I had a dog named T.J. Don’t remember why I called him that. Found him when he was a little puppy, on a cold, rainy afternoon. Truthfully, I think he found me. I was between homes, and so was he.
I was around 19 and had a ’64 GMC truck, banged up, baby blue, rusty red. Drove it through a 7-Eleven one night. The old, pony-tailed, cracker I got her from wanted $300. I gave him 200 cash. He had dropped a hopped up big block engine in it, and four on the floor. With Sunoco 260, and a jelly-jar of fire-water in me, she’d do almost 140 on a Friday night. I’d a pushed her further but she’d start bouncing so bad, the hood would start flapping and my eyeballs rattled. I quit driving like that after I found T.J.
Some nights, I slept on the bench seat, and T.J. slept underneath. We watched out for each other the best we could. Life was a wild mess, and he gave me my first sense of purpose. Take care of him. He saw me come from that truck to the beginnings of my art, sobriety, marriage, building a house, several business ventures, another home on the river, and up to the birth of my twins. He was my soul mate.
What’s this have to do with this plein air painting? Nothing really, and yet, everything. It was a beautiful day today. I’d been in the studio painting a church in a marsh, and remembering the date, which is pretty rare, got restless. I headed up here, to Princess Preserve, to paint the place I was at 8 years earlier, at the same time, to hold a small but beautiful moment. A simple snack of blueberries and yogurt.
Most people live rushing toward the major events in life. For me, it’s observing the minor spaces in between; breathing in the miraculous, everyday interactions that make life rich and meaningful. Racing to get somewhere in a blur, we miss the most beautiful parts along the way.
Could have been the excess coffee, could’ve been my random mind, could’ve been the photographer shooting the bride-to-be at sunset, but a slew of years swam by while I painted. Dogs come and gone—people come and gone.
Finishing at twilight, I climbed in the van, than sat for awhile, finishing my coffee, counting my blessings, watching mullet flash in the orange glow. Remembering another dog in the mountains, and all the spaces in between. It’s really quite simple—summed up in 8 words—have a sense of purpose, and love someone.
I glanced at the empty seat beside me, “c’mon honey, let’s go home.” As I drove through the marsh, a last stray beam of light burst through the grass, setting the water on fire with a flaming, copper brilliance. Fire water. Inspiration! Wild mess and all, isn’t life sublime?!
* Update: The reference to drinking and driving is only used to illustrate a chaotic time in my youth. I certainly do not condone this behavior today.