In the last few hours before I officially open my shop for business, I wanted to take a deep breath and remember a moment almost a year ago in a village in India. I’ve written a bit on my personal blog about what a life-changing experience my trip was, but this sweltering afternoon in Alipura was really the moment it happened.
It was so hot outside that our group leader suggested we postpone our scheduled walk so everyone could hydrate and cool off in their air conditioned rooms until the temperature came below 100°. I couldn’t stand to be indoors, so I walked very slowly, liter of water, sketchbook, and camera in my bag, up the main road of the village, just seeing and being. I stood beside a cream-colored cow, letting my gaze wander across the alley to the two-level house in the photo above. It was painted an unusual green-tinged blue, unlike the indigo-based paints used to repel insects, and I saw Hindi writing that had faded, probably from the last wedding celebration. The slightest breeze stirred a tree branch overhead, moving its shadow away from a startling patch of emerald green that simultaneously made no sense and perfect sense, color-wise.
I took my time pondering how this building came to be colored in the way it was. Was this patch of green typically in shadow and fading unevenly from the adjacent area? Was it a newly-painted repair? Would it fade too, or would the rest of the house turn the palest cool white while this spot remained richly green?
I wanted to keep the light and colors of that green next to that blue, as it suddenly had become the most precious and important passage of color in my life. I stood with my camera ready, waiting for another gentle breeze and the few seconds I would have to make sure I’d captured the color the way I saw it.
I sighed and thought the typical office-worker’s lament to myself, “Oh, I wish I could do this all the time…”
In that instant, simultaneously the breeze nudged the tree, the sun came out brilliantly from behind a lazy cloud, the green seemed to radiate from within, I released my shutter, and something like a jolt of electricity went through my entire body, a booming voice saying, “You can. And you must.”
I’ve read about religious and spiritual callings that take a similar form, where a disembodied thought feels for all the world like the earth splitting open and reverberating with the voice of God giving explicitly clear instructions to guide one’s life. It was like the instant of falling in love or jumping off a cliff, equally terrifying and exhilarating, trembling and my whole body breaking out in chills. Everything in my mind switched instantaneously to a certainty of purpose I’ve never felt before in my life. The wind was knocked out of me, and as all the sound and colors came rushing back at once, I felt like I was going to faint, or possibly explode. I wondered for a second if I was having a heat stroke or if a bull had decided to exact revenge at precisely that moment for my history of cheeseburger-eating and had just gored my chest. But everything was coming back more clearly and vividly even than I’d known it before, including the understanding that this was something real, coming from something much bigger than myself.
A line was drawn in my life from that moment forward, where I knew, really in the depths of my heart knew, what I was put on earth to do. I am an artist, I have been all my life, and I have literally been commanded by the universe to be an artist all the time now.
As my life started completely transforming after India, a lot of things came together just so to give me the opportunity to spend the past few months rediscovering who I am as a person and an artist, and to change my days to doing that – being an artist – all the time. I am so profoundly grateful for the encouragement, problem-solving, and inspiration of the people in my life who have helped me get to what now feels like the precipice of actually doing what I’ve been meaning to do my whole life. It is no exaggeration to say I feel like there was a moment of divine intervention or personal epiphany or whatever you’d like to call it that saved my life in the instant my camera recorded this silly little multi-colored house.
I’ve faced more than a few setbacks and frustrations along the way (I’m going a little nuts about how many things I want to change already in my shop and on my site) but I want to remind myself that this isn’t something I chose. It chose me before I could speak or walk properly, when I dragged my fingers through sand at the beach and realized I could take what I experienced inside my mind and soul and share it with other people. I’ve remembered how a back-lit leaf or sunlight shimmering through new blades of grass reveal all the mysteries and wonders of the universe in an effortless instant. Art has been the greatest gift of my life, and turning back to it after neglecting it for so long feels utterly and completely like coming home.
I am incredibly excited for the challenges ahead, for giving this business my truly best effort, and for doing whatever it takes in my life to be able to keep making art and being an artist, all the time.
The green commanded me. I can, and I must.