This haiku was written in response to Paula Light’s Three Things Challenge, which you may read more abouthere.In short, the challenge is to produce a piece of creative writing by using the three words provided: pen, hummingbird, amulet.
I was especially inspired to participate in honor of my friend Tracy Crow, a beautiful creative soul who loves hummingbirds. The painting is an older one, made for another dear friend who loves hummingbirds. You might say this entire post has been fueled by the energy of friendship.
Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken made some, if not all the difference to me as a developing person. Rarely one to take the easy or expected path, I found Frost’s poem reassuring, even encouraging. But as I ponder now the various roads I’ve taken, I wonder whether I was destined to end up right here. Maybe all the fretting and deciding were superfluous egoistic illusions of control.
At a current crossroads in my life, I’m not surprised to see paintings with path imagery emerge. But I’m intrigued by the evident central path, significant to me in part because none of the paintings began with any thematic intention. Most typically, my paintings evolve organically, meaning they aren’t planned and often change – sometimes dramatically – as they are made.
I’m curious about this repeated theme, the one path. It’s almost as if my subconscious, maybe my higher self, is offering a reminder: “You’re on your path whether or not you can see where you’re going, worry is optional.”
For not the first time, I’m considering whether each of us has a predetermined path, sometimes called a soul path. This possibility doesn’t negate free will, which I believe we have. It’s more like being in a great river. We may choose to swim against the current or even to walk along the banks. But it’s probably easiest to stay in the water and go with the flow.
I am aware of making choices. At the same time, I feel I’m being led in a particular direction, even as I have little certainty about where that is or what waits for me beyond the next bend.
Do you ever feel this way? When you look back on your life, do you understand now where you were being led then?
Whenever I feel the balance tip to dusk, edging towards darkness, I recall the sunrise, or other light-filled images. Metaphorically, yes, but also literally, with dozens of photographs to choose from.
You might wonder if this is a way I escape the present or turn away from a more complicated reality, which is always a mix of light and dark. But that isn’t my experience. Rather, this practice of remembering light helps me keep perspective no matter what is going on around me, just as a wide angle lens captures more landscape.
I wonder what you do to regain perspective when the scales begin to tip. Would you consider sharing that with me and others? Can we remember the light together, then offer it to those who need a little extra today?
The following tale is my response to this month’s speculative fiction writing prompt posted by D. Wallace Peach. Link to her original post here.
My quest for self improvement began with good intentions. But you know what they say about that. And they – whoever they are – were right, at least in my case.
The beginning was unremarkable, certainly not a decision with any associated labor. I saw the ad for the Promise, a new innovation in body art, and suddenly understood the answer to a question I hadn’t consciously asked. I’d been unhappy, but resigned. Until I saw myself in the Promise, the promise of how I could be.
Maybe it will sound strange to you. But when I saw the picture – the photo of who I could be – I filled with a previously unfamiliar sensation. My usually hollow emotional chambers near burst with the possibility of that golden body, the gleaming key to my betterment. After even a small taste of that feeling – that fullness – I would have paid any price for more. I was hooked from the start.
During our free consultation, my body artist – BA – left no doubt about the prospect of a better life. The results were guaranteed if the program was followed as prescribed. My decision to proceed was cemented by the described ease, the transformation by an artistic hand, the assured certainty I’d never known from my self-directed choices.
After my initial sessions with my BA and her team, I felt great. The body sculpting was painless and easy as advertised, a combination of well-numbed injections and muscle stimulation. All while I rested on the softest leather chair I’d ever touched. From the the water packaged in slim glass bottles to the sound system that could intuit music preferences, everything was top of the line, sleek, sexy. The perfect mirror for what I was becoming.
The effortlessness it took to achieve my new body was almost too good to be true, but the results spoke for themselves. People immediately looked at me differently. I felt desired and physically attractive for the first time in my life.
Please understand, I only wanted what anyone does. To feel better. To be better. You can understand that, can’t you? I wasn’t a greedy or vain person. Not then.
I might not have needed the additional embellishments – the gold plated forearm, the decorative filigree – but I didn’t know enough to say no. Well, that’s not completely true. I didn’t want to say no. Eventually, I always wanted more.
When the old feelings of self-hatred and emptiness returned, I felt confused, then cheated. Until I called my BA to schedule another procedure. That always helped, at least a little, before it stopped helping at all.
Ultimately, I stopped feeling even momentarily whole no matter what we did to my body. Very possibly, I felt more empty and alone than before I’d started my quest. No matter how I appeared on the outside, the aching hollow inside always returned, magnifying the pain of my unhealed wounds. The loud echo mocked me.
Because here’s one thing I discovered too late: No matter how good an external change feels at first, it doesn’t last if there are no internal changes to match.
I guess didn’t realize being admired wouldn’t feel the same as being loved. I’d thought once people started looking at me, they would really see me, want to know me. But they only seemed interested in the parts of me that weren’t real and I’d lost track of what was.
When I shared my dysphoria with the BA, she seemed unconcerned. Rather, she was pleased to offer me an experimental procedure she called a mood and personality upgrade. There was talk of a brain implant with external mood dial, something I barely understood and would have never considered at the outset. But by then, I would have agreed to anything, anything to feel better.
At what point had my good intentions crossed an invisible line to the point of no return? Many things seem obvious in hindsight, but even now I can’t say when I knew I was in trouble. There were signs along the way, warnings I suppose. But I dismissed them. When my friends and family expressed concern, I decided they were jealous, if not narrow minded.
In the midst of my quest, I only saw the gold possibilities of a body that had previously eluded me, a shell to protect me from the cruelty of rejection and self-loathing I had endured in the past. How could I have known the reality would never quite match the promise of possibility? That the key wasn’t in the armor, but in healing the wounds beneath.
I suppose I understand that now, even if it’s too late to peel back the grotesque mask I traded for my humanity, the failed brain implant. And let’s face it: knowing is different than doing. Just this morning, I noticed my shirtless belly roll over the top my boxers and caught myself itching for another upgrade. I can make no promises to either one of us. I’ve broken too many already. The craving for more hasn’t left me, despite all the unfulfilled promises and new insights.
My story is a cautionary tale. Perhaps you’ll listen, though I’ll understand if you don’t. I didn’t listen to the people who tried to warn me. Still, if I can help even one of you reading this, maybe there is still hope. Maybe one of you will be spared my fate, then help me find my way back.
The past week reminded me of My Many Colored Days, a lesser known Dr. Seuss book. The weather was highly variable. So was my mood. Both were predominantly gray, which is where the story departs from Dr. Seuss.
With that introduction, I hoped you might enjoy a representation of this idea in five paintings. The series was made on the same canvas over several days. The paintings are posted in the order of their making. To be clear, I didn’t paint over the earlier paintings because my mood changed. I just wasn’t happy with something about the painting. But considering how different they are, I’m almost certain they were influenced by both internal and external conditions, which varied considerably over the course of days.
Note: I’ve stopped with the final image because it feels like the most honest representation and works both right side up and upside down (as shown below). Perhaps a storm is brewing. Or, turned over, a brighter day is ahead. Both are always true. And wouldn’t life be much less interesting without our many colored days?
I plan to leave this painting unsigned, to turn it over as many times as I need reminders to accept and embrace my many colored days. Will you join me?
I’d also be glad to know which painting you like best 🙂