Running Away From Sadness

“The Artist sees what others only catch a glimpse of.” Leodardo Da Vinci

I spent much of my youth wanting a different family. Maybe everyone does, I don’t really know. But I wanted something different. All around me I could see happy families, families with both a mother and a father and smiling children. They’d play games together, and sing songs and help each other with homework. They always had clean clothes and clean homes and every toy they could imagine lined up neatly on their shelves. Not like our house with the mountain of smelly laundry on the concrete basement floor of our subsidized home, our welfare palace, our monument to poverty. Dirty faces, once weekly baths, home grown haircuts and hand me down clothes that had to last through four children. And a mother who was too tired from facing the world to see that our unhappiness was the same as hers.

So I created a dream family. We lived on a farm. And that’s where I wanted to be. A green place where I could listen to the quiet, rather than hearing the bedlam of the inner city. I wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder, to live in the country with animals and great, broad expanses of prairie around me. I should have been born years ago on the rim of the great frontier, a pioneer full of strength and heartiness. Just like Laura Ingalls.

My greatest wish was to own all of her books. My mother couldn’t buy them for me but at the end of every school year there was a book fair. And if I got good grades, she let me buy one book. So I made it my focus in life to get them all. And through hard work, I got my yearly reward. I had already read them. I spent most of my time in the library. But I wanted a set of books for myself so I could read them whenever I wanted and not have to return them.

I remember playing at a friend’s house and up on a shelf by the door, I noticed a full set of the Laura Ingalls books. They were still in the original plastic. I pointed at them. “Wow, nice.” I said “Oh yeah.” She shrugged. “I got them last Christmas but I don’t really like reading.” And I placed a hand over my heart. How could you get such a wonderful gift and not read it? How could you not love Laura Ingalls? I did eventually achieve my goal. Seven long years and I finally had all the books. By the time I bought the last book in the series, the first book was tattered from so many readings.

Dissatisfaction with life is a difficult habit to break. It followed me into adulthood. So when I got married, I wanted to make things right. I clutched the opportunity to start a new life with my husband. We were going to be the perfect family I had always wanted. I tumbled into the promise of a wonderful future with arms open wide. My children would have all the books and toys they could dream of. We’d eat dinner every night around the table and the house would be clean and there would be enough for everyone so we wouldn’t have to fight over scraps. And when we moved to John D’or Prairie that was when my wonderful new life would begin. I couldn’t believe my luck that we were moving to the country. My life was going to be perfect. At least that’s what I thought in my sweet, optimistic, naive heart.

We moved with our baby son to a place that seemed like the end of the earth. No paved roads, miles from any town, living with strangers in a place flavored with generations of bitterness. And watching eyes wherever we went. No, people, but the feeling of eyes followed us everywhere.

My only solace during that time on the reserve was my art. Artwork puts me into a place of serenity. And that’s where my drawings live. And that’s where I go when I see them. When I make my art, I can feel the bottom. I can touch the source of all that we are, all that makes us the same, all that connects us with each other. I see art and I see infinity. On the reserve, my drawing took my mind away from my loneliness, and made me feel the warm wetness of life all around me.

I had to sketch this John D’or Prairie home. As soon as I saw it, I had to. The satellite dish sat right next to the outhouse. And much like all the other homes on the reserve, it was an interesting mix of modern and ancient.

We didn’t spend much time at John D’or Prairie. Four months or so. Long enough to understand that moving to new surroundings doesn’t change much of anything but our surroundings. If you’re running away from sadness, you don’t leave that sadness behind, you take it with you, the heaviest of baggage.

I’ve come home now, after many years away. Enough time has passed to put lines on my face and streaks in my hair. I’ve returned to the place I wanted to escape as a child, waiting in the starting blocks for the gun to go off so I could run away from it as fast as I could. I returned to this place and the place is the same but I am not. And the thing I discovered is that we are what we love, not what we fear. But here is the unique miracle of our existence. Of all the creatures that have ever risen and fallen on this tiny round stone travelling through nothing-we are able to choose. Imagine an alligator deciding one day to be a vegetarian. It can’t happen. Alligators don’t have the capacity to choose. But we do. We can choose. We can wake up every day and choose. So what do we choose? Some choose anger, some bitterness, some loneliness. But some, far too few, choose peace and happiness and love. And every day we all have the same day, the same now, the same choice. No matter what our outer circumstances, we can choose how we regulate the inner world where we live. And today I choose here. And I choose now. And I choose love.

