Poking my snout out into the sunshine.

Cripes, it’s hard to reanimate a habit once it’s gotten rusty. Such is the case with my online communications. I find I am thinking about drawing less and subsequently writing about it less too. However, I am still drawing. In fact, I am doing big splashy colorful spreads in my journal — but so far, they are just for me.

While my life is reasonably normalized — working, making sandwiches, vacuuming, chastising Jack about his homework — when my emotions occasionally overflow, I pour them onto paper and seal them between the covers of my Italian watercolor journal. There’s not that much to talk to people about anymore anyway. I so want not to be a draggy, whiney bore, and frankly that’s not how I feel most of the time anyway. But when I do, I’d rather just hole up and draw or write than drag others under my black cloud. My misery doesn’t really love company.

It’ll be seven months next week. Seven months. Shit. It seems both a lifetime and a blink. My wound has turned to a scab to a scar. It still affects my vision, still wakes me up in the darkness, still trips me up when I least expect it, and it has probably changed me utterly in more ways that I can bother to list. But I am still me, a more tentative, insular version perhaps, but still me.

I’ve stopped waiting for it all to pass. (Though, even this morning, it occurred to me yet again that the whole thing could be  joke, a test, and Patti would suddenly roll out of the elevator, telling me she just wanted to see how we’d cope without her.)  I’ve stopped goading myself with ‘Life goes on’ pep talks. I just know that some days I’ll feel fine, some days I’ll feel awful, and there’s not much one can do or say about it.

So far a day has yet to pass in which I don’t think about Patti, don’t see her in my peripheral, don’t wonder what she’d say I should do about some aspect of our lives. I worry that I am becoming what she prevented me from slipping back into: misanthropic, withdrawn, judgmental, timid, narrow. I tell myself I should do more, should organize the pantry, should call the friends who don’t call me anymore, should indulge myself, should cut loose. Or at least update my blog.

But my life is so full of stuff. I do my job, I do hers, I try to keep Jack on track, and the dogs from peeing on the rug. I collapse into bed each night and sleep till 5 a.m., then stare at the ceiling for an hour or two, and drag myself off the pallet.

In profound ways, the world ain’t what it used to be. Sure, sometimes I have the urge to seize the day, drain it to the dregs, paint the town red, and dye what’s left of my hair blue. But more often, I think my dogs are right, that it’s a good day to lie around in the sun instead of pushing the limits. I don’t think it’s depression but pragmatism, a sense that whatever force seemed to be watching over me, tapping its foot and checking its watch, has drifted away rather than remind me that I should check off my entire to-do list. The scoreboard is down, the crowd has drifted off, and I am okay with what is.

Our microwave died last month; Patti and I got it second-hand from a friend in 1988. I replaced it with virtually the same model just so I could soften the butter when I make Jack’s sandwiches.  Our big living room TV died last weekend — we bought it when Jack was two. I am sorely temped not to get another one; let’s see how long ’til Jack rebels.

This rumination makes things seem sadder and smaller than they are (another reason not to blog too often). The fact is, there’s a fair amount going on. Jack’s soccer team is about to wrap up the season and he is taking two AP classes. He also has a growing business making custom iPhone cases and has a dozen commissions in his backlog. There are a couple of things stirring in the publishing department; I’ll write about them when they become realer. Also I was just profiled in a book about advertising, and I’ll be in Cathy Johnson’s new book and then in Seth Apter’s.  And, I continue to exercise and lower my dress size —though my feet remain stubbornly 11 1/2.

Thanks for hanging in there. I will try to get back into the habit of sharing something here. I like formulating my thoughts in a digestible way  and I like hearing from you.

37 thoughts on “Poking my snout out into the sunshine.

  1. Dear Danny, Please keep sharing your angst. There are those of us among your followers who have felt similarly, and know sharing is valuable, a growth tool. Warm thoughts enfold you even from folks you’ll never meet.

  2. Hi Danny, Great to hear from you. When I read you were cutting back on the blog, I felt a little sad, because I enjoy your drawings and writing so much. But it’s easy to understand that you and Jack may need more privacy. Because you’ve been so open about your life, you’ve made friends here. Friends don’t demand wisdom/inspiration at specified intervals! Friends pick up conversations where they left off. They’re happy to see you when you show up. Share your drawings and musings when it feels right. I just wanted to take the time to thank you for the inspiration and demonstrating that making art is good for the soul. You have a very unique gift (most often found in the clergy or advertising): you can speak to a lot of people, and each person thinks you must be speaking specifically to them! You have made a difference. I’d miss you if you left. Sending you peace and joy.

