Rolling With Joy

When Missy gets hold of a pair of dice, watch out. Magic is likely to happen. 

“YEAH!!” 

Missy’s developmental disabilities make it difficult for her to take part in a lot of games. But when dice need rolling, cards need drawing or any kind of random factor enters in, she quickly takes the spotlight. Not only does Missy roll with gusto, she typically rolls well – to the point where we’ve sometimes claimed her as our family’s secret weapon at holiday board games. 

It’s given her an impressive winning streak against my wife Heather at Candy Land. 

It helped her trounce all comers – roughly a dozen players or so – in a sprawling Yahtzee battle. 

And yes, it gave her just a little frustration at our last gathering when that famous luck went south for a while, producing 1’s and 2’s on the dice instead of 5’s and 6’s. No one’s perfect, right? 

Even so, I’ve still been tempted to have her pick our lottery numbers. We’ve learned to respect the gift – and more importantly, to appreciate the glee. 

You see, that’s the best part. Missy LOVES being “the roller.” It lets her play on an equal level with everyone else. More than that, it lets her be appreciated, even celebrated at times. 

For her, it’s a pathway to joy. 

And she’s far from the only one. 

I don’t want to throw the word around casually. I’m not  just referring to a brief burst of happiness, though that’s often a side effect. Joy is tougher than that, something that sustains you even when the circumstances don’t. If “hope” is the willingness to work toward a positive outcome that you desire but can’t yet see, then “joy” is the fuel for the fire that keeps you moving, letting you hold each moment close for what it is.

That’s not an easy thing. Especially these days. 

Many of us are tired. Many of us have losses. And when everything in the season starts shouting at us to “Celebrate! Celebrate!”, sometimes it just piles more on. We feel out of place … if we have the energy left to feel anything at all. 

But when we find a place – not the one the world wants to give us, but one that’s truly our own – something opens up.

When we can share appreciation for another – however simple and small it may seem – that something spreads.

Remember the Charlie Brown Christmas tree? Bedraggled, overlooked, but able to flourish with some support and love. Not unlike Charlie Brown himself, for that matter: mocked in the role that others tried to give him, but triumphant despite himself when he put it aside to reach out to something neglected.

We all have light to share. Not “jobs to do,” with the grinding sense of obligation that can imply, but a little spark that’s part of who and what we are. Maybe it’s just a glimmer, barely visible to anyone else.

But if you put enough glimmers together, they become a chandelier.

That’s what joy can be.

That’s what we can be.

May we all share in that gift, this season and beyond, with a joy that not only sustains but welcomes. May it become second nature, but never taken for granted.

Magic happening? Why not?

After all, this is how we roll.

Waiting for the Light

“When are we going?”

“Not quite yet, Missy.”

That’s not an unusual exchange in our house at most times. Missy, after all, is one of the world’s quiet extroverts – a person of few words (due to her developmental disability) who loves to be around people. Even the most mundane errand often sprouts an eager tagalong, even if there’s barely time to smile at the checkout clerk.

But as the evenings get longer and the air gets colder, the question becomes The Question. When she asks after dark, Missy’s not looking for crowds.

She’s looking for lights.

And these days, she’s not alone.

If you regularly stop by this column, you may know that Missy and I make a series of holiday light runs across all of Longmont through the holiday season. And if you haven’t dropped in from Andromeda, you know the season for lights and other holiday decor keeps getting earlier and earlier.

Long, long ago, the excitement started on Christmas Eve, kicking off the celebrated “twelve days of Christmas.” In fact, it was considered bad luck to decorate any earlier than Dec. 24.

A few generations ago, that shifted to Thanksgiving. After a day of good turkey and bad football, it was time to dig out the ladder and start hanging up the roof lights … once you’d shaken off the exhaustion of consuming 10,000 calories in one go, of course.

