Sponges bounce below my bare feet as I walk atop deep green moss and thick pillows of soft pine needles, making my way to the front dock. Startled by my presence, a family of loons sends out a series of emergency calls to warn others on the lake, which is still as glass. Chirps of other birds fill the tall pines at the base of the lake as soft ripples splash up against the dock.
Handmade in 1904
My chair is an old Westport Adirondack chair, crafted in 1904 according to the stamp on the back. This dock has been its home for 116 years, and it’s seen the rise and fall of tuberculosis, and the 1918 pandemic. Then, like now, families escaped to the woods to ride it out and distance themselves from the cities.
Sipping my hot coffee as I stare out over the lake, I wonder who, over the years, has been seated in these chairs and what conversations they had. Last night, some friends, properly socially distanced, visited as we shared a toast and celebrated being free enough to gather. We meandered on to topics about how our lives and our cities will change. No one knows; we can only guess.
These two young executives who work for mega-firms in New York City talked of how they have discovered new things about themselves, about the unnecessary hustle and bustle of their busy lives, their newfound appreciation and the challenges of working from home, and how they plan to redefine their lives going forward. Neither will be returning to an office until 2021.
We are living in the year that disappeared. I saw a shirt on social media that said “2020 Sucks,” but I disagree. In spite of all the fear, negativity, danger, and uncertainty, sometimes it takes getting hit by a freight train to get our attention and make us redefine our lives. And we would not be doing ourselves a service if we allowed this year to pass without buckets of meaningful and personal change.
Up in the Air
I for one have realized my addiction to travel. I’ve always loved it, but not being able to get on a plane at the drop of a hat for a meeting has made me rethink my future. No, I don’t fear getting on a plane, I just did that a couple of weeks ago. What I fear is not living my life with the level of quality intended.
Face it, many of us have become addicted to the dopamine or adrenaline created by the stimulation of social media, of a fast-moving world, of always needing something to do.
Most everyone I know is telling me they crave the life they did not know they were missing, that returning to their life from 90 days ago would feel like a tragedy. They have reconnected with their families on a deeper level, they have had time to pursue things that time never permitted, and through those moments, have found themselves inside new hobbies or interests. We, for instance, have taught tens of thousands of new people interested in learning to paint.
A New Me
One woman sent me a note that said, “Because of you, I found myself. Because you were doing live Facebook broadcasts daily, I accidentally tuned in, did not know you, but something you said encouraged me to try painting. I had never considered it, and now, with your free lessons, I’m painting and I’m a new person.”
It wasn’t me or anything I did, it was her. She finally tuned in to her inner voices to explore an interest she did not realize she had. Maybe I was a nudge, but the action was all her own doing.
What is your action?
Will you return to the former you, or will the book on your life have a new chapter about a new you?
Have you stopped to think about what you discovered about yourself that you don’t want to lose?
Have you realized what you don’t want to return to?
There is, it appears, a mass exodus from the cities to the suburbs and small towns. It’s not just the fear of being stuck in a war zone due to riots, or the fear of being in an overburdened medical system in a big city, it’s because a different quality of life and quality of relationships have been discovered. I’ve had several people tell me their city life is ending and their homes are for sale or they have already moved out. Others in small towns are talking of soaring real estate prices due to new interest in a simpler life.
Though it may sound a little awkward, isn’t this what life is all about? Deeper relationships? Getting to know your neighbors? Being in a place where life isn’t running at high speed?
I’m fortunate to be in a boat-access-only place on a little lake in the middle of the wilderness. It’s only taken me 35 years to be able to afford such a place, and I cherish it. But I now wonder about my winter months and where we will land. Small towns are more appealing than ever.
Where Will You Get Off?
That freight train called COVID-19 has stopped at a station many of us have not visited for years, if ever — the village of relationships. The only question is, will we stop here to settle or get back on the roller coaster?
I can’t make that decision for you. I’m sure you know where your heart lies. But I think the world will soon sigh a breath of relief, and all of this will be behind us. And as you take a big sigh, you’ll realize that everything is going to be all right after all.
And like this old 1904 Adirondack chair that has seen it all, we too will be able to tell our grandkids what we lived through, and how in our darkest days it did not seem like we could ever get through it, but we proudly made it, picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and realized that we’re capable of anything.
I’m proud of you.
PS: We all have our unique stories. I hope you put yours in the comments below.
And if you’re one of those people who wants to find a new you, I can offer you a lot of free painting advice and instruction. You can see some resources below.
