One precious day

Dear Artist, It seems as if most of the world’s artists, at one time or another, have passed through my studio. They come in all shapes and sizes, old and young, rich and poor, from all manner of crafts and disciplines. Some are what we like to call “successful,” others are not so. In listening to these folks, I’m always looking for some essential kernel of the creative being, a kernel that might be useful knowledge for others. Sometimes I see what I call “The Gratitude Factor.” It’s an attitude ripe with observation, enthusiasm and appreciation — a daily configuring of life that includes a sense of wonder. These folks don’t miss the moving clouds, the sunsets and sunrises, the tiny flowers of the field. Their days are studded with the bright stars of surprise. While it might be easy to call them “blessed,” I’ve figured their attitudes are mainly of their own making. They’ve taught themselves how to better love the world. You’ll catch my drift if you look at a ten-minute TED talk posted at the top of the current clickback. It includes a video work-in-progress of California photographer Louis Schwartzberg. Louis is a master of time-lapse photography, a branch of art that plays with the mystery of time. “I’ve been filming time lapse flowers continuously,” says Louis, “24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 35 years. To watch them move is a dance I’ll never get tired of. Their sensual beauty immerses us with color, smell, taste and touch.” Schwartzberg gives a microcosmic example of falling in love — just the thing we need to fill our days with meaning and purpose. “Carpe Diem,” said the Latin poet Horace. “Seize the day.” We who walk on this particular planet are dealt one 24-hour day at a time. It is an arbitrary span, like the opening and closing of a flower, a time-lapse bloom of its own. Creative people understand this temporary blossoming and learn to take advantage of it. Every precious day is yet another opportunity to serve — to carry further wonder to the world.

Lil and Fred’s bench in Crescent Park

Best regards, Robert PS: “Beauty and seduction is nature’s tool for survival, because we will protect what we fall in love with. Their relationship is a love story that feeds the Earth.” (Louis Schwartzberg) Esoterica: How does one gain the attitude of gratitude? A popular tradition in our area is for families to name park benches after their recently departed. Not far from my studio there’s a bench with a time-worn inscription: “Stop and Smell the Roses, Lil and Fred.” In the summer, wild roses bloom nearby. I never met our neighbors Lil and Fred, nor did I know of them, but their advice is good. No matter how busy our days may be, a full stop once in a while is key to abiding gratitude. One precious day I’ll paint roses on the bench of Lil and Fred.     Embracing the sense of wonder by Karen Gillis Taylor, Niwot, CO, USA  

“Aspen lane”
oil painting
by Karen Gillis Taylor

Your letter reminded me of how I became a committed artist, and learned that embracing my love of something like the brilliance of a sunset is not chasing a cliché but recognizing we witness a gift renewed time and again. I can’t tell you how many mornings in Colorado I’ve run out with camera to capture the sky at dawn. Not that I’m even painting only these remarkable skies, but even trying to capture the colors and light rewards a person. That act alone infuses a memory into one’s art we draw upon later. We are building a deep reservoir. If I didn’t embrace the sense of wonder at what we find in our world, my art would be empty. I would say to any young artist, as I was in the 6th grade, discovering I could really draw a tree… test yourself and draw from nature. See what you can do and if you find a connection there, you are on your way to a beautifully inspired life in art.   Reconnecting with essential wisdom by Darrell Baschak, Manitou Beach, SK, Canada  

