“Happy Accidents”

It’s a warm morning, like most of our mornings in Durham this winter. (I’m still not getting around to wearing my sweaters or my coat. I’m kinda wishing we could have a couple cold snowy days.) My friend Lee and I meet up for a cup of coffee at the cafe, to talk about art and other things. I’m trying to start up my own small art business, not sure where I’m going yet, but know I want to teach art classes, as well as sell my own art. Lee is an art librarian at Duke, and has purchased two of my paintings. He’s very supportive of my artistic development. So I’m not surprised at all when he asks me a very deep, personal question – “Where do you find inspiration?”

I start talking about my own artistic process, that often my paintings are full of “mistakes, and how I don’t paint them out. I work around the mistakes, and in some cases intentionally leaving them in the painting. I’m not sure why, but I’m not into painting with precision or attempting to create a perfect painting. I like the ‘messy-ness’ of the finished product when there’s colors and textures that don’t seem to belong, yet are readily visible. I’m not sure what that says about me as artist. Maybe it will become clear some day, but right now, I’m okay not having an answer.

Lee says, “Why call them ‘mistakes’, why not say ‘happy accidents?'” I say “I can work with that” and we move on to talk about other things. It’s not until later though, that I realize that I avoided the question about inspiration. Where DO I find inspiration?

Three weeks later, I’m still pondering the question and wrestling with an answer. Do I talk about how I find inspiration through deep, meaningful conversation with friends? …through reading literature that transports me to another place and time, and leaves me pensive and thoughtful when I return to my own couch? …through a walk in the woods on a cloudy morning and encounter a duck-filled pond? …through my travels to Guatemala and Nicaragua with the team in solidarity with LBGTQIA+ organizations in Central America? All these things leave deep lingering impressions on me long after the conversation, book, events are over and done. In what ways are these experiences inspiring and how do they inform my artistic process?

Or do I ponder about how I find inspiration in my daily spiritual practices of yoga, art and hospitality? How yoga and breath-work aids me in turning inward to finding and experience a deeper more authentic self? How art balances body and mind into the moment, and all I become is my hands playing with color and texture? How a practice of hospitality helps me to see God manifest in all who come across my path?

When I sit down to answer this question of inspiration, there are too many things in my life where I can point and say “that’s inspiring to my heart and soul.” But perhaps, somewhere though, the real answer lies in those “happy accidents” – those unplanned moments that take us by surprise and leave us with stories to revisit over and over again.

It was circumstance, bad luck and an unhappy accident that led our team to Nicaragua without our fearless leader, David, who wasn’t allowed into the country. We all had to stand up and find our way without David’s leadership, and I got the task of managing the expenses, making the trips to the hardware stores, and keeping us within the budget. Yet, even through the bad luck of the experience, our team became very close, carried out the mission with grace, and it was one of the greatest experiences I ever had.

Another “happy accidents” was in Antigua, Guatemala. I was ill from all the smog in Guatemala City, so I stayed behind that morning (close to the hotel), while the team went hiking up a volcano. Robb stayed behind with me, and we walked around the city marveling at the architecture and ruins and more, when we discovered the most lovely museum I’ve ever been in. Nestled in seven interlocking buildings, in and around gardens, was amazing art that thrilled and excited my soul.

So, it’s not really a real answer to Lee’s question, but rather an intention to be open to and be aware of – as I work, grow, play, do art, yoga, talk with friends, and continue living my daily life – those “happy accidents” all around that give shape, texture, and color into my life.

With love and gratitude….my beautiful friends! Peace!