    • very well put.
      I look for your.writing every time I get on a computer
      I have a lot to say to Danny but mostly many of us love you and want to be here for you. You are like a brother or neighbor or a teacher at school. You need to keep writing for us. You are a part of our lives now.
      Annette

  3. Danny,

    I just want you to know that reading your books has helped me so much in feeling free to be an artist. I began making art after reading “The Creative License” and can’t put into words how inspirational seeing your art has been. I especially love your pen and ink work and, of course, your dogs. Thank you very much. I am so glad that you are on the planet.

  4. Dont know if the website is right or not.
    Its only been 7 months, which isn’t long in the land of grief. I will keep checking back but wont worry if I dont see a post from you. I still am inspired by your past work and words.
    Take care Jill

  5. Danny,
    You are on target in everything you say. My husband of 42 years died 18 months ago – and not as unexpectedly or dramatically as your wife. It takes an incredibly long time to having even short periods of feeling “normal.” My early spasms of proactively dealing with my altered life were premature and, like you, I have found that just taking things as they come works best for me. You won’t become a curmudgeon, and eventually easing into picking up the phone and making occasional dates with friends will be enjoyable.
    I just recently realized (I’m usually not that slow) that I will be evolving into a new “me”- a bit scary, but intriguing.
    I think that you may be doing better with reducing the dress size than I. Alas, we are all stuck with our feet.
    Best wishes to you and Jack, the pain does get less intense and, fortunately, our loved ones never truely leave our heads.
    Sandi

  6. Danny – what Laura said!

    I was going to say a bit about coping and some days worse, some days better but quite frankly it would be coals to Newcastle as you sound as if you have a good handle on things, even the bad things.

    So my contribution will be giving you something else to think about – somewhere in one of your books or somewhere I read that you once lived in Pakistan, – Lahore? I’m older than you but as a kid I too lived there (Pakistan), near Peshawar, part of a Columbo project building a dam across the Kabul River.

    I was there from late 1955 to mid 1958 – at which point my parents decided that if I was to graduate highschool before I was thirty I had to get back into the Canadian school system and I was shipped back to Canada.

    Part of my myriad schooling while overseas was at an american mission run boarding school in India called Woodstock, that’s where I learned that I had an accent and as I was in the minority my arguments that they were the ones that talked funny, not me, didn’t get very far!

    So I was just wondering how long you were in Pakistan, if you remember it and what you remember….as kids we certainly saw things differently than our parents. I usually paint watercolours but am also trying to do the daily sketch habit a la Danny Gregory and now wish that our family had been better photographers as there is not one good shot of a bazaar or local colour that I can find! Having said that I just need to buckle down and perhaps do a composite using the photos I do have – see, just being able to “talk” to someone about this has given me a solution to my problem – huh, how about that!

    Cheers
    Barbara

  7. Tomorrow is 3 years since I became what is oddly called a “survivor”. It is still a lifetime and a blink. All I know for sure is that we are changed forever and each day is a new one to forge through. I do think he is around each corner, watching and knowing and I try to do him proud. The one bit of “advice” (counseling, really – 1 1/2 years) that I try to follow is “be gentle with yourself”. It’s hard, but important. Seven months is the intake of a breath. Be gentle with yourself. Draw when you can. I couldn’t pick up a book or a pencil for well over a year. I’m still struggling with that. Trying to be gentle.
    Be well. There are many of us. It is all different and the same.

  8. Even before reading this morning’s post, I had tucked “Everyday Matters” into my bag because I needed something to get me through the day. Your ability to be so open pushes me on in so many areas of my life. I cannot thank you enough.

  9. Danny, we care.
    Share whenever you feel a need; ignore the blog when you don’t need. We’ll still be here whenever you post something new (I do miss your sketches).

  10. hi!

    I’m so sorry to hear the news of what happened…I just came upon this blog around yesterday after seeing the link to your site in the book “Creative License”. I’ve been borrowing that for 2 weeks now in our school library…and it’s been helping me see wonders.

    I’m really grateful for you sharing what you learned about in life. It’s made quite an impact on so many people…

    I wish you all the best…and I will ever so much look forward to your posts from now on! :)

    Thanks again!

  11. I got your book ‘An illustrated life’ just recently. I’d been thinking I should get back to drawing. I had been, on and off (but more off than on). And then I saw the diaries in your book, and read the comments. And was inspired. I’ve drawn more the last couple of months than in the last 5 years because of it. So thankyou. What you achieve with books like that, is I think a very good thing. I should have done this years ago. But at least I’m doing it now.

  12. I continue to be inspired by your work, your drawings, your words, your story. Take care of you and Jack and the dogs….everything else can wait. Time is your friend. Do what feels right for you right now….Your friends will wait, too……sincerely, K.