These days, and especially since the pandemic, it seemed to be fair game any time after Halloween. Our own family’s earliest record is the day after Veterans Day (attention must be paid) but some homes seem to have the clock-change motto of “Spring Forward, Fall Back Into a Blaze of Glory.”

it’s not hard to guess why. In times that feel dark – both literally and metaphorically – it’s natural to reach for all the light we can get. Some studies have even shown that early decorating can lift spirits, tapping into a reservoir of nostalgic feelings.

For myself, I worry a little bit about making the magical mundane. When something special becomes ubiquitous, it risks losing some of its wonder. We start to tune out what’s always there, and it would be a shame to consign something so brilliant to the realm of the ordinary.

But here’s the thing: it’s not a hard boundary. Each of us knows what our heart needs. And if reaching for a strand of colored lights brings you joy at a moment you need it, I’m not going to be the Christmas cop. (Likewise, if reaching for NO lights keeps your soul content, that’s OK, too.)

We all push back the shadows however we can. And anytime we can strengthen joy or ease pain, we’ve made the world a little better – regardless of the season.

That doesn’t require lights on the house. Just lights in the heart, as often as we can kindle them.

So best wishes to you, whether your own seasonal colors are spread across the front lawn or tightly packed in cardboard. Whatever you celebrate, however you do it, may it give you the strength and reassurance you need in the time ahead.

And in a couple of weeks, when Missy and I hit the road at last, we’ll make sure to wave as we go by.

On the Flip Side

The day after the All-Star Game, it felt like I had entered Bizarro World. 

Even if you’re not a certified geek like me (nobody’s perfect), you’ve probably heard of Bizarro World, the Superman setting where everything is ridiculously reversed. Bizarro World’s residents put curtains outside their windows. Their greatest celebrities are hideously ugly. And of course their Superman equivalent, the clumsy and Frankenstein-ish Bizarro himself, gains power from Green Kryptonite and has a penetrating gaze that can ONLY see through lead. 

So when our own Elias Díaz became the All-Star MVP with a game-winning home run – the first  of the Rockies ever to win the honor – the fan reaction would have made Bizarro feel right at home. 

“Well, it’s been nice knowing him.”

“Yeah, he ought to get traded any day now.” 

Mind you, I get it. It’s been a long, long, LONG time since the glory days of Rocktober in 2007. The current ownership has pretty much dedicated itself to the pursuit of mediocrity … and then not even taken the steps to secure that. Stars get cut or traded before they become expensive, endless streaks of losing are tolerated as long as Coors Field keeps filling up and a .500 record is treated as aspirational to the point of being unrealistic. 

Rebuilding years get bad, I know. But this isn’t rebuilding. This is marking time. To steal a quip from Abraham Lincoln, if the Monforts don’t want to use the Rockies, would they mind letting someone else borrow them for a while? 

But while they’re dithering, let’s not let them steal our joy. However brief it may prove. 

I have a little experience there. 

If you’re a regular reader here, you know that my wife Heather has just a few medical issues. Which is kind of like saying that Hollywood has just a few people on strike right now. We’re talking good stuff like Crohn’s disease. Or MS. Or ankylosing spondylitis. And often, some special guest star that we struggle to identify at all. 

Draining? Yes. Discouraging? Sure. There have been a lot of grinding days where we’ve both felt like we’re walking to the North Pole while trying to drag Pike’s Peak with us. The next moment can never really be counted on and every plan has a just-in-case contingency. 

But here’s the thing. It’s not unrelieved gray. Somehow, some way, sunlight does sneak in. And we’ve learned to treasure it for however long it lasts. 

It might be laughter at a silly joke or horrid pun. Or a “what the heck?” moment in the Chinese action melodramas Heather loves. It could be a moment of peace in the mountains or a cheer from Missy at getting to help us wash dishes. (Yes, our Missy celebrates dish washing – I told you this was Bizarro World.)

Whatever the form it takes, joy finds a way in. And when that happens, there’s nothing wrong with holding it if you can.

