In the early morning, while it’s still dark, they gather on the Muhalapu bluffs. It’s a tradition on Kauai. They’re here to receive the sun. Together they wait. Lovers. Loners. A cameraman with a professional tripod. A meditator on a tatami. There’s a glow on the eastern horizon. Here on the bluffs there’s a sense of anticipation. The strip of light spreads. Then, a tiny sliver of gold quickly widens into the sunrise. The event touches the tops of rocky edges and the tips of dimpled sand. Below, on the ocean, the breath of whales turns into light. Faces shine. Your body feels the warming birth of the day.
A day is our natural unit and mark of time. Living things note its regularity and predictability. Sunup to sundown, a lot can be done in a day. Napoleon lost an empire in a day. You can fall in love in a day, write a poem or paint a picture in a day. You can fly to somewhere else in a day. You can even waste a day, and it’s good to know that Rome wasn’t built in one.
Such a phenomenon suggests that we might do something about the days we are given. We can, for example, decide for a day to be creatively excited and passionate. To my knowledge this decision never hurt anyone. You can elect to measure your day carefully, weighing in with time for contemplating, care-giving, loving, playing, working. When you are on your own you can make a day anything you want. A Thursday, a Tuesday, any day can be a workday, a washday, a holiday, a red-letter-day or a doomsday. You can elect to have a good day, a bad day, a lucky day, a productive day, a lazy day, a fun day, a sad day, an empty day, a full day or a busy day. You can plan your day with a day-planner or you can let your day take care of itself. And when the sun finally sets at the end of your day, you might say that you gave to it all that you were able.
PS: “Today a new sun rises for me; everything lives, everything is animated, everything speaks to me of my passion, everything invites me to cherish.” (Ninon de L’Enclos) “The days are long enough for those who use them.” (Leonardo da Vinci)
Esoterica: Do not be frivolous with the gift of a day. Right now it’s all you have. Yesterday is history. “Seize the day and put the least possible trust in tomorrow.” (Horace)
The following are selected responses to the above and other letters. Thank you for writing.
Living in the moment
by Joye Moon
Your letter, “Receiving the day,” is an example of living in the moment. A dear friend gave me the gift of living in the moment many years ago. Up until this time, I was unaware that I was not living my life as fully as an artist as I could. This was a very important lesson for me since I always thought of myself as an artist. It wasn’t until I truly began to live my life in the moment, being totally present, that I started to truly enjoy the full scope of life. I am now able to completely embrace my family, friends and my art without preconceived ideas or expectations. I feel we should expect nothing yet appreciate everything.
The days are round
by Carol Bobb
“Days begin and end in the dead of night. They are not shaped long, in the manner of things which lead to ends — arrow, road, man’s life on earth. They are shaped round, in the manner of things eternal and stable — sun, world, God. Civilization tries to persuade us we are going towards something, a distant goal. We have forgotten that our only goal is to live, to live each and every day, and that if we live each and every day, our true goal is achieved. All civilized people see the day beginning at dawn or a little after or a long time after or whatever time their work begins; this they lengthen according to their work, during what they call ‘all day long’; and end it when they close their eyes. It is they who say the days are long. On the contrary, the days are round.”
by Carol Lyons, Irvington, NY, USA
Monday is my “Reach Day.” Art ideas that I have been afraid to start are started on this day. Art contacts that I have been afraid to make are started. It is my special work “outside the box” day. I expect an art revelation in the way of an idea on Monday. Surprisingly, sometimes the most obvious idea that I had not considered “pops” into my head, just because of readiness.
Today I will be inspired
by Mel Zeoli, Florida, USA
Who knows, today I may stand at the brink of my “masterpiece.” Your point is to boil it down to attitude and add a little luck and anything may happen if you let it. Today I will be inspired.
by Margreth Fry
I experienced a Maui sunrise a few years ago. At that moment, the secret place was so powerful you could slice the air. The sun rose from the mountains, and it looked like the sun was rising very fast, and as the golden ball was complete, we all stood still in awe — when out of the silence a small voice was asking, in all seriousness; “Is that as far the sun is going today?” The laughter was so joyful. The person next to her let her know that the sun would be with us for the whole day.
