Sore thumbs

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20140328-142707.jpgThis week I took on building ten new stretchers (wooden frames for stretching canvas).

The stretcher bars were given to me a number of years ago by my good friend David Friedheim, a talented sculptor, who was passing them on from his friend, SF painter Julia Kay, who I believe was in the process of moving into a smaller space that couldn’t accommodate these huge (about 90″) bars.

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Similarly, one day I answered my doorbell and a couple of my neighbors were there, grinning, with a big roll of canvas. They explained that they were moving across country and couldn’t take it with them, and since they knew I was a painter, they decided to give it to me.

So this week as I made these wooden frames and prepared to stretch canvas on them, I felt I was celebrating these people – friends and neighbors – who took the opportunity to be generous and in doing so reminded me what a benevolent place the world can be.

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You know I love my stoic philosopher, Epictetus, and I ran into this quote from him this week:

Never depend on the admiration of others. There is no strength in it…It is a fact of life that other people, even people who love you, will not necessarily agree with your ideas, understand you, or share your enthusiasms. Grow up! Who cares what other people think about you? Create your own merit…You have been given your own work to do. Get to it right now, do your best at it, and don’t be concerned with who is watching you…

Think about it. What is really your own? The use you make of the ideas, resources, and opportunities that come your way. Do you have books? Read them. Learn from them. Apply their wisdom. Do you have specialized knowledge? Put it to its full and good use. Do you have tools? Get them out and build or repair things with them. Do you have a good idea? Follow up and follow through on it. Make the most of what you’ve got, what is actually yours.

You know how it is: Some of the simplest things in life, and the most important, are the hardest to remember. It was a nice time to remember this lesson this week, and to act it out in such a literal way, with a hammer, nails, glue, clamps, wood.

I did wind up with my right thumb completely swollen and purple on the pad, because tightening the clamps over and over that many times was a bit much for it, but it was well worth it to have the sensation that I had made good use of my “ideas, resources, and opportunities.”

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I hope you find a way to do the same – and feel the same – this week!

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