It’s not easy, I know. On a grand scale, it sometimes even sounds a little frivolous. “How can you enjoy (x) when (y) is going on?” But the mind can attend to a number of different things.  And while I never want to be the one fiddling while Rome burns to the ground, I also don’t want to be a grim soul who’s closed himself off to anything but pain.

So yes. Celebrate the good when it comes, however small it might be. Touch the joy. Feel the now, no matter what tomorrow holds.

And if someday it holds a change of ownership for the Colorado Rockies, maybe we can all rejoice a little more.

Bizarro? Maybe. But you’ve got to start somewhere.

We Interrupt This Column …

Today’s column was almost called on account of “Yeah!” 

The shouts of triumph – yes, plural – came from Missy. The source? A book full of Star Wars illustrations, every single one of which required her to wave me over so I could share the latest discovery. 

“Look!” 

A tough-looking Wookiee. Han Solo with a blaster. An alien with a baby face. (“Baby!”) Every few seconds brought a new image, a new cheer, a new requirement to get away from that keyboard and come SEE. 

“Yeah!!” 

If you know Missy, this won’t surprise you. Her physical and developmental disabilities can make many things challenging for her, but enthusiasm has never been one of them. When she’s in the mood, just about anything can get her supercharged: a classic car, a cool-looking pair of shoes, even an opportunity to wash the dishes.

“Yeah!!!” 

Now, this could be a column about how great that kind of joy over simple things is. It’s a good thing to remember and I’ve written that piece before. But this time, I want to flip the direction. 

You see, those moments don’t follow a schedule. Not one that fits neatly on a calendar alongside “take notes for half thought-out column” and other such things. It means interruptions. Backtracking. Maybe even frustration as you try to recover a lost bit of focus. 

But that doesn’t matter. 

When you’re a parent – or at least in the position of one – and you get summoned into the latest enthusiasm … you share it. Right then. Right there. Period.

To them, this is the most important thing in the world right now. And being invited to join that is a privilege.

OK, yes, obviously there are limits. Sometimes it’s good to learn to wait. Some dangerous enthusiasms need to be headed off. And yes, sometimes you legitimately can’t interrupt a task . (“I have to keep my eyes on the road right now, sweetie, but I’ll look when we get to this stop sign, ok?”) But by and large, the rule holds.

Don’t squash the joy. Don’t diminish the moment. Never teach the person you love that something else is more important than they are. 

Come to think of it, that’s not a bad rule of thumb in general. 

Missy’s in a quieter mode now, perusing a magazine as she watches the world through the bay window. But the next moment will come. And when it does, we’ll be there. 

After all, it’s a moment to share love. 

And that’s always something to shout about. 

“Yeah!!!!” 

For Just a Moment

“It’s not the despair, Laura. I can take the despair. It’s the HOPE!”  

– John Cleese, “Clockwise”

Oh, my Colorado Rockies. You do know how to break our hearts, don’t you?

We go through an entire offseason remembering how bad things have been. We grumble at an ownership that sees .500 as a lofty aspiration – even while we know in our heart of hearts that that’s absolutely right.

And then you do it. You go out and win your first two games against a team that played for the National League pennant last year. Not just lucky squeakers, but actual, solid wins.

What’s a fan supposed to do?

I admit it. On Friday night, I was singing a certain score to the tune of “Cleveland Rocks”: “4-1 ROX! 4-1 ROX! 4-1 ROX! 4-1 ROX!”

“Don’t fall for the ‘opening days’ of hope,” a friend advised on Facebook. Cynical, but basically sound. Smart, even. After all, the Rockies are past masters of April Love: a beautiful opening month followed by a loud ker-SPLAT.

I pondered it. Considered it. And then rejected it.

“I refuse to let the present be poisoned by the future,” I wrote back. “Especially when it’s this much fun.”

We’re often advised to follow the classic Mel Brooks proverb: “Hope for the best, expect the worst.” It’s good advice. Aspirations should always be high, plans should always account for challenges and disruptions. But somewhere along the line, a lot of us lost the first half of that saying.

