What Makes An Artist

bluebirds.blossoms

by Edgar Guest

We got to talking art one day,
discussing in a general way
how some can match with brush and paint
the glory of a tree,
and some in stone can catch the things
of which the dreaming poet sings,
while others seems to have no way
to tell the joys they see.

Old Blake had sat in silence there
and let each one of us declare
our notions of what’s known as art,
until he’d heard us through.
And then said he: “It seems to me
that any man whoe’er he be,
becomes an artist by the good
he daily tries to do.

He need not write the books men read
to be an artist. No, indeed!
He need not work with paint and brush
to show his love of art;
who does a kindly deed today
and helps another on his way
has painted beauty on a face
and played the poet’s part.

Though some of us cannot express
our inmost thoughts of loveliness,
we prove we love the beautiful
by how we act and live.
The poet singing of a tree
no greater poet is than he
who finds it in his heart some care
unto a tree to give.

Though he who works in marble-stone
the name of artist here may own,
no less an artist is the man
who guards his children well.
‘Tis art to love the fine and true;
by what we are and what we do
how much we love life’s nobler things
to all the world we tell.”

From his book, Collected Verse of Edgar A Guest
© 1934 by The Reilly & Lee Company

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A Pocketful of Stones

Out for a walk along our graveled country road, I spotted a perfect “bug” stone. In the past I have done some painting on rocks and my grandson has been pestering me to paint some more bugs. So as I walked along I was keeping my eyes open for smooth stones that would paint up into neat little beetles.

I picked up the stone and slipped it into my pocket. Before long I spotted another … and another. Some stones were oblong, some oval, one perfectly round and flat. The perfect ladybug.

Tumbled centuries ago — maybe for years — in the water currents until they were nice and smooth, these stones came to rest in an underground pit. Men came along with big machines load all this gravel onto trucks and spread it on our road bed. Many stones have come through this process intact.

After I’d pocketed half a dozen stones of various sizes I began to feel the weight of them. They weren’t rough or disturbing, just gently heavy. That side of my jacket pulled a bit as I walked. And I was seeing more “perfect bug” specimens that I could take along with me. I had to start saying “No more. Nice shape or not, it stays right there!”

I have this tendency to look down at the road as I walk, but I soon realized that if I didn’t want a pocketful of rocks weighing down my every step, I’d need to keep my eyes fixed on the horizon until I was home.

Funny how such small things can teach a big lesson. Those stones really aren’t a valuable commodity of themselves. If I use them profitably — paint them up and please the grandson — well and good. But if I set them aside when I get home, saying, “Someday I will,” they become just one more clutter, another item on my to-do list, another weight on my mind.

In our electronic world we can lose focus, too. There are so many interesting social sites to suck up our hours, we can lose sight of our important life-goals. I haven’t picked up Facebook, Twitter, etc, but was involved in Linked In for a time. So much to learn, so many groups to connect with! And now I have a book to promote, so two weeks ago I picked up a weighty stone when I signed up for Goodreads. So many interesting books to read and review, friends to make! I can see how this site alone could consume a lot of time.

I have my blog and read or follow many others. Some days dozens of e-mails and notifications flood my Inbox; I find myself checking my e-mail twenty times a day and spending hours responding. Lately I have definitely been feeling the weight!

NaNoWriMo has been sending out notices lately, too, reminding me to sign up for the November novel-writing adventure. I plan to participate this year; yesterday I filled in the synopsis for the children’s story I hope to write.

My walk-about the other day reminded me that I’ve let many small things distract my long-range goal: the books I want to write/finish. Someday there will be an end to what I can accomplish in this world. If I don’t stop frittering away my time and weighing myself down by picking up appealing, but trivial, stuff along the way, I’ll have little to show for my time here.