  13. Dear Danny,

    I’ve known you for a few years now, from afar (South Africa, to be precise), through your books and blog. You don’t know me, of course, though I think you did reply to a comment I made on your blog once :)

    Life has smacked me around a fair bit these past few years, and I kept on returning to your blog and books throughout it all. There’s a comfort in the virtual presence of an old friend, which is what I consider you to be, that saves sanity in ways you cannot begin to know. Thank-you.

    I wish I could provide you with that momentary lifting of the burden, that blissfull forgetting “what is” for a few moments, a great big exhale, the way you have done so many times for me.

    I can tell you about the time I got so “the hell in” (SA expression) with my lack of progress in drawing, that I chucked my very expensive Moleskine into the pool, where the pool cleaner proceeded to gobble it up, page by page. Turns out, pool cleaners are far more expensive to replace after eating hard Moleskine covers than I realised.

    Or the time I gave away my treasured copy of your first book to a lady who had been eating less so she could save up to buy it and some watercolour paints. She cried, I cried, and today we’re best friends. Now she’s become wealthy and I poor, but we have each other’s friendship, and you. :)

    Lastly, the time I was tucking into your “Illustrated Life” book as the sun was setting over the African bush. I was sitting on the elevated deck overlooking the river where the elephants come to drink at sunset. My blisssss was ended by a boomslang (green mamba tree snake) unexpectedly dropping in on me from above. As I shot up out of my hammock, your book went sailing over the rail, and into the river. There were some hippos further downstream – I think one of them ate the book – the, ahem, evidence was found amongst their dung piles on the river bank the next morning.
    The snake admitted to leaning over too far when he was trying to read over my shoulder.

    I love you, my brother, you are my fellow human being, and when you step on a thorn, I limp.

    Take care

    Fiona

  14. Before I leave my comment, I have to say I LOVE Fiona’s story about the snake and the hippo! Whodda thunk that when you started drawing, someday a hippo in Africa would eat a book you’d created!

    I enjoy whatever you post, and would love to see more posts about drawing supplies, paint application, artist talk and paper evaluations. I draw every day since I started with the original Everyday Matters group and I LOVE playing with art supplies. My favorite thing is “add to cart” at Dick Blick and other online suppliers (as we have no local ones).

    Art supplies always cheer me up!

  15. Hi Danny. For what it’s worth: I bought “Illustrated Life” in February 2010 while we were in the city for my husband’s radiation treatments for brain cancer. Thank you for conceiving, compiling and editing that book, Danny. Those pages gave me perfect little doses of diversion, while my husband bravely gutted through his treatments. They bought him some time, but he died in early September. No, I will never be the same. Yes, I am by turns consumed by sorrow, regret, rage, bewilderment, injustice. Goes with, I am told. Unavoidable. Joy is particular, but pain is universal.

    All I can say from here is: the world is still beautiful. Keep noticing. Draw it if you can, or mutter a small “thanks” if you can muster it. It’s just got to get better from here, I know it will.

    J.C.

  16. Hello Danny,
    I bookmarked your website a year or two ago because I look at your art and always feel uplifted and inspired. That’s a powerful thing, to have that kind of effect on people.
    Even more powerful is to write when you’re not sure you feel like it, to draw even when your art will only be seen by you.
    Thank you for doing that. I know you’re not doing it for us, but all of the people who’ve been inspired by you feel that effect, too. And we’re grateful for it.
    All my best to you and Jack.
    Suzan Colón
    Author of “Cherries in Winter: My Family’s Recipe for Hope in Hard Times”
    (PS: As a thank you for all the inspiration you’ve given me, I’d love to send you a copy of my book. Just let me know where to mail.)

  17. Danny, while I’ve never met you in person, I own just about every book you’ve written/drawn and have been a follower of your blog for years. I don’t think I’ve ever
    emailed you, but I could be wrong. I just wanted to tell you how much joy you’ve brought into my life. You inspired me to draw more and your family has touched me in ways I cannot express. My heart, prayers and best wishes go out to all of you. I so appreciate your gift and your unbelievable courage in sharing your life with me. It’s truly been a blessing to “know” you, Jack and Patti.

  18. Danny,

    I just want to say “thanks,” like all the others, for the inspiration you have provided over the past few years regarding my “art.” Prior to you I was quite frustrated, trying to make everything perfect. Through you I learned to relax, more, and just have fun with my art and my sketchbooks. Prior to you, I didn’t own a sketchbook – now I have too many to count. Prior to you I didn’t sketch, only fretted over perfection; now all I do is sketch and I have found it a near perfect elixir for all the bad, nasty stuff that life hands me/us.

    Grief never goes away, but as time marches on it changes in form, and you and it begin to meld together in ways you would never expect. It is never comfortable, it is never welcome, and it is never gone; but because of the corrosive powers of agony, and strife, and tears, its rough and torn edges begin to soften, slightly.