It’s so easy to forget how to hope.

Mind you, I’m not talking about tolerating abuse or a dangerous situation. I’m not even talking about waiting for things to magically get better instead of backing up your dreams with action (something the Rockies ownership has been accused of on multiple occasions). As I’ve said before, hope is optimism plus sweat.

This is something simpler. When you have a good thing, even for a moment, why not allow yourself to enjoy it? Even if it’s likely not to last?

Maybe especially then. That’s when it becomes all the more valuable.

It’s easy to get grim. Heaven knows the world gives us enough reason. Sometimes it inspires a drive to sally forth and make things better. Often it just inspires exhaustion from trying to survive one more day.

But when it inspires nothing but despair … that’s when it gets deadly. Because despair is inertia. it allows no joy, no effort, no hope. It expects nothing and then immediately fulfills its own prophecy.

I’m not making light of it. I get it. There are days that crush me under their weight. In a perverse way, I suppose that’s why I reach for joy when I can. It’s a way to take even one step forward, even if it’s at a limp.

And when a moment gives light – even something as trivial as a baseball game – I hold it close. Because we need all the light we can get.

By the time this appears in the paper, the Rockies may have fallen back down to Earth … or still be soaring. Either way, we had the moment, however long it lasted. And that’s something.

So have at it, my Men in Purple. Break my heart one more time.

At least for today, you’ve made it beat a little faster.

Feeling “Blue”

We were on Day 3 of the Rochat Family Holiday Light Tour (“All of Longmont! All the lights! No GPS!”) when a certain song hit the airwaves again.

Now, there are approximately 30,000 ways to musically celebrate in December, all of which will sooner or later come out of a car speaker – probably multiple times. It might be the simplicity of a “Silent Night.” Or the driving pulse of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Or the screams of “NO!” from a thousand drivers as George Michael’s “Last Christmas” warns them that they’ve lost the annual Whamageddon contest.

This was none of the above.

Instead, we were treated to the sort of silliness and sentiment that you can only get in the presence of the King.

“Ah-ah’ll ha-ave a bluuuuuue Christmas without yoooou….”

Yes, the Elvis hit. The one with alll the woo-ee-oos in the background, where the Presley-style croons and stutters go so far over the top that they probably hit Santa’s sleigh on the way back down.

I can’t exactly call it a guilty pleasure. But it never fails to draw a chuckle from me, if not an outright laugh, at the unlikeliest Christmas classic in the canon. (With the possible exception of Alvin and the Chipmunks, but that’s another column for another time.)

You see, Elvis didn’t want to do this song.

I mean, REALLY didn’t want to do this song.

The song had already been a country hit for Ernest Tubb, and Presley wanted to leave it with him. When told he had no choice, Elvis tried to deliberately botch the assignment.

“Let’s just get this over with,” he said to his band and background singers, telling them to get silly, even downright bad, so that no one would be tempted to put it on a single. One-and-done, forget about it.

“When we got through,” background singer Millie Krikham said in an interview at the Country Music Hall of Fame, “we all laughed and said ‘Well, that’s one record that the record company will never release.’”

Oops.

You know the rest. Millions of sales. Tons of airplay. “Blue Christmas” became as much a part of the Elvis legend as “Love Me Tender” or “Jailhouse Rock” – despite, and maybe even because of, the decision to let go and get goofy. Reluctance somehow unlocked delight, even joy.

Whether you love or hate the song, I think that’s something we can all sympathize with.

“Let’s just get this over with.” Those are words of the season for an awful lot of us, aren’t they? Too often, a time that should be about love and humanity becomes a bulldozer, inexorable and overwhelming.

We all still have lives beyond the holidays, after all. And when those lives have been carrying too much, it doesn’t necessarily feel like much of a season. So we go through the motions, not expecting a lot.