This is a time lapse video of the drawing

For more about Dale:

75 thoughts on “Running Away From Sadness

  1. Another fantastic piece of art and writing and such profound insights into life and human nature. I had a little different reason for wanting a different family but reading was my solace too and the Laura Ingills series was my favorite! lol

    Liked by 7 people

  2. Wow, it’s the same for me; I actually thought I was Laura Ingalls because I wanted to be her so badly. 😊 My family life was nearly unbearable. Thank you for sharing. Hugs! ♥️

    Liked by 3 people

    1. My life was not so great either. It’s nice that we both were able to escape with Laura Ingalls. I always wanted to go see the play they have every summer in Minnesota

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I didn’t know they had a play! I know that life seemed hard and rugged back then, but she had the most important thing: Love from her parents, and a supportive, reliable family who really cared for her and taught her values, boundaries, strength, and purpose. They taught her to have self-respect because she mattered and was important. I was not taught or even shown any of these things, and even as an adult, sometimes I still feel lost, and displaced. But, your post makes me realize that I’m not all alone. You are a very kind person, my sweet friend. 💜 💜 💜 Thank you for being here.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. No problem Nika. That’s why I started the blog, so that people would feel less alone in the sometimes difficult situations we find ourselves. There is a play.
        If you can’t go to this link by clicking on it then cut and paste it. I’ve always wanted to go. Maybe it’s time.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Your writing is so clear and authentic. I love your story and can relate to many things, the love of books as a sanctuary away from sadness and neglect at home and there’s so many amazing lines that are so true and compassionately aware. It’s a gift to write well and share it with us.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I agree. Anne of Green Gables was a favourite. Books help you escape a bad reality, and they also let you see beyond. We can move towards a better future in small steps when we can see the opportunity and grasp it.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Anne taught me so many lessons that I couldn’t have learned at home. I love Lucy Maude for creating her.


  4. Great post!

    We have three brains. And maybe it is our reptilian brain that regulates our fears, anxieties, loneliness, and wants and desires to a great extent.

    I remember seeing that horror movie, “I Was a Teenage Reptile!”

    Great flick!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. “The Artist sees what others only catch a glimpse of.”
    This has always been why I respect artists; only I usually say – that most of us just pass by. Leo was a pretty smart guy!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Never so far. I’ve enlarged many of them into paintings but I don’t usually add color until the final product. But I do see them in color when I’m drawing them, I imagine the colors there.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I liked this one as well as the others, you’ve written. I think about how my own sister read all of those same books and even ended up naming her first born, Laura. If I had to take something from my childhood memories, it would be one of my mother having a good “cold compress” on her forehead, while my father told the same stories, then had a good laugh, no matter if anyone else laughed along. I might wonder if my parents had still been alive, if they could recognize my life as something they had hoped it to be when they had their own thoughts about how their children would someday turn out? I look at your life through your stories and might just say, “Gosh Lola” but that might just get me into trouble, as it has done in the past by writing real people into my imaginary writings! I just read each of your blogs wondering what kind of person had written them? Who were you before you had written it, and who have you become afterwards? How much can we attain in this life, and do we ever leave some parts of our past behind? Good questions, though not always the right amount of answers….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We can drive ourselves crazy looking for answers. And answers aren’t necessary to life. Too often we look for accomplishments as the measure of a life well lived when it’s in simplicity that we find our true selves. In the quiet morning when we watch the sky change colors, in the smile we give a stranger, in the change we give to a homeless man. The value we give to the world is the total of our demeanor and energy and our willingness to give it to everyone we meet.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I thank you so much for visiting my site if for no other reason than the fact that its led me to find your site. You have a gift. The final paragraph on this post should be printed and stuck on every refrigerator in the country (any country – all countries) next to the report cards and photos

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Can you allow me to use your quote in this piece on “alligators” and choosing on a post that I’m working on. It’s a follow up to my last and I think its pertinent. I intend to link back to your post. Thank you

        Liked by 1 person

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