Posts Tagged ‘retirement’

Sunday Morning Coffee in the Gallery at Redlands

January 13, 2019

20190112_0912273418044559475939403.jpg

View from my Desk as the Morning Finally Breaks

Just as the potter’s wheel, once set in motion, still turns for a long time and then turns only very slowly and stops, so did the wheel of the ascetic, the wheel of thinking, the wheel of discrimination still revolve for a long time in Siddhartha’s soul; it still revolved, but slowly and hesitatingly, and it had nearly come to a standstill.  . . . But on the other hand his senses became more awakend, they learned a geat deal, experienced a great deal.

Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

Sunday morning, daybreak in The Gallery at Redlands is providing rich sanctuary. The words from Siddhartha come back to me:

Within you there is a stillness and sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself. 

A long shadow looms across my desk, crosses the floor and climbs the gallery wall before me: the towering edifice of Sacred Heart Catholic Church rises behind me. In a few hours, the sounds of traffic will increase, joined by myriads of voices of worshipers moving along the sidewalk and crossing the street to attend mass. The silence I know now will soon yield to that white noise. At this point in my life, I feel I live more in the silence than in the white noise, and the change is welcome.

As I move to the closing chapters of Siddhartha, the passage at the top of this blog came along, and I felt something stirring from deep within. My mind drifted back eighteen years to an intersection in my life calling for a life-altering decision. At that time I was teaching high school full time, university part time, and serving as education director of a large urban Methodist Church. I was commuting a considerable distance to all three of those locations. Life was spinning out of control, as all my time was chewed up by tasks–lectures, lesson plans, administrative meetings, and constant driving to appointments. I had just taken up the brush again, after a couple of decades of artistic hiatus, and wished for some quality studio time to create. I was just getting accepted into art galleries. I wanted to experience the soulful calming effect of the arts, but felt my life was burning out with too many occupational demands.

Things suddenly came to a head, and I immediately severed all my connections accept the full-time high school teaching post, deciding it was time to slow things down. But as we all know, nature abhors a vacuum. All the empty spaces created by the terminations were immediately filled as my high school saddled me with more courses and more responsibilities. So I continued to spin my wheels, cranking out lectures, lesson plans, tests and activities for new courses that just kept coming. In my final eighteen years of high school instruction, I taught ten different subjects, six of them brand new subjects for me. I switched to a different university for adjunct duties, and ended up teaching five new subjects, all of them for the first time in my life. In addition to this, I began to find more galleries to carry my art work, and began participaing in art festivals. So again I found my life incinerating in an inferno of responsibilities.

In May 2017, after twenty-eight years, I retired from full-time high school teaching, and I feel that life has finally slowed and calmed. My university courses are now online, and the subjects I know comfortably. My time in the studio, painting and drawing, is quiet, and my calendar has very few appointments. Of course, this has required quite an adjustment in my thinking: after decades of living in the hurricane, I frequently second-guess my status, sensing that there is some assignment I am forgetting to do. I am continually shocked to awaken to a day absent of demands.

Those who know me well are probably chuckling by now, knowing that I always seem to be “somewhere else”, always driving to another place. But I choose that; it is not demanded of me. What is most precious in my life now is that I generally awaken before daylight, but don’t have to dash into the shower, dress and eat quickly to make my 7:35 a.m. class (after twenty-eight years!). And I no longer have to come home tired at the end of the day, having watched 125 students storm through my classroom. I can enjoy bliss in my home, because I no longer have a myriad of tasks to accomplish in order to show up prepared for classes the following day. The league of morons in American society who believe public school teachers are overpaid for very little work have no clue at all. They don’t know that teachers face a stampede of students five days a week and then bring their work home at the end of the day–grading, preparing for the next day, returning phone calls to parents, going to bed late at night–and as for myself, I was never, never, NEVER caught up. There was always a task delayed, a report not filed, papers not yet graded, and then at the worst time, someone would manage to let me know that the students deserved better. (I just needed to get that off my chest. Two years after leaving it behind, I still taste the gall).

O.K. Finally to get to the real point of this post, the quote at the top of this page: The potter’s wheel of my life turns more slowly now. With the erasure of all those calendar deadlines, I now find quality time–hours–for daily reading and pondering and recording of ideas. Quality time for scribbling in the journal. Quality time to compose lectures now delivered to an audience of one–me. And I love and embrace this. I feel as if finally a reward is offered for all those decades of chasing deadlines and performing tasks on command. The wheel turns slowly now, but there is genuine quality in those revolutions. I can now savor what I read, take more time to write and revise, and create art at my leisure. And when I decide to travel the open road, I can.

