The branch

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In the past few weeks I have watched friends deal with what I think are some of the toughest tragedies of life: the loss of a child and the loss of a parent to Alzheimer’s. My own sadness was nothing compared to what they had to deal with, but even just in near proximity these events did what they so often do for all of us: reminded me of my mortality and that of those I care about, zipped time into this very present moment, and brought into question the things I am dedicating my life to.

It reminded me of this quote by Marc Chagall that I’ve always loved:

When I am finishing a picture, I hold some God-made object up to it – a rock, a flower, the branch of a tree or my hand – as a final test. If the painting stands up beside a thing man cannot make, the painting is authentic. If there’s a clash between the two, it’s bad art.

I have done this before myself, but this week I felt like the branch I was holding up was these events. When things happen that cut you to the quick, it is so much easier to see what has true worth. When you truly realize how limited and precious our time here is, it is so much easier to see what you want to spend your time doing.

It is a horrible gift to receive, but also a wonderful one.

With that in mind, and in heart, I guess, I worked on some of the new paintings and fine tuned some that were almost done before but that I now feel have fully arrived.

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So here’s to finding the gift in the pain, and here’s to finding that connection with others that is the only thing that makes it all easier.

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