From the place where you leave your kayak to the foot of Opaekaa Falls there’s a forested walk of about half an hour. The trail winds between the medieval roots of giant koa and baobob. Black boulders have been tumbled here and there by an ancient eruption. Unseen akikiki call from the canopy, and red junglefowl scratch in the underbrush. On the path there are fellow-travelers coming back from the falls. Others, going the same way as I, linger, while yet others, perhaps more professional walkers, dash on by.
It’s a dream of solitude. In the close jungle you can’t see far ahead or behind. The path just takes you. You trust its knowledge. The path has history. The Menehune, ancient dwarves of Kauai who only traveled or worked at night, came this way for celebration, initiation, sacrifice.
Finally you come to the falls. From high above the misty water cascades lightly into a deep and dark pool. Ferns and lanai hang down. A rainbow you can almost touch circles the falls and disappears down into the water. Weary travelers spread themselves on the sunny rocks beyond. Others cool off in the mysterious pool. Some are in and around the dancing water-veil and within the rainbow itself. The water is cold. Some stand on the rocky edge and dare not go in. Some test the pool. Others leap with ignorance and abandon, interfering with the magic.
Treading water, I move steadily toward my rainbow. Wherever I go, it goes somewhere else. When I think I’m in the place where my rainbow ends, I can no longer see my rainbow.
PS: “The harder you chase something, the faster you go and the less you’re able to let life meet life. If you’re having difficulty coming up with new ideas, then slow down.” (Natalie Goldberg)
Esoterica: It would all be less interesting if there was no mystery. Some of us do not care to ask the questions. Others among us know that the questions will remain unanswered. “Life is hurrying past us and running away, too strong to stop, too sweet to lose.” (Willa Cather)
The following are selected responses to the above and other letters. Thank you for writing.
Reality check please
by Mary Ann Fichtner-Mountain, Seattle, Washington, USA
Although it was many years ago before the islands were built up and inundated with concrete and MuMuus — that my husband and I were in Hawaii, I must say your description is fantasy, unless you have your own island. We walked the Menehune trail to their ponds, watched the fish and rays swim around the bay but it was not as you so poetically put it. I like your letters, but I fear you are going bonkers when you describe the places you say. Getting carried away with rhetoric. When we were on Kauai it was pristine, or almost so — Oahu busy but not unmanageable. Hotels, some, but now spine to spine. Why don’t you tell it like it is? I worked in Alaska for two years. In the summer, the mosquitoes fueled up at the air bases, they were big hummers! In spite of the hardships I still have memories that won’t quit, pictures that will be regarded as calendar art — though real. Some will never see the light of day, just in my mind and heart. No one would believe. I don’t want to hear your philosophic ramblings, just how-tos. How can I become a better painter without disenfranchising my kids? I can’t afford these wonderful workshops. We aren’t all able to do these things. Besides I have a dog and a cat to take care of before I run off to never-never land. Why isn’t anyone ever realistic about our lives? What about people with kids, are they to run off and paint? Please put some reality into your advice. I am not angry, just walking the dog before I paint.
Takes me away
From a cold, snowy Colorado, your description of this rain forest/jungle took me out of my atmosphere and transported me into your world — be it for a short time, but long enough.
Pathways and footprints
by Elizabeth Schamehorn
All pathways have history. Late last November, my husband and I went up to Algonquin Park to walk one of the trails there. I can’t think of a place more opposite in some ways to the one you just described. We climbed through bare oaks, maples and birches, some with a few brown leaves still clinging to the branches. There was absolute solitude and close-to-absolute silence. A crow called very far away, almost inaudible. A light breeze rustled the dry leaves. In a place that is crowded with people in the summer and early fall there was no one. Below us on highway 60 a car swished by. When we reached the height, we could see under the blue sky faraway purple and dark-green hills with a blue lake shining. No dwarfs here, maybe a Wendigo. He is invisible, but his footprints smolder.
by Dianne, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Yes, time is fleeting. And as we age it seems we experience an increase in shortage of time in our days. An artist friend spoke to me recently, in a bit of a panic to create more paintings for upcoming shows. “I wish to paint faster, and just crank them out!” she said. I replied that I found it best to do whatever it takes to find more time to paint, rather than rush a painting to completion. My simple daily plan: Priority #1, enjoy painting. Priority #2, finish it to the best of your ability and have it say what you wanted it to. Priority #3, all necessary home chores, job/volunteer tasks get rushed through, to the best of my ability. It’s working!
On spousal support
by D Purvis
I couldn’t go through the day without commenting on the letter written about the lack of spousal support. Though I don’t have quite the same issues, I do have some of the same concerns. My husband’s responses to my artwork was always “fine.” Though, I knew he didn’t take me as seriously as I did, it still bothered me. I usually attend all the openings and parties by myself. He would go if I insisted, but he wouldn’t really enjoy himself. Knowing that makes it a lot easier for me to do this by myself. In all truth, we are always alone, whether physically or mentally, and we better be able to live with who and what we know about ourselves. I can say that I did get his attention a couple of years ago and that was a really good feeling. I don’t know if the artist who wrote in does any figurative work or not, but if she does she should do what I did. For Christmas I secretly painted a portrait of my husband. It blew him out of the water. He still doesn’t attend things readily with me, but he has a much better response to my work now. Ego, ego, ego. I know how difficult it is to try and keep everyone else happy, thus denying ourselves of those far reaching, aching, all so familiar places of comfort we find in our creative process. Don’t ever give up on it, for the very essence of who you are depends on being able to not only go there, but to live there. If you try to deny the creative side, or even to squelch it, the outcome is anger and confusion. Regardless of the fact that you have children at home, as I do, you still need to have not only a time, but also a space to produce. If you husband has a problem with this now, it is more than likely that he will always find a way to sabotage this effort. The only real solution, as far as I’m concerned, is to continue to work and keep you outlet alive and flourishing. Let him know that though it probably seems frivolous to him, it is not to you. Your children do not have to suffer, nor do they have to do without. You only have about another 2 years and they will not even care what you do, for they will be mobile and moving in a direction of their own. I committed about 2 years ago to quit dallying and go for it. So, just do it and continue to do it, in any place at any time. It truly is that important. Some people are not only resistant to change, but feel very threatened by it.
