You Need Summer Oxygen


I arrived on the mist-covered wooden dock this morning as the sun was coming up, just peeking over the horizon. Long warm rays are penetrating cool layers of fog. The mountain is barely visible, and the green highlights of tall pines are shining through the mist. Just as I sat down, I could hear the splashing of baby loon wings beating against the water. Accompanied by loon cries of encouragement from mom and dad, the little loons flap forward about 30 feet, trying to take off but not yet getting airborne. They’ve been trying over and over, and soon those babies will be ready to fly south.

Now that August has arrived, so have most of the lake neighbors, who usually come now through Labor Day. Though I love the quiet months of June and July here, it’s nice to see some people on the lake. Sailboat races have begun, with giant 125-year-old sailboats competing for the annual silver cup. There is nothing quite as beautiful as seeing an old wooden boat keeled over, people leaning out over the water, and that yellow ochre sail against the purple mountain in the background. It’s a painting waiting to happen, and one I’ve done many times, yet the perfect one has yet to be done. One has to capture a moment with a quick sketch, or cheat with a photo, to drop the boat into the scene.

August is also a reminder that my three remaining weeks here need to be filled with bucket list places to visit and paint, chores that need to be finished, kayak rides to take, and family memories to be created. I’d better get off the dock and get busy, starting today.

Rather than getting into anything in-depth or “heavy” today, I thought it would be nice to give you a simple reminder: “Put your own mask on before helping others.” The classic line from airline travel.

What I want to remind you of is that in this busy place we call life, you have lots to do, lots of people to take care of, lots of responsibilities, pressure, and maybe stress. If you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re unable to do a stellar job of helping others.

I’ve spoken about the value of summers, and since summer will be gone in just a few weeks, I want to encourage you to find some way to give yourself some more time. It may be a well deserved vacation, or if that’s not possible, find a way to do something to bring you some peace and joy. It’s amazing to me how a walk in the woods does wonders for me. Maybe it’s an afternoon of fishing … or painting. Try to get to a comfortable place to do something you cannot do every day at home (like TV) and treat yourself.

In my crazy existence I run continuously for months on end, traveling, doing meetings, meeting deadlines, and the only reason I can run at full throttle is because I make a point to give myself some personal oxygen.

If you’re high-strung, you’ll tell yourself there isn’t time, there isn’t money, or there will be some other excuse. Though these things may be very real, you have to find time for you as much as possible.

Do something for yourself today, and try to find as much time for yourself as possible before summer ends. If you’re thinking, “There is always next summer,” just know that’s not guaranteed. Be bold and take care of yourself first. Others who rely on you will understand.

Last week I learned of yet another acquaintance felled by an unexpected stroke, and you may remember my story about my friend who had a stroke, and six months later has had no improvement.

Take special moments while you can. You deserve them.

Have a great day.



  1. Gabriele Baber August 5, 2018 at 7:41 am - Reply

    I enjoyed this one Eric. Thank you for the reminder that our time here is finite, and to fill it with things that bring us joy. It’s something I needed to hear today. Bless you.

  2. Diana Hoke August 5, 2018 at 11:07 am - Reply

    A photo is not cheating! Check Andy Evanson’s plein air advice. Did like your article about end of Summer.

  3. Shannon August 5, 2018 at 11:29 am - Reply

    As always I love how you paint a vivid picture with your words and how much wisdom you impart to everyone that reads this. Today I will take time for me…

  4. Kinduell-Davis Carole August 5, 2018 at 11:49 am - Reply

    Eric, I always look forward to your Sunday words of encouragement, however today I must take exception to your comment that to use photos is cheating! That implies first of all that “serious” artists never resort to using photos, we all know better than that! Secondly, that painters who are not as youthful or able bodied as yourself and are studio painters produce inferior work and therefore are cheaters! It takes understanding and skill to paint realistically from photos…how to compensate for the distortions and artfully edit a scene. We must be sooo careful in our choice of words and phrases, don’t we?

  5. Shelby Keefe August 5, 2018 at 12:28 pm - Reply

    Hi Eric! Shelby here…..I’m with Diana Hoke and Kinduell. It’s cheating to use a photo reference only if you’re in a plein air competition! Some of the best paintings made out there these days require a photo for reference–unless you are an artist with a photographic memory (I wish!) I don’t know how those fleeting light moments can be “recreated” unless you have a photo! Many times I wish in my mind’s eye I could paint exactly that stunning moment that was glimpsed while driving on an expressway, down a busy urban roadway (where pulling over would be so dangerous) or impractical! So. HEY! I’ve got an idea! Do you know an artist or two out there who can teach us how to hone our skills in painting from memory?? I would totally buy it! I heard Russian art schools require, that for you to get high marks, or even to qualify for the best schools, you have to be able to do a successful painting completely from your memory. OMG!! that would be so amazing to be able to make some sh*t up and have it not look like it’s made up!! Food for thought…… 🙂 Have a great rest of the summer, and also, to let you know, I love getting your reflections each Sunday! Thank you for taking the time! I think I’ll go for a walk (near) the woods! My best to you and your family!

  6. Margaret Robinson August 5, 2018 at 6:45 pm - Reply

    As a retiree who is settling into an art journey (one I should have traveled from young adulthood) I enjoy your Sunday thoughts. Part of my four year plan to be more a more serious artist and complete my travel bucket list you provide useful insights.

    And your reputation for the Plein Air community is exemplary. Thank you.

    However. Boats heel. The keel as a counterweight keeps them from capsizing. I can’t let all that delightfully frivolous time afloat be worth nothing.

  7. Laura August 5, 2018 at 10:28 pm - Reply

    Simply put, perfectly said, what I needed to hear at the moment. How do you do it? Eric you are a blessing in my life, every Sunday morning and with all you do to support art and artists daily.

  8. Kenneth Kant August 6, 2018 at 5:18 pm - Reply

    Such an important comment. I am 83 and have put off a lot of things because of “money, time or responsibilities..” Now my wife and I are trying to get a few things done, but it is more difficult now than it would have been 20 years ago. I am trying to get more painting and ceramics done, but that is more difficult now as well. Mea culpa.

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