Also, last week I announced what we think is a historic virtual event, the first time in history anyone has brought the world of plein air (outdoor) painters together worldwide. Plein Air Live is already seeing massive registration from all over the world. Check it out at PleinAirLive.com. And we have a beginner’s day you may want to attend if you are curious. You don’t have to sign up for the whole event, you can attend just the beginner’s day.
This is great, Eric! But I must confess, as being a homeschooling, California almond farmer we have been living this isolated life already. We love the family time, fresh produce, and working outdoors during the hours of the sun. We are surrounded by lavender, Blueberries, blooming trees, and my daughter’s grass fed beef. Our life really hasn’t changed except for not getting together with others outside the family.
I am so glad to see you and others speaking of the silver lining of slowing down and speaking face to face again. I truly think that we can all come out of this a better nation. Thank you for your continual uplifting messages and tips for artists and for being a light to the many who have endured extremely grave hardships. Congratulations for passing day 100!!! (Or is it 107 now) 👍👍 This has been a great opportunity for many!!!
I so enjoy your writing. I love the pictures you paint with words. I picture Life on Golden Pond and can hear the Loons. Life today is like it was when I was growing up many years ago: much simpler. It was all about relationships! Today we are moving too fast to make lasting relationships. Everyone is in a hurry, the work ethic is calling. In suburbia I watch the birds, lizards and butterflies enjoy our garden. The grandchildren have planted a garden for grandma and grandpa. They call often to ask how things are growing. We have an orange tree planted the same year as one of the children was born. This past year we had 100 oranges at Christmas. We shipped them to the children. They had so much fun making orange juice!
Eric, I love your style of writing. I found out recently a dear friend took one of your classes in Santa Rosa. Does the name Claaussen ring a bell? He painted lovely seascapes.
Keep writing, Eric. You lift my spirits!
Eric , I don’t know you personally but I feel as though I am with a friend whenever I read your comments on Sunday morning coffee. You write your thoughts down so easy. I am just a novice at painting but I love it so much. I am 77 years old and I’m retired. Thank so much for your encouragement. Sincerely Anne
Morning!! PLEASE DON’T MOVE HERE!! I live in a small town, in a state that has been spared, but more than that , we like it this way!! We really don’t need BIG CITY folks coming here to tell us how we must change this, change that and behave differently! PLEASE DON’T MOVE HERE. Please! We know you can buy and sell us, but we really aren’t ‘for sale’! We have too many imported politicians that want to make themselves important in this smaller pond and guide us back to the lives they left. PLEASE DON’T MOVE HERE.
Thank you Eric for your support during this difficult time. I listen to your talks everyday and watch the afternoon video. I have purchased a couple of the videos I thought could help me. Yesterday I shared your free lessons to a friend that I think will become a painter.
At 17 I started college in Toledo, Ohio. It was 1955. I had to choose between Architecture and Fine Art. I went with fine art. After 2 years of not learning much and in need of money, I got a job at Richter Art Co, a maker of wall decor. I started as a silk screen-printer. I made the screens and printed the wall decor. A few years later I started to design and sculpt the plaques. After 6 years they lost the business and I had to move on. About 6 months earlier a guy came in looking for a job. After learning that we were cutting back, he said that he was going over to the Paint by Number company and see if they were hiring. So I thought I would give that a try. When I went over to CraftMaster and he was working there. They hired me to do freelance work and after 6 months I became an apprentice to the Head Artist, Adam Grant. 6 years later they sold the company, Adam retired because of health problems. When they sold the company, there was a clause that said they could not compete for 2 years. They hired me to start a new company, CraftHouse. I was to get a salary plus a commission on all the sales. Of course, there were no sales for around 3 years. I design 36 paintings over the next two years. We went back in business and 5 years later we became the largest PBN company in the world. After 16 years, I retired. Opened an Art gallery on Hilton Head Island. I taught and sold my landscape paintings. 3 years later I took my camper out west. After 13 National Parks and 40 paintings, I decided to move west. Designed and built a 4500 sq ft house with a 450 sq ft studio out of adobe blocks. Opened a 400 sq ft studio in Tucson and taught classes. After 2008, I lost my students and sales went down. Over the course of 20 years, 6 art galleries that I was in went out of business, Moved to Sahuarita, AZ, 45 minutes south of Tucson. I had back surgery 7 years ago and it left me with neuropathy in my feet and calves. Because of that, I am not mobile enough to go every place to paint plein air anymore. Now I paint every day in my studio. Enter 1 art show a year. I have 600 paintings to show the world but don’t know how to get them before their eyes. I don’t know how to download my work to this site. Send me an email address and I can download some of my work.