“Sweet dreams”
pastel painting, 9 x 11.5 inches
by Darrell Baschak

Thank you for this amazing, uplifting video. The child and old man epitomize that essential wisdom we all need to reconnect with. In these crazy times we are living in today, it is good to be reminded to just be present to the gift of today and to share that with others, in any way possible. I find it hard to put in words the wonder I felt as I listened and watched this gem of a video, so thanks to you Robert and the gentleman that put it all together. I am going to circulate it to my friends and acquaintances.     Beauty in the details by Deena Welde Peschek, Jersey Shore, NJ, USA   Thank you so very much for sharing Louis Schwartzberg’s outstanding work in time lapse photography. His moving images (literally and figuratively) give concrete form to, and record, the beauty surrounding us every day — if we would only get out of our houses, our offices and our cars to take a closer, slower, look. I’m a freelance writer and amateur photographer, and I love the detail that I find looking through the lens of a camera, and I love being outside. When I have had my share of writing and indoor work, one of my favorite activities is hopping into my little Miata, popping the roof, and following the road until I find something worth exploring with my camera. Although I’ve moved from rural New Hampshire to the most densely populated state in the country, New Jersey, I live at the Jersey Shore in Ocean County, just a mile or two from the coastline. The beaches never fail to fascinate me, but so does zooming in on anything that catches my eye. The details… they can be so beautiful. By the way, who is the adorable, brown-haired companion on Lil and Fred’s bench? And his breed? He looks like my favorite teddy bear. (RG note) Thanks, Deena. I was just saying to Dorothy (Airedale) that there were altogether too many writers this morning who told me to paint those roses right now — “seize the day,” etc., and not shilly shally around until next summer, so your letter was appreciated by both she and me this non-rosy wintry day, so we popped the top on the MG and went looking for crocuses. Thanks for the nudge.   Paint the roses now! by Margaret Bobb, Longmont, CO, USA  

original painting
by Margaret Bobb

If it’s truly important to you to paint those roses on that bench, do it soon! Then at least a few things will happen. A longing of yours will be fulfilled, and the niggling feeling of something left undone will go away. Also, I’m also supposing that many people would be delighted at those painted roses next to that sentiment — never mind the fact that they were done by You! I’m a stage IV cancer patient who has been blessed with at least three more years of time than the surgeon gave me. I fully understand those words, “One Precious Day.” Every day is a gift… and to tweak a phase from an Indiana Jones movie, “I have decided to choose wisely.” By the way, I am one of those blessed people who see the beauty all around me in things both small and large. I live close to Rocky Mountain National Park, and I go there as often as I can. When there, I am often brought to tears because it’s so achingly beautiful — I can scarcely take it all in. I get deep satisfaction from observing the colors that God paints into sunrises and sunsets — my 2 favorite times of day. I, too, notice those tiny flowers and use the macro zoom on my camera. Then I have fun editing the photos! There are 2 comments for Paint the roses now! by Margaret Bobb
From: Gwen Fox — Nov 25, 2011

Margaret….love your painting! Keep on “seeing and experiencing” each day. Most people never have the awareness to choose wisely or breathe in the beauty of everyday life……we are the lucky ones.

From: Sarah — Nov 30, 2011

Beautiful painting. You are right that it is a blessing to see all the beauty around us.

  ‘The days seize me’ by Richard Gagnon, Knowlton, QC, Canada  

“Sperm bank babies”
editorial illustrations
by Richard Gagnon

It was a kind of a sad letter today. You talk of people being successful and not so, yet those who can exercise their art are successful but probably don’t realize it. You refer to Horace yet later say that ‘one day’ you will paint roses at Lil and Fred’s bench. I constantly say, ‘One day I will get back to painting.’ It seems as though the days seize me. On a brighter note, it is a beautiful sunny day in eastern Quebec. The frozen grass makes a lively crunching sound as you walk over it. The garden hoses are also frozen and that will be a job for later today. In the meantime, back to the day job. Have a great day and maybe paint a rose.       A life with no bounds by Connie Cuthbertson, Fort Frances, ON, Canada  

“Three sisters”
original painting
by Connie Cuthbertson

I think the attitude of gratitude simply means to let go of that which bogs us down. For some people this may mean righting past wrongs; for others, perhaps, forgiving those who have done the wrong. I believe if it is your intent to truly live life with a grateful heart, first and foremost you must accept that life isn’t perfect. Only when you let the other “stuff” go, do you understand and see the infinite possibilities and include yourself as one others will call “lucky or blessed.” Attitude is a choice. Always look for the wonder and good in the day. Life really is an adventure. I choose the glass half full… which in artist terms means a brush in hand. Life is a dance One day you lean this way the next day twirl around to the other The rhythm of life will always push on the gift of life will show us a way to sing a way to breathe a way to be a way to live a way to flow a way to smile as you make your way round and round this life full of wonder this life with no bounds. There is 1 comment for A life with no bounds by Connie Cuthbertson
From: David Smith – My Lucky Fish — Nov 25, 2011

This is a beautiful piece of writing. Sometimes we all need to see something like this just to appreciate the sheer joy at the beautiful simplicity of a life well lived. Thank you, Connie. Great painting, too.

