Soon after the death of the painter his children set about to clean out his house. The place was a mess, and they knew it would be, because dad had taken up the hobby of painting. When he first set color to canvas the pictures were nice, each child even had one hanging in there homes, in a hallway or back bedroom, not above the fireplace or the couch. They humored dad, how wonderful it was that he had something to focus on during retirement.
Soon after his last day on earth when they went to his house, with black garbage bags and good intentions, they discovered something. The upstairs rooms were full of beautiful paintings. Not just quick sketches of local landscapes, or mundane still-lives frozen in time forever, but beautifully executed works to rival any master’s hand.
Galleries were contacted, experts approached and the tendency to state that the man was an aspiring artist was set aside; his work was too well done, to glorious, he was an unrealized genius.
The artist’s name not only defined brilliance but sadness as well. He knew he painted nice pictures but because he never heard words of praise come from someone else’s mouth, he died not knowing how good he really was.
The eyes of artists are cheated sometimes because their hearts doubt their own talent. How do you know if you are good, if no one tells you that you are?
I’m not a closet writer, I am out there and shameless about promoting what I do because I do not want my children to discover me after I am gone. I do not want to be remembered as aspiring-anything. My words matter, I spend a lot of time building them into works that I am proud of.
Imagine. I do, all the time.
What about you, the guitar playing song writer? When you were a pup, did you sing in the shower and dream of Grammys, did you practice soliloquies and acceptance speeches with a hairbrush in your hand? Did you pitch a no-hitter for the big leagues, proudly wear a Superbowl ring or make a State of the Union address? With the Olympics sprinting forward, how many of us couch athletes remember when we balanced on the beam, and after we ‘stuck’ the dismount, raised our arms in triumph and wept while standing on the podium.
When I turned sixty, (three years ago), I looked back at the young girl who once dreamed of skating a way to a metal, and the teenager accepting an Oscar. In my twenties I wrote music for an unknown band, my imaginings gave me fame, set my place in music-history and paid my bills. But as happens, the realities of life, family, home and health smashed the guitar against the amp; the concert was over.
In the last few months words of wisdom, by the successful and the famous, have been showered upon the latest battalion of job-seeking graduates. The well thought out commencement speeches, delivered by all those folks who did their lives right, offered the best advice for filling the graduate’s personal halls with a paying audience. But what about us, the ones whose instruments lay in pieces on the floor, are our concerts over?
Do not let the commencement speech of your life be your eulogy.
To ‘imagine again’ is easy. Pick up the paintbrush and color your canvas in light and hang it over the mantle. Click from the homepage, to the written page and sing louder than the radio, in a car full of people. Tighten the strings on the old violin and go from practicing in the attic to playing on the front stoop. Let people hear your music, see your performance, read your book and admire your painting. Run the marathon, swim the channel or at least die trying. Just because you are old, or almost old, does not mean new paths are impossible to navigate. The artist who hid his paintings cheated the world of his talent and denied himself the glory of a stuck-landing. The imaginary artist, who thought he wasn’t good enough, was. But we will never know because his dreams were fiction, passed on as regret, from one generation to the next.