EYE SURGERY — Improved Vision and Attitude Adjustment

by Kevin

I was amazed to feel as good as I did 24 hours after my epiretinal membrane peel eye surgery. Minutes after taking this photo I removed the bandage. At first my vision was blurry, but three days after surgery I could see better than I did the day before surgery, and my eyesight will improve in coming weeks and months.

I was amazed to feel as good as I did 24 hours after my epiretinal membrane peel eye surgery. Minutes after taking this photo I removed the bandage. At first my vision was blurry, but three days after surgery I could see better than I did the day before surgery, and my eyesight will improve in coming weeks and months.

Life is a school and daily events are lessons in how to live better. Some weeks serve up whole courses, employing some rather unique instructional approaches. Then there are those days when you get sent to the principal’s office. That was the case with my eye surgery last Friday. On Tuesday I visited retina specialist Dr. Roy Brod in Lancaster, PA, to evaluate the status of my macular pucker — extra epiretinal membrane tissue growing over my right retina and progressively obscuring the vision in that eye. He had told me three years ago that we would need to wait for the right time to do surgery — when the unwanted tissue was massive enough to remove, but before it was too well established.
 
Seven Tactics for Successful Surgery, Improved Vision, and Attitude Adjustment:
 
1. Motivation: Last Tuesday Dr. Brod finally said, “It’s time.” He had a cancellation in his Friday surgery schedule. We’d have to hustle through some preliminary lab tests and forms, but I could have the slot if I wanted it. I said “yes,” and three years of hypothetical dread of eye surgery became suddenly sharp and clear.
 
I said “yes,” because my vision was getting so bad that It was affecting my ability to work, make art, drive, negotiate stairs, and engage in daily activities. I may be 65, but I don’t feel finished yet. I’m not done working or making art or doing all sorts of normal activities. I cherish my vision as much as everyone else does, and that is sufficient motivation to sign up for surgery. But now I had to figure out how to survive the actual dreaded cut and peel procedure, especially since I would be awake for it. How was I going to hold still and be a good patient? Hell! How was I going to avoid bolting and running screaming out of the operating room?
 
Nobody can abide the thought of sharp objects near or in their eyes, and I am no exception. It seems to be a primal fear, like falling or being eaten by wild animals. I suppose humans have been accidentally poked in the eye by sharp sticks throughout our history, and that collective memory grosses us out — every one of us.
 
We have even turned this ancient fear into a childhood chant. When we want someone to make an excellent promise we require them to repeat: “Cross my heart and hope to die! Stick a needle in my eye!” The threat of a sharp object in the eye is sufficient to enforce any difficult commitment. But I had signed on for the dreaded poke deliberately and voluntarily, and I knew I was going to need more than just the motivation of better vision to get me through it.
 
2. Trust and Confidence: It was clear to me from the start, that you have to trust the guy with the sharp stick or there’s no hope. The “eye principal,” Dr. Roy Brod, is the best of the best in his field. Everyone says so. Along with a few bona fide saints, he is one of the most respected individuals I have ever encountered in any field. And he’s an incredibly nice guy. He’s just so amazingly kind to everyone. You can’t help wishing he lived next door. He’s a prince of a man who inspires confidence and trust with every look and word. And his touch is almost magical. When he gently places a hand on your shoulder or brow, you feel instantly comforted and strangely at peace. This quality is essential in someone you are going to trust with sharp objects close to and in your eyes, believe me.
 
3. Great Drugs: Nevertheless, I strongly recommend that you make damn sure there is a wonderful anesthesiologist with miraculous drugs at hand, whenever you go into surgery. They hooked me up to an IV and pumped God knows what into me throughout the procedure — a sedative? — a mood elevator? I don’t know… but whatever it was it worked. AND they totally knocked me out for the two minutes it took them to administer shots directly into my eye, so I was not awake for that choice moment, thank goodness! The rest of the time I felt so calm that I had NO trouble holding still, and I was basically just fascinated by the whole process, including the visuals, like a good movie playing right inside my retina.

I’m so grateful for those great drugs, because I was awake and could see the entire procedure. I was watching the needle-fine instrument when its tiny jaws opened and grabbed the largest piece of my extra epiretinal membrane tissue to peel and pull it away and out of my eye. I was quite calm and intrigued, and my only thought was, “There goes my problem!” When Dr. Brod administered iodine drops I was mesmerized by the beautiful swirling magenta patterns in my field of vision. And when it was all over I realized that it had been a walk in the park.

4. Support of Friends: Oh sure… It’s a picnic when it’s all over, but what about the suspense beforehand? How do you deal with the adrenalin surges every time you realize, “Oh my God! I’m having eye surgery in two days!” How do you cope with the terror associated with eye torture when you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep? I decided to tell people about my surgery, not because I needed the world to know, but because I wanted as much moral support from the positive thoughts, prayers and hopes of friends and loved ones as I could get. And it worked! I could really feel it powerfully. It helped so clearly that the day before my surgery, even without any drugs, I was already flying. My profound thanks to everyone who said a prayer or sent me a positive thought.

5. Attitude Positioning: The day before surgery I decided that this procedure was a cosmetic luxury afforded only to the rich (people with some means, Medicare and supplemental insurance like me) who happen to be living in modern times. As such, it seemed to me that it was like going to the spa for a professional massage, shampoo, haircut and facial. I adopted that attitude. I was there to be pampered, and I remained in that frame of mind throughout. When Dr. Brod entered the operating room I was blindfolded, but I raised my hand and said, “Thank you for coming to my party!” He laughed and said, “Yes! Let’s have a great party!” I really like Dr. Brod so much. He is so generous with everyone. That helped with my “spa pampering” attitude positioning. Dr. Brod was my personal masseur and spa master who was there to spoil me and make me feel special and wonderful.

6. Surrender: From that attitudinal perspective it was easy to lie back and relax. Living in the woods, I have noticed that when the animals are dying or in dire situations, they surrender and become still and quiet. They let go. I thought often in the few days prior to my surgery about specific animals I have witnessed in these kinds of situations and how deeply instructive their behavior was. I decided to imagine that my circumstances were much more dire than eye surgery — What if I were scheduled to be unfairly executed in the morning? What attitude would I want to adopt in that case? I thought of other dire cirumstances. When I returned to the reality of eye surgery, it did not seem so difficult or frightening after all.

This is my 4 x 7 ft oil on canvas, "Poseidon's Prophecy," in progress. I'm looking forward to getting back to work on it with improved vision.

