I still remember swishing my brush in the water, and watching the swirls of color leave the bristles in curling ribbons and gradually infuse the water. How the water turned a beautiful shade of blue or purple or maybe red. Sometimes instead of focusing on the paper and my watercolor creation, I’d turn my attention fully to the water. I’d dip my brush into those dented colored ovals and add a bit more of this hue or that, then watch the change. Inevitably, I’d end up with a murky glass of water and no matter what bright color I added next, the end result was…murky water.
I’ve been feeling like my life is a bit that way lately. No matter how much I try to focus on the joyful moments, of which there are many, I can’t change the overall tone. I’ve begun to start my day with a gratitude list, to push myself to stop and really enjoy moments of this blissful autumn weather, to notice and celebrate small successes, etc. But, it’s like adding yellow into that pigment-laden jam jar of watercolor water. The overall tone remains unchanged. Dark.
Then, this morning I read a post in a new-to-me blog that was referenced in Austin Kleon’s newsletter. The blog is called Affirmation Chickens. Kleon’s endorsement and the blog name drew me in. One thing the author included in that post was a section titled “Here’s What I Loved This Week.” I loved that title and the idea and it made me think. What did I love during this past week? As soon as I asked myself that question, I knew the answer.
Here’s What I Loved This Week
Sunday, on yet another gorgeous fall day, Kurt, Lydia and I walked along a trail to the Presumpscot River. Despite the date on the calendar, there were still quite a few amber and russet leaves clinging to the trees. They cast dappled shadows on the tree trunks and the path. Those that had fallen rustled and crunched beneath our feet. We talked idly of this and that, greeted other hikers as we walked, and admired the scenery. Then, as we rounded a corner, off to the side was a split pumpkin, and sitting neatly inside was a little red squirrel.
“Oh My Gosh! Stop! Look!” I said. The squirrel darted away briefly as we came to a sudden stop. It halted by a nearby tree, eying us. “Oh, no!”
“It’ll come back,” Kurt said confidently, and within mere seconds it had done so. It darted right back into the pumpkin and thrust its hands into the pulp. Red squirrels are nothing if not bold! Soon it was gobbling pumpkin to its heart’s content, ignoring the three of us.
“I wonder who put the pumpkin out here.”
“It looks like it’s eating spaghetti!”
“Oh, it’s so cute!”
We stood for several minutes and watched it eating, making all the appropriate admiring comments, laughing as it grabbed and ate more and more pumpkin. It was such a delightful, unexpected moment.
Eventually we moved on toward the rest of the trail and the waterfall. But that moment was something I truly loved about the past week. So many things had to come together for it to happen–the timing of our walk, our choice of destination, the squirrel’s lunch hour, and above all, someone’s decision to share a pumpkin with the wildlife. So often I find myself aghast and stymied by the choices that humans make on a daily basis. There was an inherent generosity to the placement of the pumpkin, and I felt connected to that beneficent donor, whoever it might have been. It was so comforting to know that there are some people out there who are doing random, kind things in the world.
Remembering that moment makes me feel just a bit lighter.
Now, thinking back to that watercolor water jar, I remember another thing I learned long ago. One way to change that dark color is to empty the jam jar and start with fresh water. Then, be careful not to insert too many dark tones. The squirrel moment is a nice bright beginning. I’m hoping to work with it.