Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Stuff that Matters

I sometimes look back at my life and am reminded that the only stuff that made any difference, that really mattered, was (and is) the time spent with those I love.

Vacations, meals together, school and church activities, and friendships all feed my soul and create lifelong memories. These are what I remember most from my early years, and continue to be the things that matter, and make me who I am.

I got an email the other day that had this Chinese proverb at the end:

If there is light in the soul, there will be beauty in the person.
If there is beauty in the person, there will be harmony in the house.
If there is harmony in the house, there will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.

There were some wonderfully bright souls that got together last weekend, and I had the opportunity to bask in their light and beauty. The world has a better future because they are in it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Big Art

I finished painting a special wall mural last night.

I couldn't help but think of the first mural that I ever did. It was a large painting of children, and small animals, and trees, and grass and birds. One whole wall in the nursery at church was covered with my early art. The toddlers enjoyed it for nearly twenty years until a room remodel was done, and the wall was either torn down or buried under new sheet rock.

Over the years, I have worked on a variety of oversized paintings and graphics. I've done huge numbers on garage doors and high-rise elevators. I worked on backdrops for school plays, painted the sides of trucks and store windows, and acted as assistant and advisor on a 40-foot long playroom wall mural for which my son had been commissioned.

It requires a different mindset to work on something close up, knowing it will be viewed from a distance. Scaled preliminary drawings, larger brushes, more paint, and a tad more energy are all critical for success in painting big art.

So, back to the newest mural: a large, white tree, painted in a new bedroom where a very special little person will wake up each morning. Grandchild number one will soon be here! We are looking forward to meeting you, Amelia Jane!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The early bird catches the you-know-what

There is something almost fantasy-like about the early morning hours.

I remember when I was a kid, delivering the Saint Paul Life newspaper, how much I appreciated the silence of predawn darkness as I began my weekly route. I enjoyed the crisp crunch of snow on the sidewalk under my feet, and seeing the first lights being turned on as people started to get ready to go to work. The only traffic I ever saw was a garbage truck driving by or a police car cruising the neighborhood, and that was fine by me.

During the summer, when school was out, I loved to go fishing in the early morning hours. I rode my bike to pick up minnows at Gimp's Bait Shop on Rice Street, and he never seemed to be very happy when I knocked on the door at 5:00 a.m., soon to learn I was only going to buy a few shiners. I'd pack my bait carefully, then make the long bike ride to Sucker Creek, all the while anticipating the huge crappies that awaited me as the sun came up. Still today, there isn't much that can match the magic of an early morning fishing trip. Being the first one at the boat landing, pushing off from the dock in the dark, and making the cool journey to my favorite bay is enough to give me goose bumps. The excitement of the first cast into the foggy water is only surpassed by the explosion of a bass, breaking the surface, with the sun just starting to come up on the horizon.

As a young adult, living on my own, I frequently stopped at Serlin's Cafe or Embers Restaurant for bacon and eggs before going to work. Because I was a "regular," the waitress knew my order, and would have that first cup of coffee poured even before I got my jacket off. I have fond memories of those early morning hours spent at Embers for another reason too, because it was there, in a booth by a window overlooking Highway 36, that a young woman (who would later become my wife) would often meet me for breakfast and conversation as we got to know one another.

I still am an early riser. It seems that no matter what time I go to bed at night, I wake up between 4:30 and 5:00 a.m. I enjoy a leisurely breakfast while reading at the kitchen table, and then I head out to work or the studio, knowing I will accomplish more before 8:00 a.m. than in the entire 8 hours that follow.

Whoever said that the early bird catches the worm was correct, in more ways than one. I wonder what time he got up every morning.

Northern Sunrise, original acrylic by Dennis Sterner