This is my 4 x 7 ft oil on canvas, “Poseidon’s Prophecy,” in progress. I’m looking forward to getting back to work on it with improved vision.

7. Divine Intervention: But I still had one ace up my sleeve, and the day of the surgery was the time to play it. Much of the time before, during and after the procedure, I managed to chant to the Divine Beloved, and to think of five very saintly individuals I have been so fortunate to meet or know in my lifetime. I called upon them to stand with me. This was very calming, reassuring and helpful. I was especially aware of one of them holding my right hand where the IV was inserted. Whenever I was tempted to feel afraid or stressed, I focused on The Infinite Beloved in the forms of these five saints, and  was at peace instantly. The stress left my body and I became pyscially relaxed and still.

My brother, Dr. Chris Miller, picked me up after the surgery. Dr. Brod called him to say that the procedure had gone extremely well and that I had been a perfect patient — didn’t move a muscle. Chris was very kind to me and allowed me to rest quietly in his beautiful garden or sleep in his recliner. He made us a fantastic lunch — grilled vegetable and fried egg sandwhiches on whole grain toast. Yum!

Then Chris took me back as Dr. Brod had requested for a post-op evaluation six hours after the surgery. The doctor was so excited when he analyzed the results of his own work that he was almost jumping up and down. He said, “Just for the fun of it, let’s take some more images. I won’t charge you for them. It would just be so interesting to compare the images immediately before and after surgery.” He was so pleased with the pictures that he said he might write a paper about my case.

I described my visual experience of the procedure and he was fascinated and delighted. When it was time for me to leave, Dr. Brod admonished me not to do any strenuous activity or lift anything heavier than 25 lbs, and to leave the bandage on overnight, before starting to administer drops four times daily. I asked if I could pick berries, because it is high berry season in the woods. He said “yes.”

We have a bumper crop of berries on our 12 acres this year, and I was relieved when Dr. Brod agreed to allow me to pick them. I wore big sun glasses to protect my eye from thorny berry branches and glaring sun, as I picked a half-gallon of ripe berries two days after eye surgery.

We have a bumper crop of berries on our 12 acres this year, and I was relieved when Dr. Brod agreed to allow me to pick them. I wore big sun glasses to protect my eye from thorny berry branches and glaring sun, as I picked a half-gallon of ripe berries two days after eye surgery.

I have not had one minute of discomfort through this entire experience. The doctor wrote me a prescription for a heavy duty pain killer and said that I would very likely have to use it to get through the pain that would eventually come. But there has been no pain whatsoever. Well… okay… I did have a few moments of rather exquisite pain yesterday when I was picking berries two days after the surgery. I unknowingly stepped on the home of a colony of ground-dwelling bees. They swarmed and five of them stung me on my right arm within five seconds. Now THAT hurt! It hurt infinitely more than anything I experienced during eye surgery.

The bee strings made me realize that sometimes the pain we think we feel is imaginary. We feel it whether it really is painful or not, just because we perceive the circumstances to be hurtful — like a needle in the eye — because of how awful it looks or seems. When I analyzed the actual pain of the bee strings, as opposed to the perceived pain, that wasn’t as bad as I had thought either. In fact it was entirely gone within minutes, and a few hours later there was no sign of the very understandable assault by the poor bees against whom I had trespassed.

Today, just three days after my epiretinal membrane peel eye surgery, I can already see much better than I did the day before the procedure. And Dr. Brod has assured me that my vision will continue to improve for several weeks and months. I am excited to discover how much of my original visual acuity might return and to experience what that will mean when I am working, making art, driving and just living daily life. I am deeply grateful for this opportunity, and aware that not so many decades ago it would not have been possible. I would have gone nearly blind in my right eye and coped as best I could with one remaining eye.

A close-up view of this summer's berries.

A close-up view of this summer’s berries.

Life is a school, and I learned some important lessons in this Course on Vision: I learned that it isn’t just Dr. Brod’s incredibly steady hands that make his practice so successful, but also his obvious joy and pleasure in his chosen vocation. That intrinsic love of his work inspires confidence in his patients and insures positive outcomes. I also learned that there are at least seven tactics that patients can adopt to help doctors perform successful surgeries, but more importantly, those same tactics can be applied for a more rewarding life in general. Well… okay… when it comes to #3, “Great Drugs,” at least in my case, this is primarily about my ongoing efforts to moderate my morning tea and evening cocktail intake… and come to think of it, that really is quite important. So all seven of these principles apply to life in general, for me anyway.

Another week… another course in the School of Life… another step closer to clear vision. By the way, in case you were wondering, attendance is compulsory in the lessons and courses offered by the School of Life, until graduation, when we shall see all things clearly. Until then our job is to be attentive students. Don’t be afraid to challenge the authorities and ask really hard questions. When the opportunity presents itself, be generous and offer to help others with their studies, especially if they are struggling or fear they may even be failing. Finally, the wise student will pause regularly to express private inner gratitude for the invaluable and rare opportunity to learn and progress in this School of Life.

 

HEALTHCARE.GOV WORKS!… Warning: May Cause Ruminations on Mortality

by Kevin

When I succeeded in securing health insurance on line at  healthcare.gov, the thought fluttered through my mind that now, with REAL health insurance, I would live forever in good health.

When I succeeded in securing health insurance on line at healthcare.gov, the thought fluttered through my mind that now, with REAL health insurance, I would live forever in good health.

Virtually all the news commentators throughout the known media universe have been screaming for months about how the Affordable Care Act enrollment website, healthcare.gov, has not been working perfectly. As a 64-year-old man with an analog brain, who NEVER manages to get electronic technology to work the first time, I was not surprised or alarmed that the website wasn’t working well in October.

Even though I am one of the millions of Americans whose health insurance companies deliberately downgraded our insurance to junk status so that it would be cancelled for not meeting ACA standards (scroll down several posts to read the whole story,) I figured I had until January 1 to secure REAL insurance through the Affordable Care Act, and if the website did not work for me, then enrollment by phone or an actual person-to-person interview would certainly do the trick. What was all the fuss about anyway? Smells like sour grapes to me.

The administration said that most of the website glitches would be resolved by the end of November, so I waited until the day before Thanksgiving to make my first attempt at starting to secure REAL health insurance on line. After only three hours I had managed to create my profile and my account, provide my financial information, and study the details of some of my early leading candidates for health insurance. No problems whatsoever. I was impressed. And, by the way, if an old technophobe like me can do this without any difficulty, then the website is extremely user friendly, and most people will succeed in a fraction of the time I invested.

