Have a seat, this is gonna be a long one.
As many of you know I was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer in January 2012. Its probable source was the breast cancer I thought I had beat in 2002 – so it was almost exactly 2 months before my ten year “cancer-free” anniversary.
Kinda sucks, doesn’t it?
Well, yes and no, really. Yes, it sucks to have a terminal disease no matter what it is and yes, it sucks that I almost made it past the magic ten-year mark.
But if you have to have a terminal disease I guess it’s better to have one for which there are many many treatments available that are working for a great many people, including a good friend of mine who has had my exact disease for going on 12 years now, and she’s doing well.
So I don’t plan on going anywhere for a great many years.
Except to Maui.
The “no, it doesn’t suck” part of the answer above is due to the fact that when you are facing your own mortality, I mean REALLY facing it as in “I know what I will die from and I know that it will be sooner than it would have been,” you tend to grow up – a lot! And fast.
You soon realize that your life has been a series of compromises, and a lot of “just settling.” You compromise with your partner on where to live, you compromise with friends on where to have dinner, you compromise your passion in order to make money, you compromise your standards in order not to make waves.
Many of those compromises are great – one does have to live in this world with others – well, most do, unless you have removed yourself from society. But some of those compromises don’t make you a better person, don’t make life easier for anyone else, don’t adequately feed your soul, and some are downright damaging.
Since my diagnosis last year I have been choosing my compromises carefully. I have been saying “no” more to things and people that bring negativity into my life. I have been saying “yes” more often to things that are important to me, like family, and work, and friends that either bring joy to me, or to whom I can bring joy.
I have not always made the “right” choices this past year, but I’ve recognized my mistakes more quickly, and in many cases have changed something to work towards a better choice.
Life becomes very clear when you know you’re not going to be around as long as you’d like. I haven’t “suffered fools gladly” in the past year. And my dear, dear husband has agreed that our lives would be better lived in a less-stressful everyday environment, where the sun shines year-round and the ocean breezes bring the sounds of birds to our ears rather than the roar of I-5.
For me it will be like going home. Not that I ever lived for very long near a sunny beach – the longest was 9 months spent on St. Croix in 1980; before that it was 3 months on Nags Head, North Carolina the summer after high school graduation in 1972. But as you can tell from my paintings, I almost worship sunlight. (Could it be that 37 years spent in Seattle could have heightened the desire to live where the light actually casts shadows? I mean, really! Even Cincinnati light casts shadows – evidence: my “Are You My Mother?” series based entirely on photos taken in Cincy.)Vegetable Dress
Those are some deep shadows there, people.
I believe I am more myself when near the ocean and in the sun than I am anywhere else. It’s as if the sun reaches deep down inside me and lifts me up to a better place. And Maui has plenty of sun and plenty of ocean, as evidenced by the photos below.
Many of my most recent paintings are based on photos I have taken while in Hawaii, or in sunny locales: Marco Island, Cape Hatteras, Sunlight Pool in Cincy. I am drawn to the colors and high contrast atmosphere I find in those places, and those have been the subjects of my work since I took up painting again.
Living on Maui is also a great deal like living in a small town. There are more opportunities to know people, be part of a community, and celebrate day-to-day living than I’ve found in a big city. Not that I don’t have a fabulous community of friends and family here, but I tend to get lost in just the hard work of living each day with traffic, noise, pollution, and bureaucracy here.
So we have decided to pack a few items and move. We bought a condo in Kihei, on the sunny side of Maui twelve months ago and have been renting it out as a vacation condo to pay the bills. Oh, and yes, we’ve used it quite a bit ourselves, as well. We are renting our house in Seattle to friends who have graciously allowed us to keep our bedroom, which we’ve turned into a kind of mini-hotel-like suite, for our return visits. We’re not taking much from the house, just things that have deep sentimental value and art. And my paintings and studio supplies of course.Our living room. Pretty spare right now as a rental, I hope to “homey it up” when we’re living there permanently. You can see the spare room behind the orange sofa – it can be closed in via the shojii screens. Another view – lots and lots of windows, and the lanai (out of picture to the left) affords a tiny ocean view – we’ve even seen whales from there!
I’m not sure where I’ll be painting – our spare room at first I suppose (behind the orange couch in the photo above) but I’m hoping to find an inexpensive (HA!) studio somewhere close to our home.
I do know that I’ll have ample inspiration for paintings right outside my door. We’re just about one block from Kam III, one of the nicest beaches on Maui, and within minutes from glorious Big Beach.Big Beach, Maui (McKenna Beach) I see a painting in here somewhere The beach in front of Sarentos, Kihei
Here is one of my favorite paintings based on a photograph I took on Oahu a couple of years ago. I expect this is a series to which I will return many times once I live here.White Hair on the Beach
So there you have it. My number one reason for moving is pictured in the above photographs – note the light! I’m hoping that you’ll come with me, via this blog, as Richard and I head towards our next great adventure.
Aloha, and Mahalo (thank you)!