Life is art.
It really is.
I grew up - or at least spent my most of my formative years (6 - 15 years old) - around artists, musicians, surfers, and hippies in Santa Cruz, California. This small and unique coastal town has a personality in in it's landscape, built and natural, that just epitomizes what we all think of art to be. From sweeping coastal bluffs that border the cold Pacific Ocean by either rocky cliffs or sandy beaches to the deep redwood forests that blanket the majestic coastal mountains, Santa Cruz provides the picture-perfect atmosphere that breeds creativity and encourages self-expression. I miss it.
Art was a big part of my family culture, and beyond.
What does that mean? Well, the first house we lived in after spending the Summer of 1977 driving a Volkswagen pop-top camper out from New York and spending a few nights in Big Sur, was tucked away in the Santa Cruz Mountains on Vine Hill Road. It was large property partially paid for through a barter between the my step-father and the homeowner around some painting and other odd-job craft work. The property was spectacular. It was at least 5+ acres that included a large meadow, a pond, large garden, a swift running stream and waterfall, a redwood grove, a long driveway up to a circular entrance way that separated the TWO homes (one main house and a small cottage) from the large garage that served as, you guessed it, an artist's studio. I believe the property is (...or at one time was) a bed-and-breakfast. Nice!
Oh, and the name of the 6-room school I went to was Happy Valley Elementary and the Doobie Brothers 'hung out', if you know what I mean, at the band's mutually owned home across the street. Need I say more??
While living there with my mom, step-father, and eventually my brother after he made a stormy entrance into the world, we had many friends and family living in and on different parts of the property at different times. I think we even had people living in their vans parked on the large driveway! It was somewhat of a commune of artists, musicians, and other nomadic family members. Pretty cool, now that I really tap back in to those memories.
When not exploring the mountains around Vine Hill Road, I was nosing around the art studio or I was off to one of many art shows and art galleries all over the West Coast. I can still smell the stiff odor of oil paint and the somewhat transparent odor of watercolors my uncle and step-father mostly used to create their masterpieces. And that they were - masterpieces!
When we moved from the mountains, we went to a nice little home one block from the beach in Aptos. An even smaller town nestled on a cliff about 200 feet about the Monterey Bay. Yes, here too there was an art studio and our lives continued to revolve around an artist's way of life. And it continued well into my teenage years.
It wasn't just about material art.
Surfing was also a part of the culture in Santa Cruz. Actually, it was the culture in Santa Cruz. I mean the Beach Boys even mention it in the song "Surfin' USA"! Check out the feature film "Chasing Mavericks", and you'll get what I'm talking about.
I loved to surf - it is for sure the sport of my childhood. This was my first connection I made to art as being the artist and how it made me feel. I hear artists say that when they are in their studios, or writing music, or drafting chapters of a novel they feel free and a nearly euphoric. For me, I got the same feeling when I felt the pull of a wave under my longboard at 'Cowell's' or when I was covered by 8-foot shore break barrel on a bodyboard at 'It's Beach'. Heck, sometimes I didn't even use a board, and just used my body. I'd do anything to get that feeling of being on a wave - and still would today! I miss that, too.
It was during this time that I really fell in love with art. All forms.
In college, I even took an art class in school. Of course, my uncle taught the class - that made it more fun. He's a great guy. The class was art appreciation. I learned that art, for me anyways, is really looking at life through the eyes of another person - the artist. It's somewhat like living the artist's experiences. This was a great way to pull together all of my experience in seeing art develop from "idea to canvas" and the history of art throughout the World.
It's true, I found. A picture sure is worth a thousand words.
Here's what else I learned: Art is everywhere! Art is defined by the individual; which means you define what is art to you. Art is also what you give to others. Art is what you give yourself. Art is our own, unique display to the world our experiences. Enjoy art!
Art moves me and can influence my mood.
Over the past year or more, I've gone through an evolution that has forced me to re-evaluate much about myself. From my own health and fitness, to my career and family - it's been a good experience to assess and re-assess how I offer and share myself with others, but most importantly myself. This evolution has not come without it's discomfort and uncertainty. But what changes do? Out of this I've come to realize that I have my own version of art that is my self-expression that came from a life full of diverse experiences, including my younger years exposed to so much material and action-able art.
It has been a fantastic experience, this evolution!