The day after Thanksgiving, while others were shoving and punching each other to gain an advantage in the Black Friday super-consumer frenzy, I quietly resumed my online health insurance quest and was once again very pleased with the experience. I spent a grand total of about seven hours on healthcare.gov, mainly reading about the scores of possible insurance programs I could consider. During that time I probably logged on and off about seven times without any difficulty.

Between sessions I made two calls to the Affordable Care Act phone line: 1 800-318-2596, to ask some basic questions. They were very helpful. I also called several insurance providers to clarify their options and make sure my local doctor and hospitals accepted their coverage. I ended up getting in my car and driving to my doctor’s office to talk face-to-face with his receptionist. I really like Dr. Carl Brango, and I wanted to be extra sure that the plans I was considering were okay with him.

I was sorry to see that dental and eye care insurance did not seem to be offered by any of the plans, but finally, I made my choice, triple checked it, and clicked on “ENROLL.” A message immediately flashed on my screen – something like, “Are you aware that you are eligible to select very similar group plans that are more affordable?” Well… no… I had missed that part of the information, because I had just assumed that the more expensive policies would be more comprehensive. Not so. I voided my first choice and did more research, discovering a very similar plan for $110 less per month than the one I had originally selected, offered by the very same company! But the best news of all is that after many years of paying over $550 per month for fake health insurance that could be cancelled or changed at the whim of the insurance company, as it was recently, I will now have much better health insurance for half that price.

Icing on the cake: After I made my final health insurance selection, healthcare.gov delighted me with an option to buy affordable dental insurance as well. I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t been to a dentist in years, despite some pretty serious dental problems. Now for less than $23/ month, I will be able to see a dentist as often as I wish.

I clicked “CONFIRM” to activate all my choices and received congratulations from healthcare.gov, telling me that I had successfully enrolled in health insurance and dental insurance that would begin January first. Ironically, on January 15th I will begin researching my healthcare options all over again, because I will be eligible for Medicare starting March first, since I will turn 65 in March, and they recommend beginning the process of applying, choosing a plan and securing supplemental insurance, six weeks before the program starts.

I don’t mind. I am just so relieved to have REAL health insurance after decades of paying high prices for fake insurance in the individual market. I will no longer have to lie about my family health history or hide my own pre-existing conditions from my health insurance provider. I won’t have to go to free clinics or university health studies or pay for secret medical services out of my own pocket to prevent my health insurance provider from finding out about a condition and potentially canceling or changing my policy. I will have REAL health insurance that I can use without fear of cancellation or policy change for two months through the Affordable Care Act. Thank you President Obama! And then I will be covered by Medicare for the rest of my life. Thank you President Johnson!

When the congratulatory statement from healthcare.gov appeared on my screen, I was elated, and for just a brief instant I felt the invincibility of youth again. I sensed just a hint of a taste from the Fountain of Youth. The thought fluttered through my mind that now with REAL health insurance I would live forever in good health. After all… that is certainly what REAL health insurance would do for us, right? It would insure that we’d live from now on in a state of perfect health. Alas, the fantasy lasted only an instant before reality closed in around me again – mortality.

An old monk once told me, “The body has to find some excuse to go.” And besides, the science of medicine may be doing some wonderful things, but it is still in its infancy. Too often today’s cures are as lethal as our diseases. Sadly, health insurance does not insure our health yet. But at least it may finally begin to insure that we can all get the basic healthcare we deserve as a human right, when we are physically ill or injured. This tremendous benefit has been a long time coming. From my point of view it was well worth the short wait while a few website bugs were resolved. Check it out… healthcare.gov works!

 

“SAVING THE WORLD” — Confessions of a Reluctant Climate Change “Activist”

by Kevin 

"Utopia," 2013 digital illustration by Kevin

“Utopia,” 2013 digital illustration by Kevin

When people ask me what I am doing these days, I say as casually as possible, “Oh… I’m saving the world.” It’s meant to be a joke, of course… as if I could save an anthill!… But at heart it’s also a serious response to the question. I know I’m tilting at windmills (or perhaps oil rigs,) but I don’t think I have a choice. It feels like a moral duty to do anything I can to call attention to our potential mass extinction due to climate change, work with others to invent and push solutions for avoiding apocalypse, and then pray for a miracle. I just have to.

We do still have the actual wherewithal to save ourselves if we can find the courage. In other words, we have already developed the clean renewable energy technologies that can wean us off of carbon-based energy and give fossil fuel companies another way to get rich. All we need is the social and political will to implement these solutions and changes. If we human beings want to think of ourselves as a life form with “higher intelligence,” then let us prove that we can hold in our minds at the same time, the scientifically proven threat of apocalypse due to climate change, AND the vision of utopia built on our existing skills, technologies and creativity. This is very hard, but we can and must do it. The cognitive dissonance brought on by holding two powerful and opposite ideas in our heads at once will sometimes make us laugh and then suddenly weep and wail. That is natural and necessary. In order to fix this disaster, we must be willing to face and feel “eco-anxiety.”

"Global Warming Apocalypse," 2013 digital illustration by Kevin

“Global Warming Apocalypse,” 2013 digital illustration by Kevin

On April 19, 2013, exactly one year after Rolling Stone published Bill McKibben’s climate change bomb that went viral, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math,” Anna Fahey spoke at the Whidbey Institute Climate Conference and offered a roadmap for future hope and action. See http://insidepassages.com/2013/05/03/tappimg-into-dark-optimism-whidbey-institute-climate-conference/  Anna said, “Dark Optimism” is our capacity to face dark truths, while believing unwaveringly in our human potential, and I think we can harness that.” This is required reading for anyone who is concerned about Global Climate Change, especially if it overwhelms you and makes you feel powerless. Ms. Fahey points out that research shows that 10 – 20% of the population can sway the direction of history. This is truly possible. It is happening with marriage equality. Robert and I never expected to see legalized same sex marriage in our lifetime. It can happen for the survival of all life, too.

"Captain Agape," 4 x 6 ft actylic on canvas, by Kevin, in progress

“Captain Agape,” 4 x 6 ft acrylic on canvas, by Kevin, in progress

Robert and I live deep enough in the woods that we seldom hear anything but the wind, weather, and calls of the birds and other animals, including our own five dogs and a dozen parrots and cockateils. The 100 big koi in our half-acre pond only make noise when they breach the surface of the pure spring water and slap it with their tails – magnificent entertainment viewed from our deck on Buddha Hill. Even better with a glass of wine.

