Cats, Creativity, and Candles

The urge to be creative rises and falls in an unpredictable pattern. A relatively recent spike in that urge in me—rekindled by viewing several finished products on walls—honed in on stained glass. As I skimmed a craft catalogue—my growing current interest in intricate metal work (e.g., jewelry and abstract art)—burst into being. My years-long fling with mask-making remains—and it may erupt into a love affair at any moment—but I have been dissuaded to pursue it for various reasons. I still have my easel in my office, along with plenty of acrylics and oil paints and several canvases, so I may paint again. The life cycles of all these urges vary in erratic ways. My intentions to start or to return to a creative outlet may last a day or a month or a year. The embers of one may hide, buried in ash, for years. Eventually, they all reappear for a time before they slip back beneath the rocks from whence they came. Everything except writing. But writing is creative in a way and that satisfies the intellectual circuits of one’s brain, whereas creativity that yields a physical “product” answers the need to see and touch and possibly hold the tangible output of a person’s vision. Surprisingly, despite the fact that for years I have craved expressing the kind of creativity that produces physical articles, I have never latched on to one and kept at it. As I think about why I abandoned some of my creative pursuits (or stopped engaging in them for a very, very long time), I think the most significant reason is my dissatisfaction with the products I have created. I want to make clay masks, but I want the make good clay masks. I want to create abstract oil and acrylic pieces of two-dimensional art, but I want them to be good. I want to work with stained glass, but I want to immediately produce, physically, what my mind’s eye sees—something that would be good, if only I could translate into reality the fantasy inside my head. Any thinking person could immediately identify the problem here: getting good at anything requires practice. The Mona Lisa did not emerge, in finished form, from Leonardo da Vinci’s first brush with painting. (Author’s Note: That was meant to be something of a pun…but not much of one.) My lack of patience is legendary, at least in my mind. I try to hide my intractable impatience whenever I can, because it tends to annoy people around me. Of course, it may not be just your ordinary impatience; it could well be attention deficit disorder (ADD). Whatever it is, it is the primary stumbling block for me. I think. And despite the fact that I know it and that I wish I could conquer it, my interest in producing tolerably decent “artsy” products is insufficient to merit the effort. In other words, I want to be good, but my desire is not great enough to convince me to engage in the process of getting good. To use a favorite aphorism (one I have not used for far too long), “The game is not worth the candle.” In the original French: Le jeu n’en vaut pas la chandelle. It originated in the sixteenth century, as I am sure I must have written at some time in the past, to refer to an evening card game’s winnings that were so low they were not worth the wax burned in the candle providing light to the players.


One unassembled chair arrived yesterday. Sometime soon, we hope, three additional chairs, a loveseat, and a low table will join what would now be the solo seating spot. We bought the set to serve as a comfortable and inviting seating area on our deck. The very heavy, circular wrought-iron and its four very heavy, wrought-iron chairs will take up residence at the opposite end of the deck from where they were, outside our bedroom. A few more decorative items to hang from the deck’s header, along with an attractive outdoor rug, will complete the setting. Or, if not complete, get close to it. Hummingbird feeders must be put up (late, I know), too, joining the birdseed feeders. The grill, smoker, and deck box must be properly situated, somewhere, as well. I’m sure it will work out fine. One way or the other, the deck will become an ever-more-inviting refuge. We will be awash in outdoor seating areas (if we include the area away from the house, where the forest floor is littered with a few strategically-placed and very thick slab flagstones). Now, if only I could keep at bay snakes, chiggers, and extremes of temperature, the place will be perfect. Even though I’ve committed to stay where we are, I cannot say with even the remotest certainty that I will remain even moderately as committed in a month or three months or a year. We shall see. I’ll keep searching for that place that will satisfy everything we have ever dreamed of. The moment I find it, my commitment will dissolve. I am not going to hold my breath waiting for that instant.