Everyday I'm now acknowledging my own art, in all it's forms. It may be a run, just being a Dad or husband, a coach on the ice with a bunch of great kids or with a client looking to discover themselves, helping a customer in my 'day job'...anything really. Even in social media. It's all my version of art.
Now time to get practical: Acknowledging this has allowed me to really isolate each aspect of my life. I often refer to this as buckets: I have a fitness bucket, a health bucket, a family/relationship bucket (...with lot's of little buckets in there!), a career bucket, and so on, and on. This helps me think about how full each bucket is and the QUALITY of the contents. I then adjust, act, and re-act accordingly. That's it.
So, what's with all this art talk and what does it do for me? It gives me permission to be authentic.
Authentic to myself because being authentic allows me to accept the 'things', people, emotions, and experiences at their greatest worth - and that means a lot to me. There is no hidden agenda anymore. Life becomes real and that makes me look forward to this journey.
This writing is part of this journey powered by my authenticity. What else is to come?
I'm going to just let it happen.
Stall. Start. Stall. Start. That’s really what it’s been about for me.
I have momentum. We all have momentum. Things are moving in the right direction. Life is good. Not perfect by many standards. What I've realized is that this has been 40+ years in the making for me. And it’s been awesome!
Let me tell you why.
I look back at my experiences and have good memories and bad memories. But never once have I looked back with regret at the actions or experiences that created those memories. You see that’s what creates our perception, our reality. That’s the way it’s supposed to be!
Why do I sometimes have such a hard time with that?
Why do we make attempts to control our experiences so intensely? What’s wrong with having nothing to do, or doing something different? Why must we be “keeping up with the Jones”? (…Who were the Jones and why who made them the standard, anyway? ) Why is there so much second-guessing and ‘Monday morning quarterbacking”? Why must we know what everyone else is doing before we make our own decision? This is uncomfortable to me.
Anyway, by the Jones standard, I’d be an outcast. And in some circles I am.
But I’d never wish to have had it any other way. It’s always been that way for me. That’s OK.
A traditional, married couple did not bring me into this world – a mom and dad that lived together in happy matrimony did not raise me. I do believe they had true love for each other. I do not have a childhood home. I have many of them. I did not have a thriving academic experience nor a rewarding athletic career at any level in school. I did not move into a prestigious 4-year university. I started at a community college and attended college classes like I belonged to a health club – it just made me feel good to be around people that had very diverse experiences and ways of life, but had the same goals. I moved through my young adulthood with some misses, but always landed on my feet.
That’s been the best part.
My experience in the world has been extraordinary. No doubt! But, it’s always been by my measures, not the measures of others. Yep, I've stalled and started again, many times. But every start has been better than the last start. Every stall has had different learning than the last stall. And on, and on, and on. ( – wait for it: …and on.)
I’m not done.
I’ve been a lucky man. I come from a large family tree, or more like a forest – full of personality, attitude, and perseverance. Some branches on the lower part of this tree are stronger than the higher branches, but that’s what makes it fun. Also, it’s this broad family tree that has brought so many wonderful people into my life that would never have come out of a traditional family upbringing. For this I consider myself very lucky, and to some degree, even privileged.
I’m so proud of where I’ve come from. Now I can pass that on.
I have the chance to really cultivate my own family tree. That’s what I’m doing.
I always knew that one day I’d have the opportunity to raise kids, live in a nice home, and enjoy quiet family life. I do have that – but it’s better than I ever thought it would be. The people close to me have been so generous and caring. It’s not perfect; it does have its starts and stalls. And knowing that, being with a partner that understands this about me and that makes it great. Because every start has been better than the last start. Every stall has had different learning than the last stall. What’s next?
No, we’re not the Jones – and that’s best part!
In my little family, we live an ordinary, rewarding life. No exotic trips. No nannies. No prestigious schools. No fancy dinners or wine clubs. No fancy SUVs. No scheduled spa days, necessary girls nights out, or required guy’s weekends away to maintain a connection to lives in the past. Just experiences that create more starts and more stops. Yet without these luxuries, we also get to enjoy low-pressure jobs and just “go with the flow”.
The true best part, I have an incredible wife and life-partner that together we have two healthy boys that go to a great school, play sports, and are growing to be confident young men. Simple.
We do what we love – each of us. And we’re happy. We decide where we fit in.
What’s next? Let me guess.
Wait, no. Let it happen.