Tuesday, 29 March 2011

It Is Not Just About What You Know.

Yesterday I bought a set of bathroom scales. So you ask what is so special in that? Well, nothing if they were just another set of bathroom scales. These are made just for a person like me who is a lover of gadgets and toys for boys. These scales tell me my weight. Nothing special in that at all! Then they go a step further and tell my body fat, and the amount of water in my body. They also tell me of my bone density and body mass. They then finish by giving a reading of what the daily intake of calories for that day should be to maintain these statistics.

So I go for a run, come home, have a bath, and then I stand on the scales and learn all this information about myself. All this information I never knew before. My first thought was, marvellous, wow. Then I began to think, I have been running all those years and I have never had to think about those things. I ran very well this morning before I knew all this. If I had not learned it I would have still prepared to get up tomorrow and go running.

You see the bottom line is not what you know about yourself, but what you do with what you know. What you know about yourself and what you know about others is only of value if you use that information with wisdom.

A nice little story.

I remember leading a retreat for a group of young people. I told them we were going to try and learn something about ourselves and how to trust each other.
They were all to stand, facing away from their partner, and fall backward, relying on another person to catch them. Most of them were naturally uncomfortable with this, and could not let go for more than a few inches before stopping themselves.
There was a lot of embarrassed laughter.
Finally, one young person, a thin, quiet, dark-haired girl whom I had noticed almost always wore bulky, white fisherman sweaters, she crossed her arms over her chest, closed her eyes, leant back, and did not flinch, like one of those Lipton tea commercials where the model splashes into the pool..
For a moment, I was sure she was going to thump on the floor. At the last instant, her assigned partner grabbed her head and shoulders and yanked her up harshly.
“Whoa!” several others yelled. Some clapped. She turned and smiled. “You see”, I said to the girl, “you closed your eyes, That was the difference. Sometimes you cannot believe what you see, you have to believe what you feel. And if you are ever going to have other people trust you, you must feel that you can trust them too – even when you're in the dark. Even when you're falling".

It is not just what you know but what you do with what you know.

It is so often the same with our art it is not just what we know we need to convey but what we feel. It is using what we know.

This blog is linked to my other.   Do No LookBack

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

A Bad Day? Not At All.

We all have them, bad days I mean. Those days, when just nothing seems to go right for you, and you wished you had just stayed in bed. We all have days like that.  I have had those days as part of my life for as long as I can remember.

There were times when they got so bad I just did not want to be here at all. My parents used to get very angry with me when they said I was having one of my sulking moments. It must have been difficult for them, I am aware of that now. I remember my mother speaking to the minister that I had become very friendly with, and who turned my life on its head.  My mother was explaining to him that I could be a real difficult person to live with, did he understand that. I do not remember what he said to her that day, but I do remember another day and another place.

In Scotland when a person becomes an ordained minister, and takes up post in his or her first parish, there is an event at which friends speak of the person. These friends tell funny stories  and tell the new congregation a bit about their new ministers past. On the occasion this happened for me, my friend stood up and spoke of  my dark days. He told the congregation that in me they had an all or nothing kind of person. That I would give all of myself heart and all, but that in the midst of that there would be times when I would be best just left alone.

He went on that night to say that those were my burnt out days. On those days do not listen when I complain or get grumpy. He said rejoice for what is round the next corner. What he meant was that those down days were the first days of the next cycle of creativity.

Why am I telling you this today, simple, I am on a low day. Normally I would not write a blog today, normally I would do nothing today, but here I am and I am remembering my old friend, now dead. I am remembering what he must have told my parents and what he told me. The black days are worth it, because these are the days that make you what you are.

I was listening to a track from the Rolling Stones. In it the mother rushes to the cupboard for her, “mothers little helper.” How often that is the answer now when we have down days.

I though I would share that thought with you on one of my black days. I am going to cope with this day, it will not be one of my best, but it will be the first day in the next cycle of whatever.

Things can only get better after all.

This all reminds me of the funny tale of the old lady. He husband had died. She went to the local paper to put in the death notice. She asked what it would cost. She was told it would be £1 per word. She said to the girl behind the counter, “Ok so it is a pound a word. Just write, Robert Dead.”  The girl looked at her and said, “I forgot to tell you the minimum number of words is five. “Ah,” she said, “in that case write, Robert Dead, Ford For Sale.”

Even at the lowest moment we need to begin to prepare for the good days ahead.

This Blog is linked to my other.    Handel - WaterMusic.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Everything Comes Round.

