This is the first painted letter I ever did. It was May 2011 and I was in Rome. The night before, I was out for dinner with my friends Marco and Sandro. Over steaming plates of paella, I informed them that I had spent the previous year saving up and paring down so I could quit my fast pace corporate life to create… well, I wasn’t sure yet. I was still working it out.
They told me I was both a hero and a fool.
I agreed. Then I told them about this painted letter idea and they promptly wrote down their mailing addresses, inviting me to send them painted letters. The next day, I started with a painting of a fountain in Villa Borghese. It’s not the most decorative fountain in Rome but it’s in a quite grove of trees and is surrounded by a bench. A perfect perch for sitting with paints and paper.
I was nervous to begin.
The paints were new. The paper was new. The idea of adding water was new. But, I reasoned, the only way to start painting is to start painting, so I added water and began. It turned out alright. Since then I’ve tried to improve my fountain paintings but this first one was the best of the bunch.
Practice doesn’t always make perfect.
I also think I didn’t have expectations of myself. Or the expectation was that the painting would suck and when it didn’t suck, SUCCESS!
*Note to self for today, the day when I’m painting my October letter and it’s already sucking simply because I haven’t put the paint on the paper. I haven’t yet added water.*
It doesn’t always get easier.
I recently returned to Rome, the eternal city of gelato and gladiators. For much of the time, I walked with my map in my hand, trying to match the names on the page with the names on the buildings. But in the vast gardens of Villa Borghese, I tucked my map away and wandered, hoping to spot that fountain. I never knew where it was in the first place, so having the map wouldn’t have helped.
Wandering is a magical way of getting to where you really need to be.
Rather than search with my eyes, I listened for the sound of trickling water. I arrived at a fountain of galloping horses. Nice, but nope. I turned in another direction and walk toward a distant gurgle. This time, a stone lady modestly covered her chest in a lake. Again, nice but nope. I turned once more and spotted that quiet grove of trees. And there it was: the first fountain I ever painted.
Hi there old friend.
I sat and watched the water spurt up through the top and tumble down the sides into the pool below. Back when I first painted this fountain, I didn’t expect to be back here or to Rome at all. I never would have guessed that I’d be back to the city three times over the next few years, this time with thousands of painted letters behind me and a published book ahead of me. (Feel free to pre-order.) And of course, a ring on my finger. Holy cow.
I wish I could have gone back to my younger self who sat in this grove and told her everything that was about to happen. I would have went ON about it. Wide eyed and smiley. I doubt she would have believed me. And I suppose it would have been nice to let her witness the unraveling of the mysteries for herself.
I guess that’s why now, when I look ahead, part of me wants to know SO BAD what is going to happen. When? What? Where? Who? WHEN?!
Perhaps it’s best not to know. Perhaps it’s best to live in the before and let the after happen later. And remember to just add water.