For weeks a friend and I have been having intense conversations about taking risks, betting on ones own talents, stepping away from predictable comfort zones that can suck the very life out of you. We concluded that as artists we do not have a choice but to place the bet, take the risk, gamble on ourselves or live a miserable existence.
Then on Thanksgiving Day morning I was greeted this little bird sitting high atop the big tree in my front yard. She sat on her limb, preening and pecking, hardly conscious of her admirable ability to flit and fly safely from the heavens to the ground and back again. I thought, "Little bird your "out on a limb" is really different than mine." Then the thought came, "Or is it?"
Ithought about the times I willfully stepped out on the limb. In each of the last four decades I have leaped from predictable, safe places to embrace the unknown. At barely 21 years old, I headed for Europe on a one-way ticket along with the throngs of other Baby Boomers that spread out over the planet, their lives stuffed in backpacks, duffel bags and down parkas. For a year I traveled from one end of the continent to the other. God bless my worried parents for the daily prayers they prayed for my safety.
The year I turned 30, Mount Saint Helen erupted and Ronald Regan was headed to the White House both of which I took as clear signs it was time to hit the road again. I sold everything I owned and like many other black American intellectuals, artist, musicians, and writers before me, I ventured to Paris, again on a one-way ticket. For two years the City of Lights bathed me in its intoxicating glow.
My 40's were spent in the power hub of the planet, Washington, DC, one of the world's great cities. I partook of the heady Clinton Party Years when money flowed freely and a grand time was had by all. For those ten years the Smithsonian Institution was my stomping grounds. It was a peak experience but when it's time to go, it's time to go and leave I did to find a place that would lure the artist in me
out into the open.
Just as Josephine Baker inspired my trek to Paris, Georgia O'Keeffe directed me to the Southwest. The mystery and enchantment of Santa Fe, New Mexico ushered in this decade, a little mountain town of less that 77,000 people that is one of the leading art markets in the country. The city overflows with creativity and everyday one can actually see magic happen. Here I found inspiration where ever my eyes rested and a fellowship among artists. But one should not be fooled by the charming pink adobe buildings with the soft edges. Santa Fe is a diva of a city full of complexities and she is demanding.
Here in Oklahoma, where I was born, I have gained a deep appreciation for the tough gene pool that is my birthright. I walk on the same lands traversed by my grandfather, Jesse Fortune, whose birth date I share, and all the ancestors that came before me. It is upon their broad shoulders I stand and they must have been some hardy, resilient Plains folks to survive this no-nonsense landscape. I am proud to have been born here but after two years I can fully understand wy my mother made her leap many years ago.
As we gear up for another decade I am walking out on a limb again, excited and a bit light-headed, prepared to take another risk that I will fill you in on later. The wisdom of my years requires more planning than my previous leaps of faith but leap I must confident that God, the Ultimate Safety Net, and all the many divine forces that protect and keep me will guide me to a safe landing.
Birds do fly and so, too, can we. The Divine Force that gives them the ability and ease to soar, to float on the wind, provides us with the same skill through our spirit, faith and a willingness to jump. We are no different than that little bird sitting on a limb contemplating the vast sky. Like birds, we can soar free, joyful, and safe from the ground to the heavens and back again. The gamble, the risk, being out on a limb is all part of the dance of our divine creativity.
Ultimately rewarding, these leaps off the limb are not easy. So, it's okay to shake in your boots. I do.
...and for all of this I am eternally grateful
What leaps of faith have you made that you would like to share?
I am a writer and artist. But most of all, I am a life traveler. I believe in the power of the well considered written and spoken word. I love music of all kinds and believe in its power to transform the heart and soul, give meaning and depth to the moment. I love the idea of being made of the same stuff as the stars in the heavens. I love the divine adventure of life.