  Avoiding the artist’s rut by Bill Hogue, Dallas, TX, USA  

“Jockey of sorts”
original painting
by Bill Hogue

I’ve never met a retired artist. I think it’s wonderful that you can have a profession like art or acting or music in which you never retire. That’s the good part. The bad part is so many artists seem to be trapped by their talent. I’ve watched in amazement the caricaturist at the state fairs, who, with a few deft strokes produces an exaggerated likeness of the subject that I could never do. But that’s their day job and possibly that’s all they do. And then I’ve noticed, when I’m looking at art either on the Internet or at exhibits, that I’m blown away by some artist I’ve never heard of — by their creativity and use of color or composition. Then I go on the Web and explore what else they’ve done. This may sound strange but I’m disappointed to find more of the same. Those artists who worked so feverishly in the first part of their career and found success in selling a particular style or type of art and then spend their remaining years producing similarities to that art over and over, because it sells and they have nothing further to prove, are in my opinion doing their art a great disservice. Artists such as Warhol and Picasso never found that comfort zone and that is why they hold the position in art they do. There are 4 comments for Avoiding the artist’s rut by Bill Hogue
From: Paul deMarrais — Nov 25, 2011

Picasso and Warhol are two of the greatest commercially oriented hacks of all time. Their comfort zone was millions in the bank!

From: Angela Treat Lyon — Nov 25, 2011

Sheesh, sounds like you’re damned if you don’t make a buck and damned if you do! Who’s to say who’s a ‘hack’ and who’s a truly inspired, creative thinker/painter/artist? In the end, it’s the artist herself who decides what’s OK.

From: Nina Allen Freeman — Nov 26, 2011

I couldn’t agree with you more. Some artists found success in a certain style and maybe are afraid to branch out beyond that and lose their cash cow. But in the meantime their creativity has been stifled.

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Nov 28, 2011
  Accept the gift by Janie Seal, FL, USA  

“Summertime in the Rockies”
watercolour painting, 9 x 12 inches
by Janie Seal

Being a plein air artist, I feel that being aware of nature and what is around me is a gift… I’m often looking at clouds, the bay, fields, to think “How would I paint that? What would I mix to get that color? Look how the color is reflected there.” I love being aware, and I think it makes me grateful for the beauty that is around us all the time. Watching my late husband deal with having MS and being bedridden also gave me a daily appreciation for my senses and moving. When my feet hit the floor most mornings, I try to sit still… breathe… and give thanks for being able to see, hear, feel, taste, smell, and move, stand, walk. I never want to take these gifts for granted. There is 1 comment for Accept the gift by Janie Seal
From: patti — Nov 25, 2011

Thank you for your thoughts and beautiful sentiment. It is good to be reminded of what we all have to be thankful for. Lovely watercolor.


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for One precious day

From: Karin Richter — Nov 21, 2011

This is the most wonderful letter, Robert. I was deeply touched by your words and the attached video. Thank you!

From: Tom Semmes — Nov 22, 2011

Robert Thank you so much for a great posting and a link to a wonderful video that filled me with longing and joy. What a great way to start the day.

From: Jenifrette Romansky — Nov 22, 2011

I almost always find that after a day of painting in the field I return as satisfied with life as ever I am, regardless of the success (or not) of the painting. The only way to re-experience that, is to do it some more. And so on. Some of it is the feeling that I’ve just worked hard, and done my best. Some of it is that I love being out of doors among the vast miscellany of natural, and man-made, things. The only time I’ve had enough enjoyment is when I don’t have the energy to have any more.

From: Dar Hosta — Nov 22, 2011

Glorious post, Robert. All of it. Thanks.

From: Dee Poisson — Nov 22, 2011

Stop and paint the roses….. don’t just smell them.

