"It's Time!"

What does that title mean to you? What kind of energy reverberates when you hear someone say something like that?

I'm here today to talk about one of the most incredible feelings every human can relate to:

Anticipation. 

 

There are a few moments in life in which the emotion is understood so clearly across all boundaries, and I am currently in the thick of one of them... and since it's not always possible to put paint to canvas when inspiration strikes in moments like these, I have to write about it. As I draft this, I am 37 weeks pregnant with my second baby and so eagerly awaiting the moment I can turn to my husband, Caleb, and say, "it's time!!" When will it happen? How will I feel? What hilarious thing will he say and do? Ugh, where will we be? Hopefully it's after a great night of sleep and our home construction is finished and we have actually packed and I shaved my legs this time. With my first, I had to be induced due to sudden onset of high blood pressure, so that moment came in a much different way than I had expected. With precautions taken this time around, I'm hoping it's a much more organic process, but regardless how we get there, I'm so excited for the moment we get to hold that sweet baby boy. 

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I grew fascinated by my garden a few months after the birth of my daughter. The same tender care I had to provide for her was also in nurturing the delicate output of my beloved vegetable garden. Spinach, 24"x24", oil on canvas.

I grew fascinated by my garden a few months after the birth of my daughter. The same tender care I had to provide for her was also in nurturing the delicate output of my beloved vegetable garden. Spinach, 24"x24", oil on canvas.

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Caleb often notes that sometimes the best time in a highly anticipated moment is right before- the excitement and expectations have been building over time, it's finally here, and no events have transpired yet that fail to meet expectations. I suppose the truth of that depends entirely on those expectations, but thinking about it only in terms of the emotion in discussion, it is certainly an amazing moment!

 

There was another time in my life I felt such strong eagerness: arriving home from my first deployment. That first deployment was much harder than the others because everything was new and those 9 months felt longer than any other period I've experienced in my life thus far. Every minute away from family hurt. I remember doing my best throughout the process to not count the days, to just settle into that monotonous rhythm and avoid coming up for air to think about how much time remained. We had a 500 mile running challenge on the ship and I used that ritual as a way to feel like I was making progress even though I was *literally* running in place. It was the same Taylor Swift album every run and during my cool down I would convince myself, "another mile! another day! it will come!"

And then it did.

 

CHANNEL FEVER

The evening of March 27, 2013 we could see the lights of Virginia Beach (and had phone service!) as we paced in slow circles waiting for the morning to come when we could make our approach up Thimble Shoals Channel. After many months on a ship, you start to feel its heartbeat. Just a few different vibrations or watchstander demeanor can be an alert we have new tasking before the captain ever makes an announcement. Most of the time, it's a slow, methodical pulse, but that night, the mood was electric, and hardly anyone slept. Anyone could walk around the p-ways and know something much anticipated was about to happen without having to understand any other context clues. My night bridge watch ticked by as every passing second sounded echoes of a Fibonacci like countdown to a glorious reunion. That is the moment I feel like I am in again right now.

Morning did finally come, and last minute preps this time included dress uniforms and as my XO called it, "war paint" for the females. I requested not to be on the bridge team for this transit, and happily found my place midships when the order was given to "man the rails."  While the line of sailors looked like a singular unit, each person standing there at parade rest represented a wellspring of new experiences, knowledge, and growth.  The boatswain mates adorned the ship with it's patriotic lei. My excitement bubbled into tears as we made our final course change to what I knew after many previous inbound transits to be heading 184, the final heading on our 9 month journey and the one that would finally bring us home. As we inched passed each pier on Norfolk Naval Station, ships sounded their horns in a glorious jubilee, and I reflected on the tedious, patience-trying journey that took us halfway around the world. We approached pier 5 and the crowd of people welcoming us home was overwhelming. Clever posters and smiling faces could not begin to describe the journeys all of these families have endured over recent months. The moment I had anticipated for so long was finally here. 

 

Even though I've been through this before (or perhaps because I have been through this before), I know I have no idea what to expect when we welcome in this new life. In the meantime, I'm sending my love to all of you and can't wait to share the inspiration he brings with him when his time of arrival is finally here. Until then, I will be enjoying this slow season. 

what highway wildflowers teach us about our need for beauty

We need to live among beauty. 