by Annette Waterbeek, Maple Ridge, BC, Canada
In regards to Mary Ann Fichtner-Mountain “Reality check” letter: “Bonkers?” I think not, creative yes! “Carried away with rhetoric?” Isn’t that the way one brings out thoughts, ideas and direction in oneself or in others? “How can I become a better painter without disenfranchising my kids?” It is all in the mind. “Why don’t you tell it like it is?” For who? You see it the way you see it. Nobody can see it for some one else. “I don’t want to hear your philosophic ramblings, just how-tos.” In my opinion how-tos will just make everybody paint the same. Keys… don’t tell you how to open the door and they don’t let you in if they don’t fit… but when your given the keys and you figure what to do with them, then it is all new again. “Why isn’t anyone ever realistic about our lives?” What is realistic?
by Ellie Snyder, Kauai, Hawaii, USA
Wow!! This is in response to the “Reality check” response. It is certainly interesting how we each see things so differently. As a Kauaian I cherish the descriptions you have of our island and they give me another chance to slow down and appreciate it. I love your “rhetoric.” I find it refreshing and creative and inspirational. I agree with the lady that Oahu and Kauai are getting overcrowded and overdeveloped, but you Robert found some of our still enchanting places (and I’ll bet not all of them). Your letter about Maha`ulepu inspires me to go there again. It is only 8 miles from my home and was one of my husband’s favorite spots.
The kids and I went up on that bluff to remember Fred on the morning his body was cremated.
(RG note) Even in this overcrowded world there are still many, many places where we can thankfully be touched. And thanks to my fellow artists on Kauai who shared that wondrous place and helped me see and feel the beauty.
by Stéphane Bélanger
I thank you for the sharing of your experiences from remote corners of the world. I thank you for making them available to me. I always read with pleasure your comments, your descriptions, your impressions. They stimulate my thoughts, reflections and considerations on life — on my life. I have doubts that I will have the chance to travel as much as you but still I travel with you and I can understand too, by the imagination, a sunrise in Hawaii.
Every day important
I’ve seen beautiful sunrises from my home in Ottawa too! We’re so caught up in our daily routines that we forget how important “one” day is in our lives. Thank you for reminding me. I share your letters with friends.
by Kendra Smith
I was surprised and taken aback by the response given by Mary Ann from Seattle, Washington. I don’t think that anyone should tell you how to see, or what to write. I’m sure most artists are very grateful that you devote the time to write your letters, and that you give of yourself. It would be a shame if you molded your letters after someone else’s personality. I admire your positive outlook on life. You are lucky to be able to see things closer to “fantasy” than to reality, I wish more people had your gift.
Hobby to obsession
by Jim Rowe
In further response to the “No support” letter, I have been in that situation from day one, I have had to fight hard to exist as a painter. In my house, the persecution has strengthened my determination to paint. It has turned an enjoyable hobby into a lifetime obsession, and my success is based on it.
What about him?
by Annette Bush
I have found the responses about spousal support very interesting. Most have given some advice or support to the wife who wishes for her husband’s support on her spiritual journey, in her dreams of being a painter, for the things that inspire her. My husband really did not understand my painting, “let” me do what I did as long as the children came first and occasionally attended art functions with me. Sometimes, I attended his company functions. I was bored, had nothing to contribute to the conversations, and wished I were someplace else. I did not read a letter that suggested asking him what spiritual journey he would take, what dreams he would like supported or what things inspire him. What do you “let” him do? Be fair about what both you and your spouse are really contributing to the partnership. It may inspire you.
Contributed by Jacqueline Baldini
“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” (Nelson Mandela quoting Marianne Williamson)
Filled with hope
by Mina Singh
I couldn’t resist telling you how much I enjoy and value your twice-weekly letter. I have to thank artist Jane Champagne of Canada for telling me about you. Your letters are beautiful and inspiring! At first every letter of yours was a reminder of my failure to begin painting, or even sketching. Then the practical information embedded in the poetical musings began to grip me. Now I marvel at your twin-talent in writing, and find in it new hope. I eagerly open each letter and as the opening sentence builds up anticipation of new insights and a warm glow by the end of the letter, I am filled with the hope that the writing of thirty years will find me its closest loved relative one day.
Selected responses to Into the rainbow contains reader’s advice to a woman artist who wrote to say that her husband gives little support for her art.
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 97 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2002.