Six years after I gave up alcohol and drugs I was living in an apartment over a garage in Concord, Massachusetts. It was the middle of the day and I happened to notice movement out the window. When I turned to look, a cardinal had flown to the window ledge and was sitting there. It was so red. It was, in fact, unbelievably red, redder, almost, than anything I could remember seeing. Certainly redder than any cardinal I had ever seen. After a short while it flew away, but the memory stayed. A couple of weeks, or maybe it was a couple of months as 24 more years have come and gone, I was standing in front of a group of people, at a podium, and I said that in the process of stopping using alcohol and drugs and all the work attached to that effort, I had been given new eyes. Same old world, same old people, same old birds, just me seeing everything differently. I have gone on to tell the cardinal story many times over the years, today even in fact, as one way of expressing ever-growing gratitude in my life.
Four years ago I found myself living with a woman – soon thereafter my wife — in Portland, Oregon, she encouraging me to pick up a paint brush, stick it in some acrylic paints she had lying around, and do something. Slowly — little by slow — the painting took hold of me, made me it’s own, sent me off in yet another direction in my life. And you know what? It gave me new eyes. Artist eyes. Clean and sober I saw the same old world in a new way. As an artist I saw, I see the new world in a different way. Not quite sure how to do justice describing my newest of eyes, my 65 year old eyes, you’ll just have to trust me. It’s true.
These artist stories, every Friday, typed with wrinkly old hands and thought up by a brain whose cells, the ones still here, struggle just to wake up sometimes, will look at this unexpected journey. Look with new eyes.