Thursday, July 28, 2011

Well done, good and faithful servant

I never really liked dogs all that much. I'm more of a cat person.

Ginger changed that.

She came into our family as a Christmas present for our 12 year old son. We figured every boy should have a dog. I don't know what it was about her that won my heart - I could list so many heartwarming memories of her and they would just sound old and cliched. Most of us have experienced similar stories with dogs.
I do know one thing - she loved us perfectly. Whether we deserved it or not I can't really say; that didn't matter to her. She accomplished everything she was created for.

I have shared here that I worry. A pastor once told me that I shouldn't worry. Worrying was a sign of a lack of faith. I don't think he realized how destructive that advice was for me. This well meaning advice was given by someone who is not burdened by being overly sensitive. I once shared in this post how I've come to view being too sensitive, but I've also come to think that one of the consequences of feeling things more deeply than some people is that of course you worry more. Events that are merely a hiccup to other people can wipe the floor with me and leave me completely twisted up, wrung out, and spent. Worry? Heck yeah!

I have a worry that trumps all other worries. As the most foundational worry of all, it is mostly hidden, lying beneath the surface day to day, week to week transitory worries that occupy my conscious mind, mostly forgotten until something taps that bedrock and shakes my foundation to the core. The worry goes back to this quote: "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matt.25:23). The Bible says that these are the words that the Lord will greet us by when we return home from this life.

My deepest fear is that I won't hear that greeting because I have fallen so very short.

I know that many people don't think that animals are in heaven. I can't help but think that they are wrong. While my own eternal reception haunts me, there is one thing in this confusing life of which I am absolutely certain: When Ginger went back this week to be with her creator, there is no doubt in my mind that she heard the words:

"Well done, good and faithful servant".

Monday, July 25, 2011

Run your own race

I ran in my once-per-year competitive race this last week-end. My primary reason for running isn't physical fitness, it's for my mental health so competitive running with lots of people isn't really my thing. But I do enjoy this one run. It's pretty low key; the distance (8K or about 5 miles) is right, and it's along the Centennial Trail, which is my favorite running place.

This year I was excited about the race - I was running well and had set an ambitious goal for myself. Everything looked great until my middle back started to give me problems a few weeks before the race. I had to cut back on my runs and the morning of the run I just wasn't sure how it would go. I knew I could always walk parts of it, but that would be disappointing.

It turned out to be a wonderful race - I actually not only met my goal, I beat it by over 2 minutes.

What I really wanted to share was a refrain that I had to repeat to myself over and over before and during the race:

Run your own race!

When I got there and saw how many serious, long-legged, obviously competitive runners were milling around and started to do the comparison thing:

Run your own race! It doesn't matter what your body build is like compared to theirs. It doesn't matter that you started running late and you wish you had started younger...none of that has anything to do with YOU RIGHT NOW!

During the run when I felt the pressure to keep at a pace that was not comfortable and started to wonder if I could even keep running:

Run your own race!

When I saw the fastest runners already heading back around the loop before I made it to the half-way point and felt discouraged:

Run your own race! What they are doing has NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU. It is irrelevant.

I had to repeat that refrain so many times to myself that I couldn't help but think about how the wisdom within it applies to all of life. Each person is on their own path, running their own race and each race/racer is unique.

Like anything in life, this is a complicated thought because you have to balance the potential to learn from others with the peril of comparisons and the fact that what other people are doing could very likely be totally IRRELEVANT to what you need to do. As I reflect on my life I think I look to others too much, thinking that if I follow their path it will help me on mine.

Hmmm, maybe not.

I think I will focus more on running my own race.

Friday, July 22, 2011

All hands (talons) on deck!!!

Or - I'm ready for my close-up.

I am excited to share the personal visit paid to MY deck yesterday by my elusive guest neighbors. Here is a photo chronicle of these fiercely magnificent birds:

Have a magnificent (fiercely magnificent) week-end.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Band of brothers

Or maybe sisters - with hawks, who can tell? (OK, I'm sure wildlife people can tell, but I can't.)

This summer we've been treated to a hawk family making our trees their nesting place. I first spotted an adult this spring and I was hoping they would choose our trees. (I felt a little bit like Linus and his pumpkin patch - hoping that the Great Pumpkin would choose HIS pumpkin patch.) All was silent for awhile and I came to the conclusion that they had chosen accommodations elsewhere.

