Rock Climbing

Today we went to Drakes Island, Maine.

My 16 yo son is writing a fantasy book set in Maine. One of the fantastical creatures he calls drakes. It was a great opportunity to do research. We ended up at a parking lot that took us out onto a jetty. The jetty was made of large man made quarried stones. It was an engineering feat. And between each of the large stones were cracks. Deep fissures.

As we walked down it, my 14 yo and my 10 yo kept staring down into the cracks, scared of how deep they were. I told them: Don’t look down into the cracks, look where you want to step.

The deep cracks on the jetty on Drakes Island, Maine

The deep cracks on the jetty on Drakes Island, Maine

I thought that is really appropriate advice for an artist. I’ve always believed that I could never make a living as an artist. So my backup plan was to become an elementary school teacher. I did that. The first year I taught school, I was an intern and I made $12,000. Looking back on that now, I think I might have been able to do something that I could have made that much if I had looked for where I wanted to step instead of worrying about the deep cracks between the rocks.

I still need to be looking for where I want to step. Being an artist has so many different paths that you can take. I know artists that feel that they would be lucky to make $12,000 in a year. I know artists who are supporting their families from their full time art career. I often wonder what the difference is. Perhaps it is looking for where they want to step instead of looking into the deep cracks where they could fall or get stuck.

Where do I want to step next? There are several rocks and just as many deep cracks in front of me.

Am I paralyzed with fear? Sometimes I am.

Am I waiting for someone to tell me I am great and give me permission to step onto the next rock? Sometimes I do. I know I did when I was in my 20’s. I let others tell me whether or not they thought I could do it.

Am I waiting for someone to create a board across the deep crack for me to walk on instead of lengthening my stride and stepping across the crack?

Am I being pro-active and creating my own projects?

Am I placing myself in the way of opportunities?

Do I try to walk off the edge of the jetty because I am sure I don’t belong on the ARTIST jetty? Yea. I’ve done that too.

One of my kids is autistic and afraid of heights. When he was younger we went for a hike in Southern Utah where we had to climb rocks—really tall rocks—with deep cracks between them. He refused to continue on the hike with us. His older siblings bribed him with Minecraft for him to bravely step from one rock to another rock. Looking back on that day, he feels that was a really rewarding hike.

Today, several years older, he had the same fear. Yet, he was determined to make it to the end. About a third of the way to the end, the cracks started to get bigger. The rocks were more tilted. The wind was blowing. All of it made him feel unstable. But he was still determined. He hunched over, lowering his center of gravity. Sometimes he sat down on the rocks and waited to gain the confidence he needed to go on. Mostly he crawled. But little by little, one large stone and several deep cracks at a time, he inched his way down the jetty. His older brother walked to the end of the jetty and back several times while he was painstakingly making his way to the end. When my younger son was almost there. My older son challenged him to make it to the end before he could walk down and back one more time. My youngest son, stood up, motivated to beat him and began to walk down to the end of the jetty. At the end, he said it was really cool and awesome to be there at the edge taking a picture with everyone one else. He was really glad he was able to go straight through.

My son inspired me today. I learned to look where I want to step. I learned to keep going forward even when fear overcomes me. And I learned I cannot make it to the end of the jetty if I turn around, give up or walk off the edge.

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