We discovered this aggressive vine that was taking over the bamboo in our backyard was wisteria. Noted, we will be pruning it to keep it from killing the bamboo, but goodness in the meantime the blooms are making our yard smell amazing!

We discovered this aggressive vine that was taking over the bamboo in our backyard was wisteria. Noted, we will be pruning it to keep it from killing the bamboo, but goodness in the meantime the blooms are making our yard smell amazing!

 

First Ladies make me smile, so when I saw a recent article about Lady Bird Johnson and her highway beautification project while in the White House, I knew I'd love it.  (The article was by Michael Gormley in the April 2018 copy of The Artists Magazine). In the article, the author simply highlights Lady Bird's somewhat unconventional passion project with the goal of beautifying our cities and highways, leading to the passing of the Highway Beautification Act
 in 1965. I adored her quote about the endeavor:

"'Some may wonder why I chose wildflowers when there are hunger and unemployment and the big bomb in the world,' she said at the time. 'Well, I, for one, think we will survive, and I hope that along the way we can keep alive our experience with the flowering earth. [sic] For the beauty of nature is also one of the deep needs of man.'"
https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/publicroads/08mar/03.cfm

https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/publicroads/08mar/03.cfm

 

Obviously I am not here to trivialize the very real issues which plague the human race and require our attention and efforts (and she was not either), but I am completely appreciate of Lady Bird's emphasis on the importance of living in among beauty. She devoted a tremendous amount of time and energy to bring the beauty of the "natural world" to some of the most mundane views. I completely agree with her, but also want to take it a step further and argue that simply living among beauty is a deep need of man. 

I used to take for granted that we live in a beautiful world, and as I've grown, I've started to appreciate the soul nourishing gift of that expression. It is important, and while it can be easy to take for granted delightful wildflowers along the side of the highway, or the fact that on a given weekend, most of us can visit an art gallery or listen to a concert for a very reasonable fee, consider the void not having those things would leave in us. What if we did not have that? Have you ever been in a place void of culture and beauty? Did you notice a negative effect over time?

My first blog post talks about humanity's need for art, which. In the post I talk about my experience walking through the Athens Archaeological Museum in Greece. I noticed even in historical ages of much less convenience and prosperity than we enjoy today, humans were creating beautiful things. I noticed next to weapons of war and basic utensils, there was decorated pottery and delicate jewelry. Clearly, not "functional," but it was still a priority in even ancient civilizations when day to day life looked much different than it does today. Highway wildflowers aren't solving the hunger crisis either, but history proves we still need them. 

One thing I appreciate about natural beauty, such as Lady Bird's flowers, is how fleeting it is. As a painter, I am among thousands who am compelled to capture a moment that will never happen again. I think we appreciate the flowers on the side of the road more when we know they may not be there next month.  When I was in middle school, I was on a team with a particularly soulful coach. This season was one of those wonderful ones where the team just clicked. The last week before championships, he came to practice with a sunflower for each of us. His reason has stuck with me for over 15 years:

A flower will not survive more than a couple of days cut from its roots, so you must enjoy its beauty now. Soon our season will end, and we will never be in this moment again. I wanted to bring each of you a sunflower to remind you that it does not matter what happens on Saturday, that won't define this group or any of you individually. Instead, appreciate the amazing day that today is and what we have together right now.

I recall wanting to immediately hang the flower upside down to dry it and keep it to remember that perfect season, but after his explanation, had other plans. I put it in water, loved it for a couple of days, and when it wilted, I let go and threw it away. 

I urge you to savor the fleeting moments of beauty that surround us. If you are in Florida, soak in the last few days of the azalea blooms. Light a candle with dinner tonight, enjoy the way the food tastes still warm. (Perhaps I'm speaking more to myself with this one: Make the kind of dinner that won't keep for leftovers tomorrow!) Hug your loved ones for a really long time. Appreciate the flowers on the side of the highway. Pick a few and let them shine for a couple of days in  your living room, and be okay throwing them away when they are finished.