My mother and father grew up in Kansas and in upper northeast Texas during The Great Depression, and simultaneously, the Great American Dust Bowl. The Herculean challenges of these times were miserable and demoralizing.
Despite that my parents' respective families experienced resilience and determination and happy times as well. One of my aunts personally recounted a memory of seeing pies cooling on the railing of the front porch on Sundays when they went to church.
Mom and Dad got married after WWll and moved to California. It must have felt like heaven, a brand new life in a brand new place. My dad worked over 30 years for the Southern California Gas Company. My mom, Maxine, raised my brothers and I, and later ran the kitchen at a large church and nursery school. Their practicality, fortitude and ability to make life cheerful were a result of the character that was formed in their earlier experiences.
My parents had a high school education. Our family lived simply and always had plenty of healthy food and pies. I recall my parents loved Fritos and bean dip. We lived in the San Joaquin Valley, where my eyes continually drank in the Sierra Nevada, vast fields of cotton and alfalfa, and orchards of oranges, walnuts and plums.
Grandmother came to live with us for a few years when I was ten. She shared a room with me, and I believe we both secretly longed for rambling conversations with lots of giggles, but she was the quiet type . . . like her granddaughter. When I could, I hid away in my room, sat on my bed and secretly drew 100's of pictures on white bond paper.
How does one become drawn in to being an artist? Does one's childhood need to have artistic advantages, tremendous talent, trips to the art museum, tons of praise and fostering at a young age? Although I was a well-loved child, those were not a part of my experience. However, my eye was unsuspectingly pulled in to beauty and design, and I came to seek more and more of it.
How we get to where we are in life is fascinating to me. A one step at a time process, one little step starts it all. The pressures and influences, the lucky breaks and the long, dry spells are the yin and yang of our development, our life long road that requires grace and love and passion.
I write this article to those who have a passion for art, but think they have no great talent for it. I believe that art comes from out of our life experiences and personal relationships. For me, it is from the time that I shared my room with my grandmother and the view of the vast, expansive fields and orchards.
I woke up one day and from the depths of me came the words, "I am an artist." I just knew, and accepted it. If that happens to you, take a step, smile, and get ready for one crazy beautiful ride.
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An aside: I strongly recommend reading Timothy Egan's book, The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl.
I wish I had learned directly from my mother and father what their experiences were from their point of view. They never said a word about it.
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