WRONG, I am happy to say! The absence of crow activity should have alerted me to the fact that the hawks were indeed neighbors. I have happily watched four juveniles literally testing their wings and I've noticed a couple of interesting things:
  • These magnificently created, aerodynamic, birds of prey are incredibly BAD at flying - at least right now. They hop a lot - from branch to branch, anything to keep from actually flying. When they do fly, as can be expected, the landings give them problems. It's quite comical to watch them knock their brother off a branch because of a missed landing. They sound like small children fighting when this happens.

How encouraging! Even hawks must work very hard at what they were BORN to do. They must stumble, keep practicing, fail a little, keep practicing, look incompetent - even silly, keep practicing, eventually becoming proficient.

  • They stick together. Even though they knock each other off the branches sometimes, they stay close to each other. It's so helpful to be around others of your own kind who are facing the same challenges, struggles, and failures.

Watching these beautiful creatures has been such a blessing. I don't know why I pay for cable television (OK, I know...winter).

On a totally different note, I have exciting news from the trail. My favorite trail wildflower, which I named "Chocolate Pearls", is in bloom! I noticed them at the end of last summer, when they were at the end of their time and I painted them. It was a challenge to incorporate all of the structural details of these plants in one painting. Their sword shaped leaves, what I call the chocolate pearls, the purple/pink buds, and the beautiful flowers are each stunning in and of themselves, but because the plant is quite tall, it is hard to help a viewer to see it all of these details. How wonderful to seem them when they are in their full glory.

Flowers The whole plant


I hope you are having a great week.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What's your style?

I've been working on STYLE in the studio lately:

Small and detailed:

Large and stylized:

A comparison:

I've had so much fun with these that I've been thinking of doing a montage: one large stylized painting consisting of several components, two or three small detailed paintings of close ups of one of the components.

What's your style?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Listen to your heart

But then consult your brain.

Your REASONING brain, that is - not your FEAR brain. I've decided that I have two brains. Perhaps you do too.

A few runs ago, I noticed that my brain sends a constant stream of messages my way - a lot of which are total bunk - balderdash - phooey - baloney and let's just say it - LIES!!! They come from the fear brain - the part of the brain that really means well - it is trying to save me from imminent peril, but doesn't serve me well when I'm not being chased by grizzly bears, which is most of the time.

Messages like: "This is too hard", "I can't do it", "I'm not going to make it", "If I continue like this I'M GOING TO DIE!!!! WARNING, WARNING, WILL ROBINSON"

I have discovered that in situations like that, I should listen to my heart. I have developed an actual dialogue with my heart and two brains that goes something like this:

FEAR BRAIN: "This is too hard. My heart is beating too fast. I'm already tired and I just started. I can't run for long today".
REASONING BRAIN: "OK, maybe you're right; let's check with the heart. Heart, how are you feeling?"
HEART: "Doing well. I can make full use of oxygen and we can take a full breath. No gasping for air. So far, so good".
REASONING BRAIN: "OK, FEAR BRAIN? See, everything is OK. I'm taking care of you".

And so, I'm at peace for a few moments and I can continue. Then the cycle is repeated with variations. I can even push myself using this dialogue. As I approach a hill I can reassure FEAR BRAIN, that yes, HEART is straining but everything is ok, there's a top to the hill and then a recovery period.

Did you notice something interesting in that dialogue? I did. I have experienced much greater success with running since consciously giving voice to these three personas within me. The key has been listening to FEAR BRAIN. In the past I have just tried to ignore that voice, pretend it isn't there. Bad idea.


Remember, it's whole purpose is to SAVE MY LIFE. If I am ignoring it, it is obvious that I am either oblivious to my impending doom or I am too stupid to care so FEAR BRAIN will try other tactics which include various stealth attacks using the mind and the body as tools. It will not stop until I give up.

Listening to FEAR BRAIN, and then neutrally examining information that challenges its message has yielded such positive results in running that I am going to scientifically try it in my professional life. It will be especially interesting when I am moving through a hot pocket. I am excited to see what happens.

I had to throw in some pictures from the trail.

Keep moving forward, my friends. Have a wonderful week.