Uncategorized August 26, 2014

Negative and positive, the yin-yang of electrical energy.  Without each, there would  be no power for lights, toys, automobiles, a myriad of tools in our every day lives.  Why is it that within the human race, even on the lowest level, the pull from one polarity to another, instead of supplying power, exhausts it?

One doesn’t have to dwell on the politics or the events in the world.  I see it around me daily.  I was wondering if it was simply a product of aging. Certainly as one elder spokesman said to me: “Aging is not for the faint of heart.”  And yet I have met so many positive people in their eighties and nineties.  Smiling when asked how they are, the running response from many elder docents at the Palm Springs Air Museum is: “Still on this side of green (grass).”   “Better than the alternative.”  Positive energy.

Recently I’ve found myself saturated by negative energy from some individuals who seem to find life in a bi-polar lane, cruise-control on.  Those surrounded by them, myself included, do what we can to distance ourselves.  Unfortunately in two incidents, I found myself confronted in such a way as to pounce and clamp down on that energy flow, if only to staunch it temporarily.

Today was a normal  back-to-painting day at the museum, with the exception that to escape the summer heat, I’ve found sanctuary in the cool of the museum cafe.  On Mondays the cafe is closed.  Settling into work, I was approached by a docent, one I’ve known now for close to eight months.  Asked how his weekend at the museum went, I heard a litany of complaints about how visitors, were touching the aircraft.  “I lectured a child about not touching the plane when suddenly the boy’s father told me that the website says the aircraft are to be touched.”   The man was right.  I was surprised by such negative comments and deflecting it, I informed him that the director prides the museum as being unique in this way.  He claimed no such knowledge.  “This is why we have a restoration department,” the director has said many times.  If someone accidentally punches a hole in a wing or something, we will fix it.  The docent’s reaction was swift.  “I guess then I need to consider leaving.”   Suggesting focusing on talking about the history of any plane, he informed me that no one was interested.  For him, his job was about policing the place.

I’d just returned from a weekend air show in which it was all about letting the public climb inside the WW II cargo plane, the C -47, buckle in and pretend they were paratroopers ready to jump.   We encouraged two young boys, sons of a pilot who flies some of our aircraft, to give tours and they did with confidence and maturity.  Positive energy.

And then, this morning, the negative energy.  I worked through the day, feeling my own energy draining.  My polarity was off.  The power was dwindling.  Too much negative drain left me wanting.  As the three o’clock hour passed, I cleaned my brushes, closed the work box and readied for tomorrow.  With music still playing through my earbuds, I turned to leave and saw a young woman thirty feet away outside the cafe fencing, looking at my painting on the easel and then turned to me, smiling.  I smiled back, expecting her to retreat.  Instead she held my gaze.  Doffing the earbuds I approached her.  “What is it you’re working on?” she asked.  “Do you paint?” I returned the unanswered question.   Alisa, a twenty year old art student visiting with her family, began talking about her art.

Inviting her inside the cafe, we sat down and talked about what she’d been learning the last couple of years.  I told her about my career and how I ended up at this musuem.   Alisa pulled up photos of her work on her phone.  “My first oil was this,” she said pointing to a human skull as a still life.  Suddenly teacher me, felt humble. “Oh my god,” I said. “You are really good.”  Lights, shadows, brilliant color illuminated this piece.  An accountant father, children’s clothing line mother, talented siblings, Alisa, the youngest bravely chose art as a career.

This young woman had talent.  Positive energy was flowing from her.  I flashed to the drain I’d experienced earlier in the day and felt flow coming back into me.  We talked artists, sharing my favorites with her: John Singer Sargent, Diego Velasquez and N.C. Wyeth.  We talked career options but mostly stuck to the “have fun and enjoy it while you can” approach.

The family wondering where she was, Alisa answered her cellphone with “Be there in a few minutes.”  I knew the conversation could go on. Doesn’t it with artists and writers?  Walking her to the lobby, I met her family.  Smiles, a hug and promise to share more work, we parted company.  I thought how the universe seemed to know what I needed to complete my day.  A young bright face, full of positive energy took my negative energy and restored power.   I work in public to give back.  I listen. I coach. I share stories.  The response refuels.  Today I recognized there was not a spark left inside me until a young, talented artist wandered in and  brought my charge back to normal.




For over three decades my profession was as an author and illustrator of children's books. Firefighters A to Z (McElderry Books/S&S) was chosen as a "Best Book" by the NY Times (2000). Over 100 titles are attached to my name. In 2011 my life changed the moment I saw a photo of a WW II fighter pilot. Nineteen year old Griffin Holland, P-47 pilot stood erect on the wheel of his plane, staring off into the distance, cocky as all get out. The need to paint that photo and Griff's tearful reaction to it as an 88 year old man set this journey in motion.

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