The Birds Don’t Know They Can’t Fly

Recently I attended a large artists’ workshop. My agenda focused on unfamiliar media: water soluble oils, assemblage, metal patinas, and photoshop abstractions with stencils. Since I am unable to drive long distances, I had the chance to spend a night with a dear old friend who had been Director of the Bascom-Louise Gallery here. Such fun and laughter! She showed me to my room, and still chattering away, it took me a good five minutes to notice the huge painting of pale roses on the wall. I gasped in surprise. It was one I had done years ago when I was incapacitated with a broken ankle, a three by four foot painting of roses, an arrangement sent to me by a friend who had come to help me to the hospital and, as an orthopedic surgeon himself, had intervened in getting my treatment perfect. I remember studying the painting as if someone else entirely had done it. How did I make those brushstrokes, those colors? How did I work on such a large canvas with a broken ankle? I don’t know.

The next morning I opened my eyes and there was the painting. The experience took me into a meditation on releasing the obstacles I put in my own way:

  1. a vision of picking up stones and dropping them in my own path
  2. a vision of stepping on and over those stones to get past them
  3. a vision of picking up those heavy stones and removing them from my path
  4. a vision of walking past those stones without ever picking them up in the first place

All the while outside the early morning birds are singing, singing and flying. How can they fly? They fly because they do not know that they can’t. How do babies learn to walk? Because it never occurs to them that they can’t. Clearly it did not occur to me with that broken ankle that I could not do this painting. So I did. And I still can. All those things that beckon to me in my future are there in my range of possibility as long as I don’t pick up the stones of my own mental obstacles and drop them in my way, as long as I don’t convince myself that I can’t.

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