We love it here, more with every day of the past seven years. We feel so grateful and fortunate to have this golden time living in peace and love, surrounded by Nature. It is tempting to withdraw completely from the world into meditation, art and gardening. What could be better? But I can’t quite let myself do that… not yet at least. There may come a time when the tipping point has been so completely passed and the chain reaction toward devastation and mass extinction is so clearly underway, that I will feel justified in retiring to the woods to make my final peace with Spirit and prepare for the end. Just lately I have begun to suspect that such a time may be closer at hand than any of us had thought, because of the tragic news that the vast frozen arctic methane beds are releasing their store of gas that is 20 times stronger than CO2 in its greenhouse warming effect.

I am so grateful to Paul for his wonderful post, just prior to this one, entitled “What’s Important in the News?” in which he elucidated five worthy subjects in the following order:

  1. The Survival of the Earth
  2. Equality vs Inequality
  3. Help Those in Need
  4. Do No Harm
  5. Freedom (to Act Responsibly)

I especially appreciate the fact that Paul placed the Earth and survival of all life at the top of his list of priorities, where it belongs. After all, if we do not arrest climate change and prevent a catastrophic chain reaction from rapidly degrading the climate and our home environment, there will be a mass extinction event. If that happens we will not have the luxury of addressing any of the other long-term issues confronting humanity and the world. We will be done for a long time, until evolution brings us back again in a few million years. There is one final shred of hope, if all else fails – perhaps geo-engineers can succeed in the highest stakes science experiment in history, using the Earth as their test tube while all of life hangs in the balance. It would be so much better to reverse course now!

Using his paintings as illustrations, Kevin discusses Global Climate Change with a group of participants in "Healing Earth Pain Through the Arts" at Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster, April 20, 2013

Using his paintings as illustrations, Kevin discusses Global Climate Change with a group of participants in “Healing Earth Pain Through the Arts” at Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster, April 20, 2013

The upshot of all this for me personally, is that I accept speaking, facilitation, and performance gigs from groups that ask me to bring my large climate change paintings and talk about their apocalyptic and utopian themes, in combination with facilitating an ideation session, or presenting concerts with poets, musicians, performance artists and others. When I have complained to Paul that I would much rather stay home to make art and tend my garden, he generously says that he is glad I am willing to go out into the world and make these statements. When I ask, “Why me?” he points out that perhaps it is my karma. Maybe it is time to pay the world back for the money I made serving corporate America and Fortune 500 companies for nearly a quarter century, lending my art and facilitation skills to their efforts to invent new products and strategies. Paul is right, although sometimes continuing public involvement feels more like atonement for sins than fulfillment of karma. But that may be a distinction without a difference.

The other night I dreamt I was a student at university awaiting the results of my final project. I thought I had submitted a symphony, but when the pretty young professor returned my manuscript, I saw that it was a 50-page photo essay. It began with the words, “I have the right to be a nice guy. A rock in the stream has the right to enjoy the water passing over it…” Then there was a series of beautiful photos of a colorful rock just under the rushing stream water. The words of the essay melted into the colors of the rock and disappeared altogether. It became a wordless essay, but none of the meaning was lost.

I was sweeping the sidewalk when Professor Pretty surprised me by saying, “The judges have awarded your final project an ‘E’ – the highest evaluation given to any project in the last 50 years. You must prepare yourself for a strong reaction from the media and the public when we release this news.” I realized that to avoid the crowd, I could wade into the river, but there were already people standing waist deep in the water, waiting for me. So I waded past them into deeper water and allowed the river to wash me downstream, where I was once again alone in Nature. I was happy and everything was fine.

I don’t like having to bother people with bad news. I have the right to be a nice guy… So I spend as much time as the world will allow, enjoying life as a hermit artist in the woods, where words dissolve into colors, but the meaning remains evident. I would much rather sweep my walkway than face a crowd or the media. But I’ve learned that if I am willing to wade into the deep water, the river will wash me downstream and everything will be fine.

"Celebration of Life," 11" x 14" acrylic on canvas by Kevin, 2007

“Celebration of Life,” 11″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas by Kevin, 2007

I shall willingly produce the next event at Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg on June 12, 2013, 6:30 to 8:30, starting with “Theatre of the Arts,” then expert panelists will present, and finally I will facilitate audience interaction/ Q&A with the panel. Everything will be fine. I will do it for my unborn great-niece Samantha, who is expected to arrive into this world at any minute. I gave her the painting above, entitled “A Celebration of Life,” at her baby shower recently, hoping that she will live and thrive to enjoy the painting and her life.

I am an old man now – older than my 64 years. I have lived a long, fulfilling life. I have known true and enduring love, enjoyed fascinating adventures into the history of human art and thought and culture, created a significant body of art, communed with Spirit, and spent a very peaceful time in Nature. I am satisfied. But what can we say to the children and the grandchildren now? They will soon begin to ask us “Why did you not take care of the Earth? Did you forget that this planet is our home and we cannot live without it? What did you do to save our home after you set it on fire? What are you doing now?”  I wade into the deep water of the river because I want to be able to say to the children, “I am sorry that we were so greedy and careless and damaged your home. I am doing what I can to save it.”

 

“HEALING EARTH PAIN THROUGH THE ARTS” – an interactive creativity workshop

Earth Day Weekend, Saturday, April 20, 2013 – 10 am to 12:30 in the sanctuary (Coffee downstairs at 9:30 am)

 Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster, 328 W. Orange St. Lancaster, PA 17603 (This event is sponsored by HIVE of Planet-Loving Activity — See our Facebook page)

FREE – Bring an object of nature (leaf, feather, bone, flower, etc.) to use during the event.

Miller The Flood finished full canvas March 10 2013 photos 006[1]

“The Flood,” Kevin L. Miller, 52” x 52” oil on canvas will be shown for the first time in public

  •  Jerry Lee Miller will emcee and speak.
  • Kevin Miller will show “The Flood” and 8 to 12 other large works of art. There will be a discussion about healing and transformation through creative action and the arts.
  • Streetbeets will perform, including Paul Montigny, Tom Tucker, Kati “Kanga” Gruber, and Jerry Lee Miller.
  • Christi Hoover Seidel will read her poetry.
  • Kesse Humphreys will offer a performance art piece.
  • There will be opportunities for silent reflection, singing, moving, writing, and group participation and discussion.