Thanks Jack S Wahl
Your Sunday Coffee is something I look forward to every week. It is inspiring writing. Thanks
you’re a beautiful writer, Eric. As always, thank you for providing grounding encouragement, excellent food for thought, and reminding us that the window is opening and we can choose to edit and crop to create the eventual composition that will be our “new selves”.
Thanks for another thoughtful newsletter.
I wanted to share with you how your efforts have impacted me through these last months of lockdown.
Fortunately, your enthusiasm and optimism prove to be more contagious than COVID 19. Your faithfulness in continuing to be available as well as making other great artists available to us during this time has been invaluable.
I have shared some snippets of your videos with my husband, who isn’t even an artist, and he enjoys watching. You’re genuineness as a human really comes through in all that you do. I think the world needs more of that – simple genuine humanity.
My husband and I have lived in a rural setting here in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey for almost 28 years, so we are accustomed to being isolated from the crowds. We chose this setting because we thought it would be a great place to raise our 5 children, and it was. They are all grown now; only our youngest (and only daughter) lives at home. She travels into Philly everyday for work.
We have missed the freedom we had to go into Philly now and then to meet our kids for lunch or just to visit the museums, etc. , and we’ve really missed just being able to go out for a simple dinner once a week. I realize we are very fortunate that the inconveniences we’ve experienced are very small compared to many who have really suffered great losses.
My daughter’s office is in one of the buildings on a block in Philadelphia that was destroyed by the rioters and looters. She was told not to go into work for 2 days after the first weekend of protests/rioting. When she did go back, her boss told her to take a different route that would keep her in safer zones of the city.
I’m sharing this because it’s seems a bit surreal to people in our circumstances who are living so remotely from the center of all the turmoil. We may tune in our TV’s a couple times a day, or check in on the internet to see what’s going on, but out here, we’re very buffered by the distance and the peacefulness of nature. When our daughter told us of the damage and the sights that she witnessed walking to her office, it brought great sadness to me to hear of the destruction and vandalism that was left in the wake of the rioting. I grew up outside of Philadelphia and that was my go -to town.
This is where you and all the artists who you’ve made available to us comes in. Creative people are very sensitive to the world around us. I remember as I was growing up, my mom would always sum up everything she didn’t understand about me by saying, “You’re an artist, you’re temperamental, you’re overly sensitive.”
I always thought that was a weakness or a problem, but as I grew up and became Me, I understood that part of myself better. Perhaps we do feel things more deeply; sometimes I don’t think we realize how deeply. In the past months during the COVID lockdown and then the last several weeks of unrest, being able to tune in to watch and listen to you or a live stream by another great artist, provided a connection for me to others who, on some level, share the same experience in our humanity. I realize that, like my mom, not everyone gets what it feels like to FEEL so much, and that’s ok – we need that in this world – it gives us balance. But because we feel so much we seek out ways to express those feelings so that they don’t get all backed up inside of us. That is God’s gift to the “overly sensitives” – the gift of creativity. Your gift to us Eric, is your steadfastness in getting out there to encourage us to keep doing that, to keep being creative, and artistic, and expressive.
Your enthusiasm is contagious, and that has been so helpful to me during these past several crazy, tumultuous , uncertain months. I realize you probably have days when it’s a struggle, and you are very honest about that too- so I hope you take this comment as the encouragement that it’s meant to be. Many are blessed by your efforts and the investment of your time. I hope you and your family enjoy your time at the cabin.
Happy Father’s day, and hold on to your hat, cause when the kids go off to college- you’re on a whole new adventure – but it’s all good!
Many blessings to you, your wife and children!
I appreciate your comforting weekly words
But i have to say to everyone, living in a small town does NOT cure all of one’s
problems. I am fortunate to live in both city and small town . We can no longer ski, snowshoe, hike, canoe etc etc so love our theatre, opera, fine dining etc. is in city life. And the notion that city people are unfriendly, I always ask people what THEY do to be friendly !!! And small town gossip. Rampant in any small town i have ever lived.
So it is important what one has , and where one lives, there is joy in all. Important to remember that one usually carries their attitude wherever they are !
Happy Solstice !
I look forward to your positivity – even before the trials of 2020. Thank you for making me smile, cry, and grateful for my life. You are truly an inspiration….
My story? I told the teen age babysitter, when i was 6, that I was going to be an artist when I grew up. I planned it all my life. I have painted on the side, or stowed away all my materials for years along the way. Raised eight children, had multiple jobs, owned a business, worked twenty years in public education, had some painting shows with friends and sold all my work. Taught arts and crafts at after school programs, taught occasional painting classes to small groups of friends. Squeezed in my ‘hobby’ with an over-crowded, ultra busy life because once we creatives profess art as our life, then it will find a way to live that reality. Your outreach, your interviews have been absolutely amazing for me. To hear similar walks in life from other artists, to know that other hearts have such unique journeys on the way to creativity is beyond inspiring….and has provided company to my isolation in this strange year. Having just retired from my school career, at loose ends, I now am re-inspired by your interviews as much as each artist’s unique understanding of color, value and technique. Thank you for what you have brought to us all.