From: Paula Timpson — Nov 22, 2011

a rose a rose is~ slow to open, a lasting gesture of thanks… lemons bow and hang low to the Earth green, yet to ripen~ oranges dangle ,full of flavor & sweet scent, Florida’s gold~! swans necks are hearts together~ humble as Golden Retrievers, they silently gaze at waters breath ,moving Light Forever Blessed

From: Geary Wootten — Nov 22, 2011

Most awesome message and extraordinary video Robert. Thank you so much for echoing my life’s new theme since surviving a heart surgery from a year ago….which is “Gratefulness”.

From: Chris Cantu — Nov 22, 2011

In thinking about the blessing of gratitude, or appreciation of life’s gifts, I think it is most easily acquired when young and that it possibly comes from, surprisingly, a touch of deprivation. A child who is sometimes left to his or her own devices, who is allowed to watch the passing parade of the clouds or listen to the wind rustle in the branches of a tree, learns to see a type of ever-present beauty that no video game, cell-phone or any other type of man-devised or electronic device can ever provide. A dose of boredom now and then is really an opportunity to discover the banquet of secret beauty that nature has provided.

From: Ina Beierle — Nov 22, 2011

I know what you are describing. It is the one gift that I am grateful for. Each day is a day for being moved by whatever appears in whatever way it comes…outside, inside, colors, sounds, words, light of the day, dark of the night…on and on.

Today, while listening to the music Scheherazade by (Rimsky-Korsakov) – I said to my husband…listen to the wind, the sea, the mood Korsakov created in his music and John gave me the best compliment he could by looking at my painting on the wall and saying, “I know what it feels like in your landscape, the place, the weather.” It struck me…think as if you are composing music…create the mood, the weather, the emotion. His words were my “Gratitude Factor” for the morning, the “oh, yes” inspirational moment.
From: Chris Ellis — Nov 22, 2011

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all the others”, Marcus Tullius Cicero 54 BC. I prefer “Gratitude may not be the greatest of all virtues but is the mother of all virtues” which is as I first heard it.

From: Bill Skrips — Nov 22, 2011

Wonderful post, but I’m interested in what Mr. Schwartzberg’s film would be like without the music (through the film I realized how much I was moved by the music soundtrack: did it help or hinder his “message”?). I guess my point is that for me the music compromised my take-away. I thought it emotionally seductive.

From: Judy Heyer — Nov 22, 2011

What a beautiful piece of prose that was! What an amazing way to think of each day – a time lapse of a flower opening and closing. Attitude and gratitude. Every now and then you read something that has a profound effect on how you view things – this article was one of those.

From: Julie Patat — Nov 22, 2011

The waitress/busser at Golden Corrall last nite said she has been there 4.5 yrs and thanks God everyday… She comes with an empty pocket and when she goes home she thanks God for whatever is in there after work. SHe drives an hr to work for this job and when she told me her story (of gratitude) she just made my day!

From: Brenda Behr — Nov 22, 2011

What a time-appropriate letter you’ve written. I love, love, love you for today’s thoughts. What a beautiful tribute you pay to we artists, successful and non-, alike. Your words bring tears to my eyes because I believe them to be so incredibly truthful. My very first collection of oil paintings was named Highway 13 Revisited. A 50 or so mile stretch of Hwy 13 links Goldsboro, NC, the town where I live with Greenville, North Carolina. It was only after many travels on this rural stretch of highway that I began to notice what is common in one light becomes extraordinary in another. What we miss in one season is a showstopper in another. Nature has a My Fair Lady way of singing, “Just you wait . . . “

She bedazzles us with her beauty from one scene and season to another. Plein air painters have a mantra, Oh wow! Oh wow!
From: John F. Johnson — Nov 22, 2011

At a studio tour I attended a week ago, an artist friend turned me on to Ted talks ( at I have been glued to that website ever since and have lauded it to dozens of customers and friends. Now you linked to it (above) and OMG – that from a spiritual/atheist, if that is not a conflict in terms.

From: Patricia Paine — Nov 22, 2011

I think you hit the essence here however it gets expressed it is a gift, really a gift of contemplation of the awesomeness and sacredness of life. Happy Thanksgiving thank you for sharing so much of your thoughts and observations , they are appreciated.

From: Susan Hirst — Nov 22, 2011

Some day? Get out there and paint that bench. While your at it, put some crocus’ in the ground at the bench’s feet.