Miller The Flood finished photos March 8 2013 022 check cropped

Detail from the lower left corner of “The Flood,” Kevin L. Miller, oil on canvas, 2013

Some of the topics covered in the workshop may include:

Bill McKibben’s Terrifying New Math

  • 2 degrees Celsius is the maximum warming the Earth can sustain. We’re nearly halfway there including inertial rise.
  • 565 Gigatons of CO2 release is the maximum the Earth can handle from 2012 to 2050.  We will reach that level in 15 years by 2028 at our current rates of carbon extraction and use.
  • 2,795 Gigatons of CO2 are in the process of being released from proven oil, gas, and coal reserves that fossil fuel companies and fuel-rich countries have already promised to develop.

Allen Miller Deep Woods 3x4ft March 12 2011 IMGP3146

“Deep Woods” Kevin Miller & Robert Allen, 3 x 4 ft acrylic on canvas (signed “Allen Miller”) 

How Will Climate Change Affect Planet Earth? (from the World Bank’s Potsdam Report on Climate Change — “Turn Down the Heat”) 

  • CO2 Increase:  Current CO2 levels are higher than at any time in the past 15 million years and rising rapidly. 
  • Global Warming: At a time when the Earth should naturally be cooling, it is warming faster than at any time since the last ice age. 
  • Ocean Acidification: As CO2 dissolves in the oceans, acidification adversely affects marine life and coral reefs.
  • Sea Levels Rise: Even if warming is below 2 degrees C, sea levels will rise 1.5 – 4 meters by 2300 causing coastal inundation and loss around the world. 
  • Wetter Atmosphere: Earth’s atmosphere is holding much more moisture now, causing more severe storms. 
  • Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Super-storms: Extreme weather events like Hurricane Katrina and Super-storm Sandy are becoming more common. 
  • Fire Transforms the Ecosystem: We have already seen massive fires in the U.S. Southwest. In Amazonia, forest fires could double by 2050 with current warming trends. 
  • Sudden Changes: Antarctic ice sheet disintegration would lead to rapid sea level rise. Rapid Amazon forest dieback would lead to drastic wider ecosystem damage. 
  • Cascade Effects: Key failures would lead to disastrous regional events.

Miller Woodland Spirits 4x4ft Sept 9 2010 IMGP2225

“Woodland Spirits,” Kevin L. Miller, acrylic on canvas, 2010 

How Will Climate Change Affect People and Animals? (from the World Bank’s Potsdam Report on Climate Change — “Turn Down the Heat”) 

  • Extreme Heat: There is a ten-fold increase in areas with extreme heat since the 1950s. The 2010 Russian heat wave left 55,000 dead, 25% crop failure, and a hundred million acres burned. 
  • Risks to Human Support Systems: The Potsdam Report “identifies a number of extremely severe risks for vital human support systems,” including water scarcity, flooding, drought, wildfires, transformed ecosystems, forest dieback, and “large-scale loss of biodiversity.” 
  • Adverse Health Effects: Extreme weather events will cause injuries and deaths. Epidemic diseases and allergies are expected, as well as respiratory, heart and blood disorders caused by heat-amplified smog levels.

2OL The Corn is Dead... Whats Next ART

“The Corn Is Dead… What’s Next?” Kevin’s digital illustration for TwoOldLiberals.com

How Will Climate Change Affect Our Food Production and Supply? 

  • Agricultural Food Security Disruption: As temperatures approach and surpass 2 degrees C, food security will be undermined by extreme heat, drought, floods, invading insects, diseases and sea-level rise in low-lying delta areas (Bangladesh, Egypt, Vietnam, Africa, etc.) Agricultural disruption will lead to nutritional deficits. 
  • US Agricultural Disruption: The 2012 US drought has already caused widespread crop failure throughout the Midwest.

HIVE photo Eco Anxiety poster

“Eco-Anxiety” rapid image poster by Kevin L. Miller for HIVE of Planet-Loving Activity 

How Will Climate Change Affect Our Psychological and Spiritual Health? 

Most of us experience some or all of these Seven Stages of “Eco-Anxiety” in our efforts to cope with Earth Pain. They occur in no particular order and are often repeated: 

  • Denial: Many people experience at least some period of denial, even if it is only a failure to hear current realities. 
  • Fear: You are not paranoid. Climate change is happening, and it is truly frightening. You are not imagining it. How can we face our fears and move on constructively? 
  • Depression: It would be unnatural NOT to experience some despondency after realizing that the Earth and all life are in serious peril. How can we continually process our depression and remain productive? 
  • Guilt: We are all complicit in the human activities that  have caused climate change, and many of us feel guilt. How can we forgive ourselves and save the world? 
  • Anger: What could be more natural than feeling rage when we truly realize that all life on Earth could end? How can we harness our anger for constructive action? 
  • Grief: Periods of weeping and wailing on the floor or on our knees may be appropriate and necessary. How can we transform our grief into creative action? 
  • Action: We can transform the six states above into joy, hope and fulfillment when we take creative action on behalf of the Earth based on our ability, interest, and willingness.

Miller Global Warming Apocalypse March 2012 color art final

“Global Warming Apocalypse,” digital art by Kevin L. Miller, 2013 

Four Questions That Help Us Move Toward Creative Action 

  1. What CAN I do? – We can all list a lot of things that might be possible for us to do to arrest and reverse climate change and to raise awareness about it. 
  2. How the HELL should I know? – If we are to approach this monumental task with some degree of good humor and humility, it would be advisable to start by admitting that we don’t know what to do. We are making it up as we go along. 
  3. What am I WILLING to do? – There may be many things that we could do, but we will be most effective pursuing those things that we are so willing to do that we actually feel real motivation and passion to act. 
  4. What am I QUALIFIED to do? – On the short list of things that we can do and are willing to do, which ones are we most qualified to do? Do we have some training or background in certain kinds of skills that could be useful in helping to save the world? Can you build an electric car? Are you a good letter-writer? Are you an experienced public speaker? Do you know how to plant trees?

2OL Utopia with Stinky and Squeak March 2013

“Stinky and Squeak in Utopia,” digital art by Kevin L. Miller, 2013

Uniting People of Diverse Perspectives for Creative Solutions and Action 

Earth’s climate is warming rapidly and approaching the point of no return. Now is the time for people of diverse perspectives from every point on the political, socio-economic, and religious-cultural spectrums to unite for the purpose of innovation and action on creative solutions to preserve Earth as a habitable planet for future generations. In order to do this, we will all need to be willing to venture outside of our comfort zones to work with people we do not usually associate with, and to tolerate and even respect their points of view. 

Pope Francis expressed it eloquently during his inauguration homily on March 19, 2013, when he talked about the true meaning of the Christian vocation: 

“… It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the world… It means protecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live…” 

“Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: Let us be ‘protectors’ of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world!” 