But that’s the weird thing about joy. It doesn’t wait for the obvious moments. In fact, its greatest strength is when it lies in ambush, touching the ordinary and making it unforgettable.

That’s the real gift of the season. One as old as the hills. And if we reach out just a little – even if it’s just enough to get through – we give ourselves the chance to open it once again.

I hope it finds you this year. Wherever you need it, however you need it.

After all, the best things often come from out of the blue.  

Here Comes the Judge

“Can you do me a favor?”

My ears pricked up. These six words may be the most dangerous in the English language. Typically, they precede one of the following:

  1. A request to help somebody move (doubled in likelihood if you own a pickup truck)
  2. Yardwork or cleaning that will take more than four hours to complete
  3. Locating something that has been lost beyond the ken of man, angels or the Webb telescope

This one proved to be a rare exception, a request from a Kansas friend and former co-worker. Not a short task but certainly a delightful one.   

Namely, she wanted me to help judge a high-school journalism contest.

Like a lot of creative professions, journalism has its share of competitions. You can always tell when awards time has come around because editors and reporters start digging through the archives like never before, trying to find that one perfect feature that appeared on page C9 of the Sunday edition. If the contest requires a hard copy sample, you can count on adding several layers of dust from digging through a year’s worth of barely-touched newsprint.

You squint at the categories, you fill out the forms, you send it all off … wondering the whole time what will suit the fancy of those mysterious, unseen, usually out-of-state judges.

Now it was my turn to be on the other end. A virtual stack of 30 opinion pieces awaited my scoring and comments.

Easy? No. In many ways, it reminded me of being a director at auditions, where half a dozen great choices present themselves but only one can get the part. That’s always agony.

But at the other end, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend my time. I mean, I had a chance to share what I know, with teens eager to learn the craft and improve. That’s exciting.

After all, good teaching moments always benefit both sides. And that’s not always easy to come by in writing.

It’s an odd craft. Some arts give you the chance to constantly bump up against others: acting, music, dancing. You work with others, you see what they do, and (in the best cases) you each come away the better for it.

Writing, by its nature, is a little more solitary. Both the creating and the learning tend to come when you’re reading and writing on your own. And unless you’re deliberately pushing yourself, a lot of it tends to fall into the comfort zone: we read what we like to read, and we see and learn the same things.

So having to evaluate a beginner in the craft forces you to think. You consider topics and approaches that aren’t your own, you see basic things that you haven’t thought of for ages. And in making yourself notice and call out details – whether to praise or correct – you reinforce that in your own mind too.

That’s valuable. And it goes beyond writing.

Whatever we do, whatever we’re proud of, we’re never so good that we can’t learn more, and a student can be the best teacher of all. We can always lift up someone else by sharing what we’ve gained … and often, find ourselves rising at the same time, buoyed by reflection, enthusiasm and the freshness of something new.

We teach someone to build. And in the process, we gain new materials of our own. Everyone wins.

So as the world opens up a little more (I hope), take the opportunity. Share something you love, whether it’s fishing or guitar or fixing the sink. Watch a rookie and remember what it was like to be there yourself.

I suspect you’ll enjoy it.

It may even do both of you a favor.

Deck the Halls With Heads of Holly

At long last, Holly Hobbie smiles at us from the Christmas tree.

And from slightly lower down, so does her long-lasting head.

This may take a little explanation.

Long ago, like many a little girl, my wife Heather had a Holly Hobbie Christmas ornament, the big-bonneted pioneer girl of many a greeting card. This Holly was designed to hang from a tree branch with arms open wide, gazing benignly at passers-by.

It was much loved. And like many much-loved things, she got broken a bit too soon. One Christmas, the family unpacked its ornaments to find that 90% of Holly Hobbie was missing – everything except her well-known head.

With normal people, this would be the end.

My wife and her siblings are not normal people.