Burn your bra
(Name withheld by request)
My response to no spousal support is as follows:
1) Burn your bra in the fireplace one evening. It is a symbol. Say nothing just light the fire.
2) This is all too common. I am supported art wise by my spouse but often I feel it is because of the prospect of sales and that he has an expensive hobby. My day job brings in significantly more than my husband’s. It is also very successful.
3) Be willing to talk to him. Tell him what you are thinking and why. Who knows, it may open the lines of communication. Don’t give up on the communication.
4) I disagree with Robert. Do not do this quietly. Sounds like you have been there and done that. Robert, I am surprised at you, telling her to keep the spoon in the pot and just go about doing everything. Let hubby share in the domestic duties. It is time that men pull their weight around the house and with the kids. It has taken me 25 years to get my spouse to just start to do these things.
(Name withheld by request)
In response to the letter, ‘No Support.’ Be true to yourself. Examine what ‘Love’ means to you. Decide where your present commitments lie. What can you anticipate in the future life you will experience as a result of the choices you make today? If those questions are answered by you alone for yourself, a direction will emerge. But there is no simple, easy way to take. Reading authors you respect helps. My own journey covered similar ground to yours over a decade ago. In answering those questions for myself, I found the path to take. It was the right one and joyful. Unanticipated surprises abound. So do many sadnesses. Perhaps ‘Wisdom’ is the cloak one wears which bestows invaluable insights for the journey ahead. Bon Voyage.
Don’t give up
by Mary Jean
Don’t give up on either the painting or the husband. Your spiritual journey is a valid one and will help you find the inner strength to pursue your passions despite negative forces. It’s really your husband who has to come to terms with something and he will. When he sees that you take yourself and your art seriously and give it the time that you need to, he will let you have it. If housework is his bugaboo, hire a cleaning person. Don’t give up. One who has been there and occasionally still has to point out the benefits to all when I get to do what inspires me most.
Your turn will come
(Name withheld by request)
As I was reading the letters today, the one about spousal support echoed my own experience. I had wanted to be an artist forever, winning my first contest at the age of 10. I went on to win two art scholarships and still was told by family, “What would you want to do that for? “Get out and work, after all you are a woman and will just have children and stay home” The years have passed, I married, had children, they are married and as the last one left home I began to paint again. My husband laughed and then got angry to think I would ask people to pay for my scribbles, but I persisted. I joined an art association, painted day and night and improved. I did shows against my partner’s wishes. Then, (I am not sure why) he became my biggest supporter and attends every show. I am no famous painter but I love what I am doing and am delighted to have the support.
I do not regret raising the children and giving my life to them, they too are my supporters and also my inspiration. I never stopped painting either. I illustrated newsletters, made posters, in short, anything that was artistic, I did. I feel the experience of just living, both the good and bad are all reflected in one’s work. The emotion just flows and to me that is what art’s all about. Hang in there, and your turn will come. One has to balance life as a whole, the artistic, the emotional and the real world.
by Kelly Borsheim, Cedar Creek, Texas, USA
My response to “No Support” is this: When one chooses to have children (and everyone chooses), it is a long-term responsibility. It must be the number one priority until the child has become an adult. Parenting is not a task to be taken lightly. From Day One, the whole process of child-rearing is about letting go. If we do it right, we hold, cuddle, serve, share, teach, and nurture. As the child gets older, the manner in which we do this changes, but the whole point in parenting is to give the child enough guidance, education, love, and support to become a self-supportive, responsible, and caring individual. That said, there is a point in a child’s development when it is healthy for him to understand that a parent is actually many people — a spouse/partner, an employee or boss, a friend, a spiritual person, etc. It is also healthy for the parent to be these other people. One cannot truly give to another for very long without refilling his or her own personal well. This is true for the parent-child relationship, as well as the adult-adult one. It sounds as though this couple could benefit from some time-management planning and discussion of what each partner would like to achieve personally. At the very least, try to negotiate that each of you get a certain amount of personal time to pursue one activity (of your own choosing) alone. The only rules should be that the activity is not illegal or puts a life at risk. Then make sure you plan time together and time as a family. One cannot live with another without considering the other’s needs. Just keep in mind that this works both ways and children come first — for now. Also, if money is not an issue, hire a maid to take care of the extras.
by June Raabe, Ladysmith, BC, Canada
Isn’t e-mail magic when people half a world away can reach out and share thoughts in a second? The letter from the lady complaining her spouse won’t support her art has a familiar ring to it. Could be the husband is jealous of both her talents and success. I think counseling might help if she can persuade him to go with her, and she is determined to save her marriage. Having some counseling herself might give her more self-esteem and help her realize she does not need his approval. If he doesn’t appreciate a woman revitalized by her art, happy with success, it is his loss. If she feels she has lived up to her side of the marriage she must learn to be firm in resisting his efforts to distract her from her art. In a perfect world all marriages would be made in heaven, all mates would be kind, loving and supportive of each other’s endeavors. The rest of us make do, and when it doesn’t work go back to living solo.
(RG note) The original “No support” letter and my remarks are at Lord of the Rings
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