I was talking to somebody very close to me who had received a gift. She was wondering how she could let the person know how grateful she was for the gift. I advised that at this moment she did nothing, other than to say thank you. I went on to tell her that there would come an opportunity sometime to repay the kind thought. That is after all the way of life.

I told her that I would write this blog today to explain my thinking.

He was walking along the road when he saw the stranger coming towards him. The stranger looked somewhat down. As he neared, he smiled to the stranger. It seemed to have an effect on the man; he seemed to brighten up. Later that day he remembered a past kindness that had on another day lifted his feelings. He sat down and wrote a letter to the friend.  The friend on receiving the letter felt so good that later that day he left a bigger than normal tip for the waitress. The waitress was so surprised that she had got this tip on the same day as she had been given a tip for a horse race. She placed the whole tip on the horse to win, and it did just that.

She collected her winnings, and on the way back to work she gave part of it to a poor man sitting on the street corner. The old man had not eaten for two days and bought himself a meal. Feeling better he headed home to the hostel where he lived. As he neared the place he saw a little puppy, clearly abandoned and looking hungry and afraid. He smuggled it up to his room and gave it what he could manage, and made it warm.

Later that night when all the residents of the hostel were sleeping, a resident let a cigarette butt slip from his fingers as he fell asleep. The settle caught fire. The puppy on smelling the smoke caused a commotion of barking. The barking wakened the whole household and everybody was saved from harm.

One of the residents saw his lucky escape as a motivation for improvement. He worked hard and one day he became a doctor and went on to save many more lives.

All of this because of one smile. What had the smile cost? Not a thing and yet look at the ripple effects it caused.

I am sorry I have not been around as often as I would like to be but I have  been preparing my plot and beginning the planting. I have also been digging my old pals plot so that he to will be able to get on with his planting.

I have added one of my Four Seasons paintings to this blog to let you see what they all look like now that I have them framed with a beautiful double mount. (Matt)

This blog is linked to my other.  The Tempest

Monday, 14 March 2011

Little Unattached Moments.

 How easy it is to become possessive of the things we hold dear, and that in many cases can be a good thing. But there is a need to be aware of what it can do, and what it means, and how we can so easily miss out on other joys.

I remember a fellow blogger asking me what it felt like to sell a painting. The person wondered if  I did not feel the loss of a part of ourselves. She felt she would end up running down the street after the person wanting her art back.  It is true that our art does become a part of us, and when we say farewell to it we are letting go of something very close to us. On the other side of the coin, what do we feel when somebody tells us they do not like what we have lovingly produced? It is so easy to feel a personal insult.

Hundreds of years ago, one much more wise than I will ever be said this, “When we become attached to things we need to be aware that nothing can ever be permanent and all attachment has the potential of pain within it.”

So I may not be a guru, or full of wisdom, but can I recommend little unattachments. Yes my spell checker tells me that is not a word, but I like it, and I use it.

We can all find it in our hearts to give little things to our friends. I find it easy to give vegetables from my plot to those who live around me. We can give art to friends, they are like our art part of us, so it is not that we are really giving away a part of ourselves. What I mean by, “Little Unattachments,” is just the next step.

I have sold a few paintings recently and I feel pleased that this is the case. So last Friday I decided it was time for an unattached moment.

I had my pastels out. I had the other half of the pastel board left over from the painting I have now completed. I painted a picture similar to another one I had done recently, one that had been met with many favourable comments. I put a mount (matt) on it and placed it in a see through plastic protector, and headed off for a walk through the village, taking it with me.

I know that when people see me with a painting, whether they know me or not, they want to see what I have been doing. As expected it was not long before somebody asked to see it. As I was showing it to this person another lady came along. She looked at it and said, “Oh I really do like that , that is beautiful. Did you do that son? “

I told her I had and asked if she really did like it. When she said she did, I told her that in that case she could have it, and I hoped it brought her much joy.

As I left I saw her telling everybody around her what had happened.  Did it cost me much? Not really. Was it difficult? Not at all. Did it make somebody happy? It seemed so. Did it do me any good? That is not an important question but it did help me to understand what that wise man all those years was going on about.

Go on have a, “Little Unattachment Moment.”

This blog is linked to my other.  The Finished Painting

Friday, 11 March 2011


My old friend Archie asked me yesterday if I would give him a help with his plot. He has been down most days and trying hard to get it ready to plant up. We have had a week  of weather that has not been conducive to digging, or planting. 

So time is catching up with him, as the time for planting seed potatoes approaches.

He said that he was struggling at the very thought of having it done. He is a proud man and to ask for help was not easy, I was aware of that. So as soon as we can I will go down and give him a hand by turning over his soil for him. He was about to go into a speech of thanks, instead I told him to remember the story of Albrecht Durer.