Thank you Eric for your insight on what is happening in today’s world. I’m painting AGAIN and I’m loving it. Painting and being creative is relaxing and helps to stop the chatter in my mind. By shutting off the constant negativity that is bombarding us everyday through social media, I have reconnected with my passion of seeing the beauty that I am surrounded with and can’t wait to grab a paint brush to humbly recreate that beauty that GOD has blessed us with. I’m looking forward to the PACE in Santa He so I can paint the southwest.
If there was a Nobel Prize for the Arts, you should be the recipient. By demonstrating a higher purpose, inspiring artists at every level to succeed, and by your selfless devotion to furthering excellence and enjoyment of the arts, you are hereby nominated. Thanks, as always!
Thanks. As always very encouraging, informative, and insightful. Same for the daily vídeos. Would love to join the upcoming events but home responsibilities wont allow it. BiG THANKS!
WOW, 1904 chair and a great cup of coffee and only the sounds of birds , listen to the morning.
What more could you ask for, have a great Fathers Day to all the Dads out there and a wish to every one a wonderful Sunday.
I was born and grew up on a farm in South Dakota and have lived here most of my life, so I don’t feel the changes people in large cities have. I am widowed and retired and finally able to get back to my painting, which I missed for 25 years when I was in the fast food business. This time of self distancing has been so good for my art – especially the video clips you have faithfully posted on FB. Seeing your 11:00 a.m. video has started my creative day since you first started posting. I had a solo show planned for May. Now it will be in August with a virtual reception and artist talk. Actually I think more people will see my art this way that having the typical reception, and I am looking forward to it. Life is good here in South Dakota.
I love this newsletter. The only news I do read and I can say listen to. Your true words hit the mark with my heart. I am an oil painter. I love painting portraits. Although my story isn’t full of thrills or big epiphany. Just prior to the virus shutdown. I was inspired by Stjephan Hauser a professional Croatian cellist. I found on utube. He is amazing. He played with such ease. So I rented a cello. Some would say, so big deal. Well to me it was. The hardest, most difficult unforgiving instrument. I love the sound, but found it to be so challenging. I’m taking lessons now. But was even more interesting to me. I’m writing a book! Now I’m not a writer! I’m in the “See the Cat, the Cat has fur” stage of writing. But….I’m writing. A novel . Which was also inspired by this cellist. Funny how 1 person or 1 moment in time will rocket a project forward or give a gift of gentle loving thoughts to the heart. That is what your doing my friend. I’ve never met you personally, but I have to say you are my friend and I know your heart. One more thought. I believe there is a beautiful large caldron in Heaven full of creation, love and inspiration. Majority of people hesitate In fear to reach in with their hand and take a share. I did took a share . And I see you have as well. (P.S. I think you put in a straw. No worries. I’m sure its allowed.). Bless you and your family.
Gail….I absolutely love your heart, and your story. Thank you for sharing. And yes, isn’t Eric Rhoad’s outreach a true inspiration? Thank YOU.
Spending every day painting and improving with all the lessons. Thank you so much. Spending 30 or more minutes daily reading and studying the Bible. Lost my job but such a blessing as I got to spend 4 quality weeks with our son before he starts the Air Force Academy. Healing from all my stress related issues from working as physical therapist in rehab facility rampant with Covid. Eating healthier and losing weight. All blessings!
I’m a retired Principal from India. I have come to States to visit my children. Painting is my hobby and so I googled some sites for tips on painting. I came across your instructional videos and then there was no stopping of me.. After a gap of 35 years, I regained my confidence and have started painting again . I don’t have enough words to thank you. I would have readily joined your workshops but I have to travel back to India next month. Thanks once again for inspiring thousands of art lovers.
Good Morning, Eric
A very timely message this morning. Thank you for your spot-on insight. These last few months … it has been a great time to be an introvert. The world has been quieter. Less distracting. The extroverts in our society have all been forced to stay home. And I think many of them have grown to appreciate a world with less frenzy and “noise”, as our lives were turned upside down with the coronavirus. My friends all tell me they appreciate their families, friends and homes so much more.