These are truly turning out to be Golden Years. I am so happy I decided not to push my service to thirty years. Twenty-eight was more than enough. My life is worth more than the few extra dollars earned by staying another year or two at a profession that was chewing me up. I am extremely happy to be in this new life.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

 

Musings on the First Night of Retirement

June 5, 2017

retirement chamber

My Favorite Spot in the House

It is the sense of the sublime that we have to regard as the root of man’s creative activities in art, thought and noble living.  Just as no flora has ever fully displayed the hidden vitality of the earth, so has no work of art ever brought to expression the depth of the unutterable, in the sight of which the souls of saints, poets and philosophers live.  the attempt to convey what we see and cannot say is the everlasting theme of mankind’s unfinished symphony, a venture in which adequacy is never achieved.  Only those who live on borrowed words believe in their gift of expression.  A sensitive person knows that the intrinsic, the most essential, is never expressed.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man is Not Alone

At 2:22 this afternoon, I closed the door to Room 114 for the last time and walked away from my school and into retirement.  Crossing the parking lot, I couldn’t resist one last photo that I may pull up to view from time to time.  Or perhaps not.  Friday morning was the last time I saw my students, but I needed the rest of that day, along with Saturday and today to dispose properly twenty-eight years of responsibilities and memories.  I had no idea how much work it would require to bring closure.

Tonight has been truly soothing.  I posted some video footage on facebook of two of the murals I created while I was on that campus.  And I managed to get in some quality reading time.  But for the most part, I just sat and soaked up the feelings of being free from the job that has held me for so long.

There are many exciting things on the horizon and I am glad to turn my attention to them. But I wanted to post something to my blogging friends just to say, Yes, I finally retired, and am happy to open a new chapter.

Thanks for reading.

New Years Eve Contemplation

December 31, 2016

new-year

Reading from The Book of Ecclesiastes

The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.

Ecclesiastes 1:8

We spend so much time on the hunt. But nothing ever quite does it for us. And we get so wrapped up in the hunt that it makes us miserable.

Dan Harris, author, 10% Happier

For two days, I have been covered in New Year musings, and it’s all good. Yesterday, searching out documentaries to hear while working on my painting, I came across a film that my artist friends have been praising for months: “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.” Dan Harris is one of the featured speakers throughout the presentation. Halfway through the film I laid down my brush, took a seat, and watched the remainder, and felt tears welling up as it concluded.

The message of the documentary is not new for me; I’ve been hearing these ideas since about 1972, just finishing high school. But I never grow weary of the discussion, and never stop hurting for all the lost souls caught up in the maelstrom of possession fever that can never feel satisfaction.

My personal ritual, since 1973, is to read from The Book of Ecclesiastes during New Years Eve. I just finished doing this a short while ago, and feel moved to post something. The treatise was written by an aged king who had concluded near the end of his life that “there is nothing new under the sun.” One of his most quoted summations is “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!”  This author had gained it all–political power, wealth, physical pleasure, knowledge. He held back on none of his pursuits and apparently never failed.  Yet, at the end of his life, he sounds deeply unhappy.

The New Year invites us to be retrospective and prospective. I like that.  And, looking back over my past, I acknowledge the many times I have shot for the moon, fell short, and suffered deep dissatisfaction.  But that is not what is on my mind this evening, pausing before the New Era arrives.  My focus now is on the beauty experienced during this earthly odyssey.  Two orbits have never left me impoverished: the pursuit of knowledge and practice of the arts.  In those two realms I have been blessed beyond measure. And during this recent holiday, my library and my studio have offered genuine solace. In these two areas I have drawn strength, and am still happy in the pursuits.

After months of soul-searching, I have made the decision to retire at the end of this school year. The five months before me, I am sure, will race by more quickly than the twenty-eight years behind me.  I anticipate the closing chapter with gladness.  Even more so, I anticipate with gladness the new chapter waiting to be written.  Retirement is the reason I’m pursuing a series of paintings now titled “Portals.”  There is so much waiting to be explored with any series focusing on the open door.

new-year-2

door-friday

Thanks for reading, and I wish all of you the very best in life as you prepare to write your next chapter, as you pass through the next portal.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.