I was surprised that he had not heard it, so told it to him. Today I repeat it here. If you know the story I apologise, though it is always worthy of another read.

Back in the fifteenth century, in a tiny village near Nuremberg, lived a family with eighteen children. Eighteen! In order merely to keep food on the table for this mob, the father and head of the household, a goldsmith by profession, worked almost eighteen hours a day at his trade and any other paying chore he could find in the neighborhood. Despite their seemingly hopeless condition, two of Albrecht Durer the Elder's children had a dream. They both wanted to pursue their talent for art, but they knew full well that their father would never be financially able to send either of them to Nuremberg to study at the Academy.
After many long discussions at night in their crowded bed, the two boys finally worked out a pact. They would toss a coin. The loser would go down into the nearby mines and, with his earnings, support his brother while he attended the academy. Then, when that brother who won the toss completed his studies, in four years, he would support the other brother at the academy, either with sales of his artwork or, if necessary, also by laboring in the mines.
They tossed a coin on a Sunday morning after church. Albrecht Durer won the toss and went off to Nuremberg. Albert went down into the dangerous mines and, for the next four years, financed his brother, whose work at the academy was almost an immediate sensation. Albrecht's etchings, his woodcuts, and his oils were far better than those of most of his professors, and by the time he graduated, he was beginning to earn considerable fees for his commissioned works.
 When the young artist returned to his village, the Durer family held a festive dinner on their lawn to celebrate Albrecht's triumphant homecoming. After a long and memorable meal, punctuated with music and laughter, Albrecht rose from his honored position at the head of the table to drink a toast to his beloved brother for the years of sacrifice that had enabled Albrecht to fulfill his ambition. His closing words were, "And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you."
 All heads turned in eager expectation to the far end of the table where Albert sat, tears streaming down his pale face, shaking his lowered head from side to side while he sobbed and repeated, over and over, "No ...no ...no ...no."
Finally, Albert rose and wiped the tears from his cheeks. He glanced down the long table at the faces he loved, and then, holding his hands close to his right cheek, he said softly, "No, brother. I cannot go to Nuremberg. It is too late for me. Look ... look what four years in the mines have done to my hands! The bones in every finger have been smashed at least once, and lately I have been suffering from arthritis so badly in my right hand that I cannot even hold a glass to return your toast, much less make delicate lines on parchment or canvas with a pen or a brush. No, brother ...
for me it is too late."
More than 450 years have passed. By now, Albrecht Durer's hundreds of masterful portraits, pen and silver-point sketches, watercolors, charcoals, woodcuts, and copper engravings hang in every great museum in the world, but the odds are great that you, like most people, are familiar with only one of Albrecht Durer's works. More than merely being familiar with it, you very well may have a reproduction hanging in your home or office.
One day, to pay homage to Albert for all that he had sacrificed, Albrecht Durer painstakingly drew his brother's abused hands with palms together and thin fingers stretched skyward. He called his powerful drawing simply "Hands," but the entire world almost immediately opened their hearts to his great masterpiece and renamed his tribute of love "The Praying Hands."
The next time you see a copy of that touching creation, take a second look. Let it be your reminder, if you still need one, that no one - no one - - ever makes it alone! Let me apologise that I have not used his hands on this blog but rather a feeble attempt I made at painting my own hands. It does I hope emphasis the difficulty of the work I am talking about. 

This blog is linked to my other. A Work In Progress 2

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Lets Get To The Heart Of The Matter.

I was listening to the young lad who lives next door conversing with his mother. In the short span of about five minutes he asked his mother more questions that I could find answers. I smiled to myself, remembering such days with my own two children.

I was reminded of a meeting I attended with parents and the morning of laughter we had as each in turn told stories about their children and some of the wonderful insights they came out with.

My own son the day he stood up halfway through my sermon and walked to the front of the church where he innocently looked up to me and in his best voice said, “ Dad I am just going to go through to the church hall to play. This sermon is too long and boring, if you are not going to chidrenize it I am leaving.” On which he did just that, his mother in hot pursuit.

Another tale is the ne I give you this morning. Is it true? I am not at all sure, but I can tell you this, if I was told it was true I would have no difficulty in believing it.

The story is of the Sunday School teacher speaking with her class. The lesson was on the concept of getting to heaven.

She asked them, 'If I sold my house and my car, 
 had a big garage sale 
and gave all my money
to the church,
Would that get me into Heaven?'


Answered the class. 

