To control or not to control, that is a question. I don’t say that is “the” question, like in the play, because in fact, this might be “the” question: Will the Red Sox win the World Series again this year?; or this: Will the world spin backwards three times today and everyone on the planet wake up tomorrow committed to world peace and an end to hunger and poverty?; or this: Is the hokey pokey really what it’s all about? Or maybe something else. So I will, in this literary piece, just stick with “a” question, a question about control.
In most of my being an artist self-descriptions, to be found on various internet web sites, I note that I “fell” into my artist life. Like it was an accident. Certain events wholly beyond my control occurred, almost like the planet spinning backwards three times, and as if by magic I found myself with a paint brush or a pencil in my hand, staring blankly at a blank canvas or piece of drawing paper, asking myself one of the most important questions ever to be asked by anyone at any time ever on the planet.
An accident, right?
But, just now, let’s step into the wayback time machine and set the dial for July 2008, and the place for Orleans, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. It’s a warm Saturday early in the afternoon, and I am taking a walk on the Cape Cod Rail Trail, heading east toward the British Isles, daydreaming and paying some level of attention to the scenery and sound of birds and over-the-salt marsh glimpse of Cape Cod Bay. All of a sudden this thought runs into my mind: I am moving to Portland, Oregon. Right then, and I was stopped in my tracks by this thought, because I knew it was true. I was going to move to Portland, where I had never once stepped foot (had never been north of Fort Bragg, CA), where I knew not one single person, where I had no connections, no job, no place to live, not even any plans. At the time I had recently moved from a winter rental in North Truro, was crashing in a spare bedroom of my sweet friends Andy and Jamie in Brewster, was serving as the Director of Housing for the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod, and was ready for a change. I made a decision to go. I made a decision to ask an old classmate from Wareham High School to crash in her spare bedroom and leave from my home town of Wareham on a rainy Sunday morning two months later. I made a decision to stop and look at the Wareham River – in a scene I have recently painted. A decision to rent a room on Craigslist from a woman in Vancouver, Washington. I made a decision a year later to go on an internet date, the day after my son Cameron had come to visit from Florida, and when I said I would stay home with him, let him talk me into going.
The date was with my wife Susan. She and her daughter Marie worked on pottery. She had paints and paper. I became an artist. I was filmed for a YouTube art video, I had shows in a number of coffee houses, I have art hanging in peoples’ homes on both edges of this country, I type this in a room filled with painted and blank canvases and artist supplies, a box of business cards that say “Buddy Cushman Art”. As if by magic. Accidentally. Beyond my control, beyond my imagination.
At a meeting once I heard a guy say repeatedly, “just get in the car, just get in the car, just get in the car”. He was talking about going to another meeting. I’ve been talking about becoming an artist. This morning I decided I was going to look for the best in this day. Another day I’ve been given. Go to a meeting and hear something waiting there just for me. Get a haircut and laugh at my fuzzy, nearly bald head. Send a resume. Make dinner. Pay attention to the sound of bird song. Be grateful.
To control or not to control? That is my question. And my answer is to say yes, and to do my very best to let my little light shine.
Life doesn’t just happen to us, or at us. I make choices and decisions and my life moves in those directions, with mystery and serendipity the occasional walking companions.
When I got in my car I chose to be an artist.