Jerry Lee Miller and the other artists and I hope you can join us for “Healing Earth Pain Through the Arts” on April 20, 2013, 10 am to 12:30 (9:30 for coffee) at Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster, 328 W. Orange St., Lancaster, PA 17603. Yours, – Kevin

Dear President Obama and Secretary Kerry — 1st Letter from Kevin

Dear President Obama and Secretary Kerry,

I have voted for both of you collectively three times for the Presidency, and I thank you for your steadfast service to our country in a time of peril. I also attended the Feb 17, 2013 “Forward on Climate” Washington D.C. rally with 40,000 concerned citizens, sponsored by the Sierra Club and 350.org, to ask you not to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline. The world is now in a state of severe climate change crisis caused by human activity. We need your leadership to preserve the Earth as a habitable home for future generations of all life.

Some have said that Canada will exploit the double-carbon, bitumen-saturated tar sands reserves “regardless of what we do.” That may be true, but is it moral and ethical for the U.S. to be complicit in this tar sands crime against the Earth and future generations? Famed NASA climatologist James Hansen has said, “If Canada proceeds and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate.” When he was asked to articulate three reasons why you, Mr. President, should reject the tar sands Keystone XL Pipeline, he replied, “Our children, our grandchildren; the other species on the planet; and Creation.”

Scientists all over the world and your own supporters are asking you to do everything in your power to stop the KXL Pipeline. Read the Potsdam Report commissioned by the World Bank. Time Magazine on March 3, 2013 said, “There are many climate problems a President can’t solve, but Keystone XL isn’t one of them. It’s a choice between Big Oil and a more sustainable planet.” As 350.org founder Bill McKibben says, authorizing the KXL would be like approving an 800,000 barrel/day fuse to one of the planet’s biggest carbon bombs. Please come down on the right side of history and stop the Keystone XL Pipeline.

2OL The Corn is Dead... Whats Next ART

Here’s my own art for one of my many blog articles about what is happening to the Earth, “The Corn Is Dead… What’s Next?” – July 23, 2012 at http://TwoOldLiberals.com . Read it at http://TwoOldLiberals.WordPress.com/2012/07/23/the-corn-is-dead-whats-next-4/

Your supporter and deeply concerned citizen,
Kevin
co-founder, “HIVE of Planet-Loving Activity,” Lancaster, PA. See our FaceBook page.

 

CREATIVE RECYCLING: Make Art and Buildings with Junk

 

by Kevin

Robert and I are always on the lookout for junk and used stuff that we can repurpose to make art or to continue constructing our home and barn art gallery and other buildings here in the woods where we live. We just finished the polished stone wall, pictured above in the living room of the cottage we are building in the woods beyond the dead-end of our dirt road. This rock wall took us a little over a month of evenings and Sundays to build, and it is a solid example of a junk project.

All the double-pane, argon-filled windows in the living room are also salvage. The knotty pine wall and ceiling planking was purchased in an Amish “mud sale” auction. And the black walnut floor was a fallen tree processed by an old order local Mennonite lumber man.

Ten years ago from our moving car, we spied some jagged chunks of the beautiful polished stone sticking up out of the dumpster of a countertop business near where we used to live. We didn’t know quite what we would do with it, but we knew we had to have it. The manager of the place said we could take scrap out of their dumpster in exchange for bringing an occasional case of beer for the people who worked in the countertop business. We were enthusiastic dumpster divers for beautiful chunks of polished stone for several years, and ended up moving our heavy treasure to the woods when we sold our big house in the suburbs and moved here.

Using salvaged materials to make art and buildings requires an eye for beauty and value obscured by a layer of mud or rust, and a willingness to engage in creative problem solving while working through each customized project.

We still did not know what we were going to do with the polished stone. Eventually we purchased three acres adjacent to our original woods where we lived in an old trailerhouse. The new land included a small half-constructed hunting cabin that we decided to finish and turn into a cottage for ourselves. Then it hit us – the polished stone would make a beautiful accent wall in our new home. Six weeks ago we significantly strengthened the foundation supports under the living room to carry several tons of additional weight. We hauled truckloads of the stone to the cottage and lived with the rock puzzle pieces spread out all over the floor for a month while we constructed the wall.

First we had to cover the surface with concrete blue board secured to the studs with long screws every six inches. We found industrial strength mastic, especially formulated for heavy rock walls, and buttered the back of each rock as we installed it, with shim and occasional support screws in between. It took both of us to lift some of the larger 1.5”-thick stones into their places. When the entire puzzle was finally solved, Robert grouted the whole wall in one afternoon and washed it about 20 times.

We love our humble little cottage in the woods even more than we enjoyed our big fancy house in the suburbs. Yes, we are still sleeping in a corner in the unfinished kitchen and cooking with an electric skillet and a 50-cent garage sale microwave, but we have never eaten or slept better. Next summer maybe we will use some of our salvaged lumber to build a bedroom or two.

The hunting cabin itself was a piece of junk when we bought it. Friends strongly advised us to tear it down and start over. The previous owners were chain smokers with five indoor pit bulls and Rottweilers. They left mountains of the worst kinds of garbage and trash all over the property. The cabin itself smelled so foul that the only way we could plan and take measurements was to run in holding our breath and look around for 60 seconds before bolting out again to gasp for air. We had to leave the building open to the elements for over six months before we could bear to spend time inside and begin the massive cleaning chore.

So, we understood why people felt we should tear down the place and start over, but we could also see very clearly that the basic construction was strong and sound, and we knew that if we could purge and clean it, the skeleton would be a good beginning upon which to construct a new home for ourselves. Four years later it is becoming a real jewel, and the memory of the stinking junk heap it used to be has faded from our minds. Now we see only what it is today and what it will become tomorrow. We are using mostly salvage windows, doors, lumber and stone to build the house, and we do all the labor ourselves, so our costs are very low.  It’s a house made of junk, and we are very proud and happy to live in it.

If your couch and chairs and rugs are starting to look a little ratty, paint them! Robert’s painted furniture is very popular. Be sure to use water-base acrylic paints, because they remain rubbery and flexible and do not get brittle when dry.

All you need to become a “creative recycler” is an eye for interesting used materials that might be good for some future purpose. You have to believe that junk can be cleaned and repurposed to make something interesting and beautiful. The “outside settin’ sofa” and 3 straight back chairs and rug above were ready for the junk heap. So Robert painted them in his inimitable style with acrylic paints, and now they have a new life. It helps if you are willing to be a bit of a pack rat and store junk for a while until the right opportunity comes along to give it a new incarnation. We collect and store lots of junk. Two days ago we brought home a big truck and trailer load of used lumber from a country dwelling that was being demolished.

