Changing the Palette

I know this feeling and I don’t like it. It’s the same feeling I get whenever I arrive home after weeks in some exotic land. It was there when I returned from the intense color and sweat of Tahiti. It’s ungloved hand slapped me when I came back to the warmth from the blue ice of Antarctica , and the wild landscape of Iceland . In Paris , it lurked behind every cafe table, every pretty smile, every bright and sunny memory-to-be, awaiting my return to America before it struck with its chill accuracy. As a teen, it was there at the end of high school plays that took weeks to rehearse and a night or two to perform. And once again it has chased me, tackled me and brought me down hard after Plein Air Easton. It is the “let down”.

At first, it seems there is little we can do to fight this feeling; it has this overwhelming caste of inevitability about it. One arrives home, especially after exciting and energizing days, with this marvelous sense of the newness of life, our brains spinning, turning in circles with ideas, colors, plans, intentions. We plunge into our old situations vowing to change the things we don’t like and to turn our path toward the shining way we have glimpsed in our travels. The shining way…I still see it, don’t you?

Part of us, having had this feeling before, takes precautions, takes the intitiative, makes pre-emptive strikes and forays into our new vision. We avoid old things, old habits. All the old routines seems like traps we must avoid, like quick sand that promises to suck us under and back down into the old world, tearing us sadly away from the new world we have seen, the new us we can envision and long for. We sleep on the other side of the bed, we change our diet, we stop using certain words, we, if we are artists, change our palette. It’s all about changing the palette, I think.

Is there some nearly irresistable force that makes us go back to the things we are used to? What is this nasty habit of mind that drops us back so easily into what is familiar, leaving us with a sense that what we experienced while away was somehow unreal, something that is becoming hourly almost a sad and lost thing? Worse yet, a thing that happened yet happened to someone else , that other person we were when we were away…

My week at Plein Air Easton was so utterly amazing and wonderful that I can hardly keep myself from shouting in joy. I am not exaggerating. As some of you know, I was ill most of the time. I arrived with a bad ear infection and it went down hill from there, to the point that I had to call my doctor back in California . In the first day or so I had moments when I thought it would be wiser to drop out. A smarter man would have, I’m sure. But I am not so smart as I am determined to overcome whatever I can overcome, and I am not so stupid to think that I can do this all on my own. A combination of beautiful things had to merge into an environment of support and encouragement, and it did merge something like what the new agers might call a “harmonic convergance”.

The convergance I experienced had parts to it and each part was no greater or lesser than the next though I can only speak of them in some sort of sequence. First, my hosts, a dear and cheerful couple whose immense generousity was nearly impossible for me to believe; a failing of mine. They were not just willing hosts, they were deeply caring, interested, and interesting people who made me feel completely at home in their lovely estate, a beautiful pastoral paradise surrounded by sheep, chickens, geese, and elegant gardens flowing down to the Chesapeake shores.

Secondly, the other guests in my hosts house, an accomplished artist and her husband who not only encouraged me but stepped up without hesitation when I needed help. I really can not convey the depth of my gratitude for these four people, fellow travelers in this great experience.

Thirdly, the other artists who were at once friend, competitor, encourager, and hero. How often in life do we cheer each other on, take joy in the achievements of those we compete against, and value our time with each other? Is this not the real purpose of our lives?

The fourth and last part of this convergance is that really unusual band of hearty soldiers, the workers, the volunteers and organizers who, along with friends and artists, made Plein Air Easton one of those wonderous forays into that other world of creative heroism, dynamic determination, and success.

Each of us artists had our magical helpers, the hosts, the friends, the volunteers and organizers, the other artists. We fought well, so did they, and together we brought back a large body of work, the boon to mankind, for all to see.

It is any wonder that returning to ordinary life can be a let down? For me, I can only keep fighting, switch things around, mix it up, change the palette, change the medium, sleep on the other side of the bed, anything and everything, to savor what I experienced and embed it into my being…until next year.

1 comment for “Changing the Palette

  1. Eva Stramer Nichols
    July 29, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    Dear Robert,
    Very true – it really can be hard to hold on to what we learn during our explorations into the new and unknown – the business of our regular everyday life wants to suck us back in, it seems. I share your fight!
    Love, Eva

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