Holly Hobbie endured. In fact, Placing The Head of Holly Hobbie became a cherished Christmas tradition. With many giggles, The Head would come to rest on a suitably flat bit of pine, looking as though orcs had visited the American prairie and left behind a sign of their passage.

When Heather married me, The Head came with her. And from that day forward, our Christmas tree has been a Head above the rest.

Weird? Maybe. But in a time of year where we plant trees indoors and eat food out of our socks, I don’t think the rest of us are in any place to talk. That’s what traditions are: weird things you don’t do at any other time. I mean, ‘tis the season for a reindeer with an LED nose, for Pete’s sake.

But even so, Heather kept a watch. And with the rise of the internet – and just as importantly, the rise of 1980s nostalgia – her dream finally came true. She found a source, made the contact, cheered as the mail arrived.

Holly Hobbie had come home!

Triumphantly, Heather placed the full-bodied Holly in the tree. Just a step or two away from The Head of the old one, gazing up at her new sister.

After a moment, we both laughed.

“Kind of looks like she’s been left there as a warning to the newcomer, doesn’t it?” I said, to more helpless giggles.

A Christmas tradition would continue. Stronger and weirder than ever.

And with it grew just a bit of joy.

Joy’s kind of weird itself. It hides in odd places, lurks around strange corners. You can try to cultivate it for weeks with ribbons and music and Hallmark movies without success, and then, bang! Up it pops without warning.

Sometimes it’s the sudden connection that a tradition makes between past and present, briefly restoring something thought lost.

Sometimes it’s the out-of-place detail that makes us stop, think and wonder at the world around us, a star burning where it has no reason to be.

Frequently there is no obvious explanation. It pounces like a tiger, ambushing us on a deeper level than simple happiness. It’s a sudden rightness, or an excitement that won’t be held back, or a warmth that colors everything nearby.

It’s an inspiration. And like many inspiring things, you can’t really force it – but you can leave yourself open to it so that you don’t miss it when it comes.

Eyes open. Heart open. Seeing and experiencing and reaching to those nearby.

It might mean changing the usual or daring to be thought strange. That’s a risk. But it’s one worth taking to break beyond the expected and really live.

So be alert. Keep your head up.

Hey … it works for Holly Hobbie.  

By the Light’s Early Dawn

Ok. I’m officially one of Those People.

No, not a Raiders fan. (I do have my standards, you know.)

No, I haven’t started changing lanes without a turn signal.

And no, I haven’t been forgetting to take my mask off when I’m alone in the car. Not for more than one or two blocks, anyway.

This is something far more serious.

Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Scott Rochat … and I am an Early Christmas Decorator.  

(Ow! If you’re going to throw cranberry sauce at me, take it out of the can first, OK?)

To be fair, this goes against a LOT of my early training. From childhood on, family and employers made it clear that Thanksgiving was the demarcation line that must not be crossed. Even now, my folks deck the halls beautifully, but not until well into December.

So how did we come to violate the Turkey Truce?

I’d love to blame Missy for this, but for once, she’s innocent. Relatively so, anyway. If you’ve met her in this space before, you know that our ward has no fear of blaring out some holiday tunes in the middle of June if the mood strikes her. This year was no exception – but the Veterans Day tree in the window was not her fault.

That started with my wife Heather.

Well, in all honesty, it started with 2021. And more than a bit of 2020 as well.

I think we can all agree that these last two years have been  … what’s the word? Stressful? Frustrating? Flaming dumpsters full of near-apocalyptic wretchedness? (I know, that’s more than one word. Go with me here.) Certainly there have been some amazing moments – any time period where Grumpy Bernie turns into a meme can’t be all bad – but  for the most part, it’s been a slog. Through a swamp. That’s on fire. And filled with bear traps.

Within Chez Rochat itself, this is the year we lost our oldest pet. And our youngest pet. We racked up way too many medical emergencies, even by Heather’s standards. Not to mention … but no, I won’t mention. You’ve got your own tales of family exhaustion and you probably don’t need to be burdened down by mine.