Flea markets and garage sales are great places to find valuable junk. I made the “Jeweled Christmas Tree” above almost entirely from junk jewelry and beads and fake pearls that I found at such places over a period of years. The finished junk jewelry mosaic is one of the most popular art projects I have ever completed. Everyone seems to want this pile of junk!

Another building on our 12 woodland acres that looked like it might not be long for this world was our 150-year old barn. The front wall had collapsed outward substantially, because the former owner cannibalized the major support rafter that held the building together, to use for other purposes. The first time we walked into the collapsing barn, Robert fell through the floor and into the lower level which was full of flood debris and disgusting trash. It turned out that all the full timber floor joists had been turned to powder by termites. The floor was nothing but dust! What a mess!

A lot of people might have left the old barn to fall down, but we discovered that the old oak frame had hardened to the consistency of steel and was extremely strong. So we decided to save the structure and turn it into our Barn Art Gallery. We constructed an entirely new load bearing front wall inside the original collapsing wall. We took out the floor and built a new one. Multiple rafters now hold the building securely together. We covered the interior walls with a puzzle of irregular shapes of salvage plywood that we bought from an Amish farmer after he removed a thousand nails from the 40 pieces. We constructed dormers and installed salvage windows. Today it is a beautiful and peaceful refuge beside our stream and pond, decorated with junk furniture and carpets that people were planning to throw away. Eventually we hope to expand the gallery to show more art.

We often get criticized for buying water and sodas in plastic bottles, but I have saved every single container for seven years, and I am starting to make art out of all of them. We personally drank all the water and soda out of the plastic containers that make up the somewhat tongue-in-cheek “Rose Window” above. It looks beautiful when the sun shines through it. I am still constructing a water bottle chandelier. Each of the 220 bottles glows with a tiny white LED light stuffed inside. I’ll add another 100 water bottles and hang the chandelier from the vaulted ceiling over our kitchen. I am also planning to make tall glowing cone-shaped trees of plastic bottles as outdoor sculptures.

Randy, our little pug puppy, fell asleep on the edge of his water bowl, slipped in and drowned. But Robert brought him back to life with five minutes of vigorous mouth to snout CPR. My 16″ x 20″ junkart construction, “Randy Valentine,” commemorates the joyous resurrection of our puppy. Randy is healthy and normal today.

“Randy Valentine,” above, is a small prototype for larger junkart pieces to come. Our pug Randy is immortalized as he looked when he was a puppy. Here he is made out of shredded junk mail paper mache with real painted egg shells for eyes. He is nestled in a yellow styrene chicken tray adorned with hearts cut out of used red plastic picnic plates and surrounded by flowers made of water bottles. I bought the glitter and beads and tiny plastic animals for pennies at our local dollar store before it closed.  The chickens are made of eggs shells.

Why make art and buildings with junk? We all know how important it is to recycle. The earth is smothering in our junk – especially the carbon emissions and greenhouse gas junk we are spewing into the atmosphere, mainly by burning fossil fuels. If we want to leave a place where our children and grandchildren can live in the future, it is important to stop dumping our junk into the vital waters, soils and atmosphere of our home planet. It is time to buy and use less stuff, and begin finding new uses for our old junk that will otherwise end up in the landfill. It is certainly important to collect our plastic, glass and paper and turn it over to recycling systems that can convert those forms of junk into reusable pellets to make new stuff. With a little bit of creative thought and a new mindset that looks for ways to repurpose our junk, we can also eliminate the middle man and give our junk a whole new life on our own! And it’s loads of fun!

WHY MAKE ART?

by Kevin

Kevin stands in front of his “Earth Rose Window,” made of plastic bottles, displayed in the center city art gallery that will close in several weeks.

Robert and I have decided to close our 2,000 square foot art gallery in center city in a few weeks and move all of our art back to our Barn Art Gallery and studios deep in the woods. We’ve had a good run at the city gallery for the last 18 months, and enjoyed every minute of it, even though we only sold a few paintings. Before that we exhibited 65 big canvases at the new library when it opened two years ago, and they bought six of them to start their permanent collection. That was exhilarating! We also had a good time producing a two-man show for a gallery in a nearby city three years ago, and a local restaurant exhibit last spring led to the sale of two of Robert’s big paintings.

We’ve worked very hard, primarily for visibility, because in recent years there hasn’t been much disposable income that the public was willing to invest in art. We hosted popular open mic music and poetry nights monthly in our center city gallery, often attracting as many as 50 people. But poets and musicians are notoriously poverty-stricken in America, and, of course, they couldn’t buy any art no matter how much they might appreciate it.

We were content to open the art gallery for visibility, but recently we have found ourselves in such a time and money crunch that we have not made any art for months. Our “day jobs” and the upkeep of our 12 wooded acres and many animals and buildings are more than a full time life for both of us, especially when we are devoting evenings and weekends to making art as well. Running the center city art gallery, which initially promoted our art, became counterproductive as it worked to stop our art production. On top of that, the formerly vibrant city art scene seems to have stalled along with the U.S. economy. Local art galleries report that the spring and fall ArtWalks this year were very poorly attended.

“Multiple Personality Disorder,” 33″ x 42″ acrylic on canvas, by Kevin

So… It’s time to retreat to the woods and make art again. YAY! That should be a cause for celebration, right? But I have recently found myself whining about an artistic identity crisis. I’m beginning to come out of that now, but for weeks I’ve been struggling with the question “If art is made in the woods and nobody sees it, does it have a purpose?” (That question is the sequel to “If a tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?)

This soul-searching has been useful in forcing me to decide whether or not communication and social response are an essential part of making art. My decision is “not,” although an occasional reaction beyond apathy would be nice. While art can be very useful, enlightening and helpful to society in all kinds of ways, and it is good if an artist’s work makes her or him feel a sense of connection and purpose in society, such functions are not essential to the intrinsic value of art as a vocation for the artist. The minimum requirement for being an artist is making art. Sharing it is optional.

The urge to create art is as fundamental for an artist as the urge to eat or have sex or pray. And when an artist does not create, there are eventually negative effects just as there are for any individual who abstains from eating or having sex for too long, and for some of us when we don’t meditate or pray. Art is the vehicle through which the artist is integrated with the material, psychological and spiritual world. Without making art, the artist is “disintegrated” and alienated from the world. Artists intensely desire union with all that is. Our love affairs and efforts to merge with the world lead us into creative processes that make us pregnant with the art to which we ultimately give birth.