I live in the mountains of western North Carolina. This is an area where people have long come to for escape – from malaria on the coast, mental illness, unrest in our cities. Something about this area draws you in, and in short order, you achieve a sense of peacefulness not experienced before. While usually vibrant with arts events and plenty of dining options, the virus and subsequent lockdowns has pretty much cancelled everything. It is sad the area had to experience this as many lives have been affected with lost jobs.
I was envious at first – hey, who wouldn’t like a break where you could be paid to stay home? – but no longer feel this way. My full and part time jobs were both considered essential, so heigh ho, off to work I would go. My full time job is in building materials supply. This is my first year here and already my sales are on track to do 3 times what my predecessor ever did. So many people want to come here that real estate sales and home building have accelerated. It is a nice situation to be in and I am grateful.
I have made more time for art during this isolation period than I ever had before. Nothing is open, so I just go home and paint. And it has been wonderful. I thank you wholeheartedly for all the videos you have so graciously shared. I watch the ones with topics I’m interested in, absorbing the lessons and working to improve my skills. My pastel Society has been active offering online events to keep the members engaged. And I have enjoyed helping to make these events possible.
Having lived in big cities before, I never really understood the attraction. Long commutes. Overtime hours. Business travel. Family demands. These often kept me from doing the things my area offered or even meeting people and making friends. And I’m sure others would agree. I am glad to see the shifts away from crowded cities. This is a big beautiful country and the smaller cities and towns have much to offer. You just have to look for the silver lining.
Thank you for being that beacon of light for artists!
“What I fear is not living my life with the level of quality intended. “. Yes! Thank you eric, for your insight and reminders. Also i loved watching the 3pm instructional videos….grateful plein air painter, fran
Thank you for your musings today which are relevant and meaningful as ever.
I am lucky enough to be living in the country and have always found it to be a refuge from the frantic pace of life that is modern living. I have been lucky to have a profession which I love, yet is demanding and at times difficult. I put in long hours and over the years it has taken its toll and this year my health began to slide until last March I found myself in hospital with pneumonia following a virus. It was a close run thing, but thankfully I survived and slowly I am now well on the mend. During my recuperation I have often contemplated the questions you put in this morning’s message to us all. I am still processing what happened to me and trying to make sense of it all. I know I have been given a second lease on my life and I don’t want to squander it. I want to make a difference.
I have a new job come September doing what I did before. It will mean a move so I am completely starting over. Luckily it is in another rural area and for me living close to nature is a must. I would like to be doing something where I am contributing to society. I am halfway there already as I am a teacher. I would like to do more for the environment and encourage us all to live a more sustainable life and I love to paint!
I should like to settle down and develop roots and play a full part in the community that I adopt. It would be nice to pick up the threads of life and no longer live my life on my own, but I think that rests with fate. I would like to be quietly busy and have more time to devote to creative activities that give people joy and I wish to remain positive in all things. Going forward I should like to achieve a better work life balance so that I can give more time to those who need it and make a difference to their lives too.
I so enjoy reading your Sunday thoughts. You are a wonderful writer!
I have also enjoyed the videos, and thank you for your generosity.
I’ve only watched a few, because I like to let the techniques and advice sink in. If I don’t practice before watching a different artist, the lesson gets lost. As in most things, quality is so much more earning fuel than quantity!
And that is my quarantine lesson as well: I have discarded much, and am holding on to fewer, but more meaningful – people, relationships, experiences.
For the first time in my life, I am painting for me, with no expectation that my work will be shown, accepted, sold. These paintings are deeply personal, and document the year 2020, as filtered by my emotions.
They are about the people who have risen to meet the challenges of our time.
When I paint en Plein air these days, it is to recharge and breathe, but the paintings in my studio consume me.
It took about a month before I could paint, when all this started. Now I can’t wait each day to grab my brushes.
Thank you, Eric, for keeping the flame alive.
Wishing you a happy Father’s Day and cheering you on from the sidelines!
In deep appreciation, Pati
Thank you Eric! Always a joy to read your Sunday Coffee emails. The small town I love, and live in, is welcoming so many new people seeking that simpler lifestyle you’ve referred to. I feel blessed at this moment in time and appreciate the connections I have with my family and friends all the more.
I found my happiness 15 years ago when I retired. Smaller town with lots of culture and the free time to be a little bored while I searched for what I wanted to do. I started painting in 2009 with help from art classes, artist friends, and Plein Air magazine. I have a huge scrap book of paintings that I cut out from Plein Air , some of my own photos and notes. I use it often to spark ideas and answer questions so thank you for that. I have also read your Sunday notes since you began writing them, always thought provoking. It is amazing to watch you set a goal and achieve it. I also signed up for Plein Air Live. I am sure it will be a blast.