Suffice it to say, there’s been a lot of darkness. And darkness needs light.

So we kindled some.

Two weeks early for the calendar. But just in time for us.

And I know we’ve got company.

It’s a human reflex. Almost every winter holiday I can think of involves kindling lights.  It’s an act that pushes back against the growing night, creating beauty out of shadow. When reflected by snow, the light grows still stronger, reaching out to embrace all who see it.

In a cold time, it’s a promise that we’re still here. That we can still hope.  

That’s no small thing.

Joy, love, peace, hope – those aren’t qualities for just one time of year, to be packed up in a cardboard box when reality returns. They’re survival traits. We pick a time to make them more visible so they’re not forgotten, but they always belong. And in times like this, they’re more essential than ever.

So if this year, giving thanks is mixed with your holiday cheer of choice, I won’t blame you. Quite the opposite.

Let there be lights. And trees. And hearts with the strength and desire to raise spirits. Whatever you do, however you do it … if you’re helping hold back the dark this year, you’re family.

Yes, even the Raiders fans.

All the Cut-Up Ladies

If life had treated Missy differently, she would have been a first-rate chainsaw ice artist.

Pure speculation, of course. In the real world, Missy’s developmental disabilities and cerebral palsy don’t make her the best match for outsized power tools. (A fact that my wife Heather and I are grateful for during occasional temper tantrums, I might add.) Nonetheless, the potential is clear.

To start with, Missy likes to play it loud. She doesn’t like being surprised by noise, mind you, but if she’s got her hand on the volume … well, as the song goes, it’s time to “Take it to the Limit One More Time.”

Second, Missy does love to create. With crayons and markers. With paint. And most especially these days with collage, where she’ll draft Heather into cutting out ladies from magazines, and then grab a glue stick and some construction paper and POUND POUND POUND everything into place.

Third, and most important, Missy doesn’t see her art as forever.

Oh, Heather and I have saved a lot of it and even hung some of it up; that’s what good guardians do, and there’s a lot of good memories bound up in every piece. But it’s not unusual to see Missy taking one of her works apart again. She’ll start removing stickers, ripping off foamies, or – especially after she’s been working for a while – simply jamming together ladies in a glued-up indistinguishable pile that owes more to stress release than creative impulse.

At the end of a typical art blizzard, the kitchen table will have vanished beneath an onslaught of  construction paper, glue, and cut-out photographs. Within which may be three or four actual art pieces.

And that’s OK.

In fact, it’s wonderful.

Because at the end of the day, art isn’t about having something for the ages or even for the scrapbook. It’s about the joy it brings you in the moment, however temporary and fragile that moment may be.

We forget that. Easily.

Oh, a lot of us used to know it. Ask a little kid to draw, or dance, or pretend to be something, and they’ll typically tear into it with gusto. Ask a co-worker to do it, and what are you likely to hear nine times out of 10?

“Oh, I can’t draw.”

“You don’t want to see me dance.”

“Trust me, I’m no actor.”

We know what expertise looks like, or think we do, thanks to Hollywood and the internet. And so, if we’re not good at something right away, a lot of us stop. Why bother?

That’s sad. Partly because – unless you’re a born genius like Mozart – you have to pass through a lot of “not-good” and “less-good” to reach the level of “good.” But even that overlooks a more important fact: “good” isn’t the object.

Joy is.

My piano playing will never be mistaken for Scott Joplin or Elton John. But it gives me pleasure and it even entertains my friends from time to time. That’s enough.

I know people who create pictures that will never see a museum. Or write poetry that will never climb the bestseller list. It won’t make them immortal. But it does make them happy. It brings out a necessary piece of them.

And if no one else ever sees it, they’ve still had that moment.

Seeing those moments, living them, appreciating them – that is a true art. No matter how the moment is spent.

And if you happen to spend those moments with a chainsaw, know that Missy is with you in spirit. And with an awful lot of glue sticks.