“Something Was Happening in the Sky,” 11″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas, by Kevin

The fundamental function of integration that art fulfills for the artist physically, psychologically and spiritually is not dependent upon society. It does not require that anybody beyond the artist sees or responds to the art. While such responses are usually desired by artists as gratifying, challenging or stimulating experiences, and certainly necessary to art commerce, they must not to be confused with the artist’s internal process of integration through art with physical, psychological and spiritual reality.

In fact, societal reactions to art can significantly warp the integration process and even impede it. Artists who become very successful in selling one particular style or subject matter in their art, often find themselves enslaved to that success and unable to evolve and move beyond it to new forms and subjects. Artists who are rejected or fail to sell their work to an indifferent public, wonder unnecessarily what is wrong with their art and think of themselves as failures, rather than focusing on the successful integration their art has afforded them into their private physical, psychological and spiritual realities.

Art is not a talk show or a political debate or a marketplace. It is a private and personal practice like sex and dietary habits and meditation. Many artists choose not to show their work to anyone at all, or they show it to only a few trusted loved ones, because they know that this very private soul expression and exploration is fragile and can be damaged by public response which is often ignorant and cruel. If an artist has a strong ego and can withstand the rigors of public reaction and enjoy the resulting dialogue then s/he may choose to go beyond creation and into communication of art.

“I Miss Smokin’ SOooo Much!” digital print by Kevin

Commercialization or monetization of art — the attempt to promote and sell it — is a third and entirely separate category beyond private creation and communication of art. My hat is off to any artist who is so brave and bold as to proclaim that s/he will make a living by selling art. In this day and age in America that is a very hard path to follow. I do not recommend it, and while I have sold a fair amount of my art, I have steadfastly refused to require it to support me, preferring instead to raise money for food and rent by working in other jobs. I have never wanted my art to be influenced and changed by the marketplace. I like yellow and purple and bright colors. I don’t want to leave blazing hues, nudes or controversial subjects out of my art just because I know that they don’t sell as well as more neutral tones, hidden human forms and safe subject matter. I cannot allow my art to be dictated by lowest common denominators, because then it wouldn’t be my art.

Recently I spoke with a young sculptor who is supporting himself by selling his large metal sculptures. He has sold his work so successfully that he had to cancel a one-man show because all of his inventory sold out before the show opened! I asked him what his secret was. He replied, “I decided to ask what people really want and give them that.” So, of course, I asked him what people really want. He said, “Sunflowers and dandelions.”

Understandably, this young sculptor may have abandoned his own vision and personal expression in favor of making sunflowers and dandelions so that he can eat and pay rent. Now, I have nothing at all against sunflowers and dandelions. Van Gogh’s sunflowers are utterly sublime, as are the tall wonders themselves that grow in nature and provide us with beauty and delicious seeds. And I find dandelions magical and beautiful. It is more than possible to make authentic art with sunflowers and dandelions as subjects. But I’m guessing the real subjects for this young sculptor were groceries and rent, and his motivation was money – not personal integration or expression.

Some artists have been lucky enough to be born into flourishing societies that appreciate art and culture and have the luxury of supporting those pursuits during a time of economic prosperity. In such happy circumstances it is certainly possible for artists of all stripes to support themselves with their true vocation, while expressing their visions authentically and not merely shaping them to societal tastes. In many parts of America today, at a time when 23% of U.S. children are growing up in poverty and too many people are unemployed and hungry, buying authentic art is not a public priority. How could it be? Artists are therefore faced with a choice – We must tailor our art to the tastes of the wealthy or support ourselves with a “day job” and do our art as and when we can.

Many friends and acquaintances have said to me over the years, “Follow your dream! You are an artist. Quit that day job and do what you love. Become your true self!” I completely agree that I have to make art or I will sink into despair and dysfunction. Art is like food, water and oxygen to me. It grounds me in my own physical, psychological and spiritual being. When I don’t make art I become disenchanted and unbalanced. But I like to eat, too, and at least in the winter it’s nice to have a roof over one’s head. I’m not willing to stop making the authentic art that may disturb some people in favor of sunflowers and dandelions that might please the public but leave me gasping for air. So I’ll keep my “day job” for now, thank you, and pray that Social Security is still there in a few years.

Meanwhile, I’ve changed my mind about public response to art. In the past I’ve always said that both praise and condemnation were fine with me, and the only response I could not tolerate was apathy. Well… that declaration has now been tested and found false. Outside of a handful of very close and supportive friends, by far the most common response I get to my art these days is indifference. Often it seems that people don’t see it at all and I wonder if it has become invisible. For a while I was very bothered by this, but suddenly I find myself at peace. I don’t have to worry about whether or not my art elicits a satisfying scolding or gratifying congratulations. I now have the extreme luxury and pleasure of making art privately, in the peaceful solitude of the woods. This is a wonderful gift!

“Apple Man,” 3 ft x 4 ft oil on canvas by Kevin

I seem to have to remind myself every now and then to enjoy art as a solitary vocation, whether or not there is any public response. About 30 years ago I dreamt about a wondrous baseball tree and awoke with the following poem fully formed in my mind. I read it frequently when I find myself forgetting that art is a very private matter:

THE BASEBALL TREE

by Kevin

Have you ever seen a baseball tree

all covered with ripe juicy baseballs?

          Some of them are so ready

          they burst at the seams

          and ooze red through the stitches.

 

Those are the good ones to eat.

White and plump outside – bulging leather cheeks.

          Tear the stitches loose;

          catch the running juice;

          and feast on red flesh,

 

quivering and flashing in the moonlight

like a rare sea creature emerging from the shell.

          Ripe baseballs are very sweet

          like the reddest cactus pears

          of a Santa Catalina summer.

 

One warm night I found an excellent baseball tree

resplendent with painfully ripe, sweet fruit,

          splitting and spilling in the moonlight –

          glistening red flesh

          weeping to be eaten.

 

Overjoyed, I gathered many prize baseballs

as offerings for my beloved brothers,

          to show them loving respect

          and share the secret pleasures

          of my moonlit baseball tree.

 

But they would not eat my ready gift.

They looked strange and afraid and amused.

          They had not heard

          that baseballs are delicious

          as well as practical.

 

I myself ate several, to show them

baseballs are cactus-sweet and harmless.

          My brothers turned away

          shaking their heads

          with concern and disgust.

 

But in truth, I am sadly pleased

to go to my secret baseball tree alone

          on warm summer nights –

          sweet moonlit nights –

          and eat peacefully.