    Peace, my friend.

  19. Hey, Danny…just wanted to say thanks, like everyone else who have posted comments. As always, you are a month ahead of me on our similar “grief journey” after losing our sweet wives. And as always, I so relate to everything you wrote about.

    It’s so weird how we have forever been changed by our loss…in ways that we don’t want. But even if you fear falling back into “ways of being” that you aren’t so fond of from your “Pre-Patty Days”…remember this. You have “absorbed” much of how Patti viewed the world, as I have from my Cathy. And if that makes you hesitate for just a moment, before you respond to the world like the “Other You” might have before, you now have a CHOICE on who you get to “be”. When I told someone yesterday that I’m trying to act in a way that reflects my wife’s values (I suppose, because it makes me a better person somehow)…she reminded me that I’m not “acting”…those qualities I admire in Cathy are now a true PART OF ME.

    Take time to heal, my friend. There are no due dates, no tempo, no “goals” to be achieved. You are focused on LIVING. That is more than enough. Patti taught you something about that, I’m sure.

    Blessings.
    W

  20. Hey Danny, Glad to read your words in fact my art adventure started here many moons ago teaching myself art journaling and sure do miss coming here and wondering what your up to cause everyday does matter my friend.
    Im in hopes that everyday is better for you I lost my last family member awhile back and it sure does take alot out of you and relizing Im here all by my lonesome but blogs like yours and my teaching myself art wc painting drawing has kept me alive and I want to thank you for being here and having this blog I hope you relize how you have touched peoples lives (mine for one) and what you bring to them.
    Have a great day Danny glad to read your words and that youre here again, see youre drawings again, you wrote how ever did I put this book together it was ment to be and so glad you came into my life
    Always,
    Linda

  21. Such eloquent words, such deep insight into the abyss (if that is possible) I look forward to anything you post and wish you and Jack only the best.

  22. Hi Danny,
    We moved recently so yesterday I just happened to be unpacking a box and found one of your books. It made me wonder how you are doing. Like a good friend I had not talked to in awhile. So I thought I’d check in on you and see how you are making out on your journey. I was both surprised and happy to see a post.
    Unlike some of the others here, I have never known the kind of grief you must be experiencing, yet I weep when I read. I somehow feel the smallest hint of the sadness, and at the same time I feel relieved that you have it in you to still share openly when you can. And I am encouraged by your self-awareness. You are healing, my friend, even when on some days you may not think so. I do know this: our greatest pain often becomes our greatest gift. However we manage to share it. And, it is obvious that you still touch people in ways you can’t even imagine. Even though I am a complete stranger, I would hug you if I could. I so want to help you find comfort, peace….eventually joy again. Interesting, this virtual world builds strange bonds with those we don’t even know.
    I hope the sentiments shared by all these folks who care about you helps to lift you when you most need it. I hope you are gentle with yourself. I hope you can laugh at and take pride in the fact that you must be the only author who’s work has made it through the digestive tract of a very large mammal. And, I hope you know that if that can happen, then you too can surely make it through this “shit” as well.
    Blessings, and much peace to you and Jack and Patti.

  23. ah, Danny. I’m glad you are online again, though I’m just finding out about it, since I have been hibernating much too. I can identify with this post…my husband is still very much alive (thank goodness) but we are divorcing and when I’m not working, I find myself either escaping into sleep or compulsively making art that is for my eyes only..so very little blogging.

    I’m coming out a little more as time goes by, but things will never be the same. I remember going through something similar when our son died…and things are not ever the same after losing someone you cherished. But I’m counting on time healing and from somehow growing from this, as I’m sure I did then, and as I’m sure you are now. If nothing else, we learn we can survive. You got me drawing again several years ago, and it’s my main coping mechanism these days, so I thank you, my online friend.

  24. I like that word ” pragmatism”. It explains a lot for me. The whole world is rushing around and I don’t want to be the hamster on the wheel running frantically.

    I’m glad to see you online again, Danny. I missed your blog. I started to draw finally. I suck at it, but I still try. When I see your work, and your son’s, it makes me see how far I have to go to get that good. I’m like a 1st grader in art. I love looking at your work.

  25. Another post of yours that i miss(posted in Oct. 2010 and i read it Jan. 2011)…I love this one very much too!!!
    I am going to stop complaining about it because i am becoming annoying, don’t i?

    I love the way you think and write!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Here i am ….hysterical too….:0)

    Sorry!

    PS: I’ll be quiet from now on. I promise!

  26. Lay in the sun with your dogs. Don’t worry about the time. Draw, paint, write, nap, laugh, cry, talk, don’t talk. Just do what feels right for you.

    One day, you will find your way back to yourself again.

    And all of those who matter will be waiting.

    Peace to your heart and your spirit.

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