'If I cleaned the church every day, 
mowed the yard, 

and kept everything neat and tidy, 
would that get me into Heaven?'

Again, the answer was, 'NO!' 

By now she was starting to smile. 
Hey, this was fun!

'Well, then, if I was kind to animals 

and gave candy 
to all the children, 
and loved my husband, would that get me into Heaven?' 
She asked them again.     

Again, they all answered, 'NO!'

She was just bursting with pride for them. 
'Well,' she continued, 'then how can I get into Heaven?' 
A five-year-old boy shouted out,
 The first thing you need to get to heaven is you have to be DEAD 

Once again it takes the wisdom of a child to get to the heart of the matter. 

This blog is linked to my other.  A Work in progress

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The Secret Box

It is a very busy time, the digging season, so I may not be here every day, though I do promise to try.
I spent hours yesterday trying to dig the soil. I am slowly but surely getting it ready for the future crops.
I had a visit from a friend, as I toiled. He had his young son with him and I had so pleasure telling him what I was doing and why.  He seemed very interested. This in turn reminded me of a beautiful story I was once inspired by.

It was the story of Jack, who spent so much of his time with his next door neighbour, but as is the way of life,  college, girls,
career, got in the way. In fact, Jack moved clear across 
the country in pursuit of his dreams. There, in the rush of his busy
life, Jack had little time to think about the past and often no time to 
spend with his wife and son. He was working on his future, and nothing
could stop him.

Over the phone, his mother told him, "Mr. Belser died last night. The
 funeral is Wednesday."

Memories flashed through his mind like an old
newsreel as he sat quietly remembering his childhood days.

 "Jack, did you hear me?"
"Oh, sorry, Mother, Yes, I heard you. It's been so long since I thought of
 him. I'm sorry, but I honestly thought he died years ago," Jack said.

"Well, he didn't forget you. Every time I saw him he'd ask how you were 
doing. He'd reminisce about the many days you spent over 'his side of
t he fence' as he put it," Mum told him.

"I loved that old house he lived in,"

Jack said.

"You know, Jack, after your father died, Mr. Belser stepped in to make
sure you had a man's influence in your life," she said.

"He's the one who taught me carpentry," he said. "I wouldn't be in this 
business if it weren't for him. He spent a lot of time teaching me 
things he thought were important,.
I'll be there for the funeral,"
Jack said.

As busy as he was, he kept his word. Jack caught the next flight to his
 hometown. Mr. Belser's funeral was small and uneventful. He had no 
children of his own, and most of his relatives had passed away.

The night before he had to return home, Jack and his Mum stopped by to 
see the old house next door one more time.

 Standing in the doorway, Jack paused for a moment. It was like crossing 
over into another dimension, a leap through space and time. The house 
was exactly as he remembered. Every step held memories. Every picture,
 every piece of furniture....Jack stopped suddenly.

"What's wrong, Jack?" his Mum asked.

"The box is gone," he said.

 "What box? " Mum asked. 

"There was a small gold box that he kept locked on top of his desk. I
 must have asked him a thousand times what was inside. All he'd ever tell
 me was 'the thing I value most,'" Jack said. 

It was gone. Everything about the house was exactly how Jack remembered
 it, except for the box. He figured someone from the Belser family had
 taken it.

"Now I'll never know what was so valuable to him," Jack said. "I better 
get some sleep. I have an early flight home. It had been about two weeks since Mr. Belser died. Returning home from 
work one day Jack discovered a note in his letterbox.

"Signature required
  on a package. No one at home. Please stop by the main post office within
 the next three days," the note read.

 Early the next day Jack retrieved the package. The small box was old and 
looked like it had been mailed a hundred years ago. The handwriting was 
difficult to read, but the return address caught his attention.

"Mr. Harold Belser" it read.

Jack took the box out to his car and ripped open the package. There 
inside was the gold box and an envelope. Jack's hands shook as he read 
the note inside.

"Upon my death, please forward this box and its contents to Jack 
Bennett. It's the thing I valued most in my life." A small key was taped
 to the letter. His heart racing, as tears filling his eyes, Jack 
carefully unlocked the box. There inside he found a beautiful gold 
pocket watch. Running his fingers slowly over the finely etched casing,
he unlatched the cover.

Inside he found these words engraved: "Jack, Thanks for your time!
 Harold Belser."

"The thing he valued most...was...my time."

Jack held the watch for a few minutes, then called his office and
 cleared his appointments for the next two days. "Why?" Janet, his
 assistant asked.

"I need some time to spend with my son," he said.

"Oh, by the way, Janet...thanks for your time!"

This blog is linked to my other.  Iona