Today promises to be a pleasant one, if our plans pan out. We expect a good friend to join us today for an extended period of leisure, conversation, and the kind of utter relaxation and comfort available only  in the presence of fast friends. I look at the calendar and see absolutely NO commitments…and the same tomorrow! And the only thing on Sunday is church (which, realistically, absorbs a considerable portion of the day, when one considers the frequent post-service conversation, lunch, and obligatory (for some) nap).  So, we have a few days of actual “vacation” from the day-to-day obligations that devour a person’s time the way a starving wolf consumes an unfortunately slow rabbit.

But we’re not talking rabbits and wolves, here. We’re talking close friends enjoying one another’s company. And that is a good thing.

A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself.

~ Jim Morrison ~


Last night, we spent some time with other friends at the World Tour of Wines (or whatever it’s called), where we drank some pretty nice wines and ate some very nice food. The starter was fried pizza dough, dusted with shredded parmesan and basil and served with a homemade marinara sauce. An arugula salad with a wonderful bacon-infused tangy dressing was next. And a nice chicken breast with a white sauce, served over a few spears of asparagus. To top it off, cannoli stuffed with two different fillings. Of the six other people at our table, three are members of our church. The other three have known our church friends for many years, I believe. It is nice to be involved with a group of people like them—long-time close friends whose bonds go back much longer than we have known them.  Though we are not extremely close to the others, we feel extremely comfortable in their presence. They are people with whom we would happily enjoy socializing over food, wine, and conversation. Some days, I think there are many such people within my “sphere;” other times, I think the number is miniscule. It depends on my then-current definition of friends and where I find myself on a scale the ranges from “fiercely, furiously, dangerously loathing of” to “passionately, everlastingly, hopelessly in love with” on the other. I do not hang around with people on the “loathing” side of the scale, but I know of such people. The older I get, the quite modestly larger the numbers near the other end of the scale get. I’ve spend most of my life being something of a reclusive hermit who craves solitude but who is firmly attached to (i.e., in love with) a tiny number of people. The tiny number is what I refer to; it has grown…a little. Surprisingly (to me), the number increased significantly when I encountered Unitarian Universalists. Hmm. What could that mean?


Yesterday, I came across a house for sale, online, that I found extremely appealing. It was built just last year, but from a design produced for Joseph Eichler’s company, which developed mid-century modern subdivisions in California between the late 1940 and mid 1960s. The design of the house, in Palm Desert, California, is beautiful. It screamsmid-century modern” for every peak and valley in its roof. But I cannot fathom why the builder/developer placed it on a lot that backs up to a large area of bland commercial establishments. Places like Red Lobster and Home Depot and so forth. I was a little put off by the price, too: I think it was $1.5 million, or thereabouts. But it has a pool, so I understand the price tag; the pool probably accounted for half the price. 😉

A little later, after I drooled over the Eichler-designed house, I came across another very nice house for sale, this one in New Caanan, Connecticut. The house, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built in the mid 1960s, I think, is beyond beautiful. It, too, has a pool. But the opulence of the pool was nothing compared to the rest of the property. But it is an “old” house, so it probably needs more upkeep than a newer place. That notwithstanding, its $8 million price tag probably is fair, if a tad steep. After looking at pictures of the Wright house, glancing around my house made me feel sad and impoverished. Of course, I am not impoverished (though not rich by any stretch), just sad. I’ll get over it. I would like to have an architect design a house for me, incorporating my ideas and enhancing and improving them. And, then, I would want an exceptionally competent contractor to take care of construction, etc. I want it to be move-in ready when I see it. Actually, I’d like it to be fully-furnished in the finest furnishings. I would sell everything I own. An estate sale might be the way to go. Where, I wonder, would I have this house built? Not in Florida. Not in Texas. Not necessarily in the USA. Sighhhh.


Mi novia want to name another cat; she suggests the name, Mandu. “Cat Manduuuuu,” she calls out, demonstrating the way a cat’s name can change a person’s behaviors and attitudes.

I need more coffee and something nutritional and tasty. Want. I most certainly do not need either of them. But I shall wander into the kitchen in an effort to satisfy my desire.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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