From: Diane Overmyer — Nov 22, 2011

My fascination with nature and the ever changing light of our Northern Indiana skies has driven my family crazy for as long as they and I can remember. But my father did the same with our family when I was a child. I remember going on hikes with my father and always having to wait for him to catch up to us, because he would stop to take photographs at the most insignificant plant, bug or rock along the path. He was never satisfied with just one angle; no he had to walk around it and get the shot from several different angles and heights. At the time it was so annoying, but now I hold those memories with great fondness and I know he is a good part of the reason that I am so fascinated with our world. Most people want to pass money down to their children. I want to past my fascination and wonder of this world down to my children. I tell them that after I am gone, whenever they see a beautiful sunset or sunrise to think of me and know that I am up in heaven painting it just for them!

From: Anne Parlin — Nov 22, 2011

I want you to know that I am so grateful for you and your letters…this one in particular touched me deeply. There is some part of the bible (I think) that says something about having “the eyes to see and the ears to hear”. I often think of this when I am painting in plein air…and I feel just so grateful to be aware of that importance. To have the time to be just where I am at the moment, painting what I see, hear and feel all at the same time…what could be better? Have a very Happy Thanksgiving and thank you again.

From: Linda Parsons — Nov 23, 2011

Thank you so very much for sharing this most amazing, beautiful video, that’s what it’s all about!! I do look at everything with amazement, the sky, clouds, trees, seasons, people, all the shades of color around us. I love any form of art, all so creative and beautiful, and I do thank God every day for every day, and His many blessings.Bless you!Sincerely, Linda

From: David Mosier — Nov 23, 2011
From: Art Whitehead — Nov 23, 2011

Thank you Robert for your incredible insight and the love you express to all of us artists who are inspired by your sharing.

From: Jackie Knott — Nov 23, 2011
From: Jeanne Marklin — Nov 25, 2011

In gratitude for the relationships with family members, friends, yoga class, critique group, and Facebook contacts, I shared the link to the video. Many wrote back in gratitude, and passed the link on to others. It is wonderful to know that a video can spread the feeling of gratitude and give loved ones a few minutes of meditation. Especially for those who are stressed due to loss or economic challenges. Thank you for giving us an opportunity to share gratitude!

From: Jim Oberst — Nov 25, 2011

What an uplifting video. Thanks!

From: Andrew Wixcel — Nov 25, 2011

Lovely, thank you Robert.

From: Kathy Skelton — Nov 25, 2011

Please keep sending more things that are inspiring like this. This was one of the best letters yet. It made me very happy to know that there are wonderful people out there like this. Thanks, many many thanks!!

From: gail caduff-nash — Nov 29, 2011

I once painted a vase of gladiolas. It came from a whole field of gladiolas that was a wonderland to stand in. I started the painting in the middle of the day and by evening I had gotten most of it done. That’s when I realized that the open glads were closing! And they would be gone by the next day, ruining my arrangement. Quickly I painted any ‘notes’ I needed to finish it. The next day – there was a different arrangement in the vase. I managed to finish the painting based on my sketched out parts and by using the ‘new’ blooms – but it has stood as a reminder of the transient nature of our world. A “still life” isn’t always still. And gratitude is constantly saying “thank you!” – for the bloom, for the skill to capture it, for the NEXT bloom and the NEXT day . . . It’s recognizing gifts when you get them.

From: jan thomson — Nov 30, 2011

Wow.We live up in the mountains at Saint Arnaud, Nelson Lakes National Park, New Zealand. We moved here from the city two years ago and one of the overwhelming emotions I feel is gratitude. I often find myself perched on a boulder witha cup of tea just gazing up at the surrounding peaks, or watching the clouds race overhead.As we were building our home here I remember reading somewhere”Happiness is the bird singing in your own backyard”.When you are lucky enough to be surrounded by beauty, and allow yourself time to wonder at it , you then hold it inside yourself and can pass that on to others. Thanks for the inspiration.

From: John O’Keefe — Dec 16, 2011

Thank you Robert for your beautiful work in moving art. The video reminds us that truly all of art is ephemeral, ultimately beyond a complete grasp, and always eluding finite definition–eternal.

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oil painting, 12 x 12 inches by Karen Martin Sampson, Sayward, BC, Canada

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