A long way, indeed.

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I went for a run this morning on the beach. Not the street next to the beach. The actual sand-in-your-toes beach. There were a couple of dead catfish, one beheaded, washed up on the shore and I zig zagged around my fair share of jellyfish. The sand wasn’t packed down very hard and my feet were sinking into it with each stride making the effort more than I had planned to give. I ran slower than I’ve run in ages, and it was harder than I would have liked. It is indeed “a serious thing just to be alive on this fresh morning in the broken world.” 

It feels like eons since I accepted Mary Oliver’s poem “Invitation” as just that– an invitation. A spiritual practice. An awareness. A starting point for a series of paintings. In the poem she asks us to take time out of our busy and very important day to attend to goldfinches who are singing in what she calls a “rather ridiculous performance.” I have tried to seek out the goldfinches which have come in the form of many things– clouds forming various shapes and patterns as they move across skies I’ve paid attention to long enough to notice changing colors. They’ve come in the form of trees whose leaves move ever so slightly even without a perceptible wind, the taste of yogurt truly savored, a long line of ants, busy, fragile and easily trampled. 

And with this intention to notice, I’ve lingered with my paintings too, revisiting ones I once would have long called finished. I reread my old blog posts before starting this one. I’ve been talking about this “Linger” series and Mary Oliver for longer than I’m comfortable with, which might just be the point? There’s part of me that wants to apologize.

I could spend a lifetime on these paintings but at some point, I’m going to have to put them out into the world or else “linger” turns to flat-out beached, like the fish I saw on the sand this morning. 

Beached. That is exactly how I feel right now. When the perfect gallery space became available I first decided against it, then decided to go take a look just for fun, then said definitely for sure because seeing it changed everything. Now it’s painting (on walls with rollers), getting signs made, figuring out where to put a desk, and what POS system I should use all the while the paintings that will hang on those walls are still changing. I’m still thinking and rethinking them, adding to them, throwing others out to start again. I’m in the in between time. I’m filled with excitement and nerves. I’m doing an awkward junior-high-style dance with “this is going to be great!” and “who in the world do you think you are?” I feel like a million bucks and I feel like a kid trying to sell lemonade on the street corner. 

On my morning beach run I imagined Mary Oliver visited me and she brought with her my great aunt, Sr. Catherine who was my first and greatest art teacher. Neither of them say much, but their presence comforts me, reminds me that I am both important and yet maybe not all that much so. That the “and” spaces are alright. That the gallery is good. That the paintings will be fine if they sit still yet a little longer. The sand is sinking with every step, and I feel like I’m running in peanut butter, but when I look back at the beach, I see I’ve come a long way, indeed. 

The painting below is one that I’ve been working on for months, both scratching off old bits and adding new. I think it reflects a little of the push and pull I’ve been feeling. The “and” in the fear and excitement of doing something new.

So I plan to be open sometime in September and use the time to slowly figure some things out while my doors are open and there are actual paintings on the walls. A grand opening is tentatively scheduled for the first weekend in November– likely that Friday. It’s definitely safe enough to pencil in.

Thank you all for your kind words of support and excitement over the past few weeks as well as your feedback and suggestions. I’ll continue to post gallery updates to social media and I’ll certainly send out an email when the plans firm up. 

In the meantime, I’d love to connect with you about your own “and” spaces where joy and frailty meet. What is your greatest comfort, your mantra, your ritual?

Picture of Denise Hopkins

Denise Hopkins

August 20, 2021

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4 Responses

  1. I have no suggestions to offer. You’ve got this! Don’t doubt, just thank God for the talent He has given you.😁

  2. Whenever I feel torn over a decision, whether insignificant like choosing an entree from a menu, or significant like choosing to take a job offer, I remind myself that (hopefully) it’s not the last time I’ll ever __fill in the blank__. A life worth living demands risk. Go for it!

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