Funny how things come around. Years ago, I made a silly paper-mâché bird. I do not remember why or where I got the idea. All I remember is a silly looking ostrich-like bird with disheveled tail and wings standing on one long wiry leg, its other leg folded up as if it were sleeping or ready to take one giant step. I painted them as randomly as I made them.
I had fun doing it. Thinking back, I am almost embarrassed. It was not great art, but people loved them. I suspect this is because I created them out of a sense of playfulness and joy. Our mood influences everything we do.
This was during the first year I lived in Vermont. It was also a time of personal turmoil, which makes this pocket of joyful inspiration quite astonishing. I had found a counselor, because I felt I needed help to get my thinking straight. That was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life, which I strongly believe he saved in many ways. I gave him a thank you card and one of my silly birds and never forgot this kind soul.
Fast forward ten years. Roderick appears in my life. The tall, absolutely beautiful, radiant, peaceful, brilliant, creative and mysterious Roderick. My mercury bead. I say this because of how it felt to be in his presence, even just sitting next to him in our old RV as we traveled across the US. Being near Roderick was like being a mercury bead that rejoins a brother bead, effortlessly, naturally, and then they are whole again.
I was still doing artwork, off and on, when I met Roderick, but the first thing I made that truly felt like it was coming from that sense of carefree, playful spirit was a paper-mâché bird. This one was not as frivolous as the previous version. It felt a bit more sophisticated somehow, or I should say, more confident.
Yes. Again a representation of a winged creature, as if to say “I am free.” This one is different in another respect: it stands on both feet. I just realize this now, as I type these words.
Roderick was full of special attention for me. He was one of those rare people who truly listen when you speak, grasps what brings you joy and then goes out of his way to bring it to you. I could have learned a lot from Roderick about listening. I admit that I did not. Only in hindsight do I get it, and what baffles me the most is that someone who felt little joy himself could be so ready to bring it to others. Maybe this was his way of trying to grasp what this sensation of joy might be. He suffered from depression, yet never complained and his face showed me kindness and his eyes smiled. How I love his face. How can someone be so sad and so radiant at the same time?
He took long walks in the woods with his dog, Mathias MacGregor. He brought back branches that trees had shed and fashioned them into perfect resting blocks for my paper-mâché ravens. He probably made hundreds of these, gently bringing them to my table when I worked on building up inventory for shops or craft shows. I think he found peace, perhaps even comfort, in doing something he knew was useful to someone.
I’ve been struggling a bit with my artwork these past few days. I am torn between ideas of the sort of things I think might sell and the things I actually feel like making. I should know by now to not engage in this struggle. I should know by now to seize my joy and let it guide my actions.
Perhaps I am only now understanding another important lesson from Sir Roderick: That is, however joy shows up, the only right action is to embrace it, not to reason with it or try to see how it fits in the grand scheme of things. The moment you rationalize joy, you have lost it. Ironically, now that I see this I have to wonder. In spite of his sadness and struggle with loving life, Roderick may have been one of the rare people who truly understood what joy is and truly valued it.
Tapadh leat Sir Roderick