grateful for a chance to occupy her mind with painting and chats with friends for a week away.
Another said, with tear-filled eyes, that last year she had gone home to an ill husband and this year would be returning to an empty house. Still others were just sad to leave those who had been their roommates and friends during this week of escape from their busy lives.
Gushing thank yous pump up my ego, but make me feel that for most, this little break from reality was the medicine they needed. I feel grateful to be placed in a position where I can provide such a gift to others.
It’s a special moment in time, and one that won’t last forever. Though there will be future events (God willing), each one is special, each unique, each serving a purpose.
So many coincidences occurred, it’s as though they were meant to be. One artist told a story of a painting mistakenly sold twice by her gallery and never delivered to the first buyer, whose name she never knew. The artist and original buyer, comparing notes, found one another at this event, though they live far apart.
Others found connections in common interests, and in one case, two people turned out to be distant relatives. All brought together “by accident” at a random event for painters.
Last week I talked about rewarding yourself by getting away. This week, I feel a sense of deep meaning because so many people had what they said was the experience of a lifetime. That encourages me to make sure I’m doing all I can for these folks, my cherished readers and friends.
I want to do more, invent more ideas, put people together in new ways, because it’s important work. Sometimes I feel I can’t do enough, fast enough. Yet it needs to be done. There truly is so little time.
Nothing in my career has given me more gratification, more satisfaction, more joy, than bringing artists together and giving them these experiences of a lifetime. It’s a reminder that we all need things like this, and we all have special gifts that need to be shared.
To those who spent the week with me in Maine, my heart aches missing each of you, yet I have a beaming smile on my face as I replay moments from the week.
To those not there: Find something, anything, where you can give to others. I learned this week that there are a lot of hearts in need of someone to step in on their behalf, and we can each play that role.
Enjoy your week.