For the Artist, on her Birthday

This month my niece, Nora, met the ocean for the first time. Although she was at the beach last summer, she was very young, barely conscious of where she was. This time, just over a year old, she met the experience with fearless wonder. Braver than I was, surely, at that age, she walked right up to the water’s edge and bent down to explore. The next morning, first thing when she woke up, the Nurse put her down to see what she would do, where she wanted to go in this new, unfamiliar place. Still in her pajamas, she walked out onto the porch, then from there to the sand, then from there, straight down the path to the water.

At that age, her father would also have barreled down to the beach, full speed. He would have made a beeline for it. He was brave that way. He knew what he wanted and went for it, full out, with no thought to danger. But Nora’s approach was different. She had no real idea what was down the path, on the other side of the dunes, and she was in no rush. She simply knew she wanted to be outside. Once outside, she was fascinated by the sand and wanted to be closer to it. From there, she saw a path, and at the end of that path was the ocean.

Her mother, the Artist, is brave in the same way. She follows fascination.  It’s what makes her always the Artist in my mind, though she is many other things as well. It’s not the bravery that drives towards a known desire or distant goal, it’s the courage to listen to her own small desires, to the ideas and images that surface, and though there is not necessarily a plan or goal, to trust them enough to follow them down a path to an unknown place.

Because today is the Artist’s birthday, I offer this blessing: May you always hear the small voices of desire and fascination. May you always keep the courage to follow them. And may that path lead you to something vast, deep, and wonderful.

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