It’s the first day of Summer and Bo and I celebrate our fifth anniversary. I often say that these five years have felt like 20 years. We have packed quite a big lifetime into five short years of marriage. I have a saying “Love Time”, used to describe the slowing and bending of time when one is deeply in love. It has to do with the amygdala I think. It’s that part of the brain that works harder when you are experiencing new things. And when the amygdala is engaged, time feels relatively longer, slower, as if it spreads out. That’s why when you’re following driving directions to a place you’ve never been, it feels like it takes forever to find it, but then driving back seems to take no time at all. Well, I’ve been living in Love Time.
Last year we traveled around the world visiting Hong Kong, Nepal, Egypt, Greece, Italy (and Sardinia) and France. We felt untethered as we traversed around the globe with nothing but a carry-on bag, booking flights and hotels as we went, free from agendas. Upon returning, I attempted to write about it but realized that it’s difficult to sum up something as complex as the deepening of world experience, the deepening of your well. Mainly I realized my luck and fortune. Luck: that I was born a woman in this country. Fortune: that opportunity was afforded to me through hard work and pursuit of a creative life. While we were away, my Steinway B was being rebuilt. I returned back home with a weightlessness and deeper sense of the world that has found its way in my paintings and my music. My fingers on the keyboard feel lighter, my paintings feel unmoored.
We spent last winter living in Georgia. It was a glorious five months. Admittedly, I was a reluctant transplant. I’m a healthfully jaded Northwesterner! How was I going to adapt to the south? But I did adapt and what I discovered was a lovely surprise. What I discovered was a new home. I discovered a place where magic is afoot in every fiber of being. Friendships were made and immediate inclusion into the community was extended. When I met Bo, a quality I found surprising in him was his generosity. He’d be first to say “What can I do to help?” Now I realize that is a way of being in the south. Last month, we hosted a pre-funeral lunch (when Bo’s father passed away) and all I had to do was vacuum and open the door. Food poured in. People poured in. People doing dishes, serving, cleaning up…. all friends and acquaintances. They call it Southern Hospitality but that saying doesn’t scratch the surface of what it really is. It’s a warm celebration of connection, friendship, love, and all things pretty. The local museum welcomed my paintings. Some people became collectors. My work came to life in a new way, drenched in warm, vibrant southern light.
One day as I was painting in my light-filled Georgia studio last winter while listening to an interview with Madeleine Albright, I kept thinking of a girl I met in Kathmandu last year. She was the daughter of our guide. Her name is Merina Singh. She told me that wants to study Political Science at an American University so she can go back to Nepal and help shape policy in her own country. Nepal is still without a real government, under the thumb of the Maoist rebels. As I read statistics about our global population crisis, I learn that we could see our population peak then decline if, and only if, we can educate third world women. Two things Madeleine Albright said sent me into action. The first was “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” The second was “I’ve come to realize that leadership starts from a quiet voice within.” With this, we wrote letters to people we know at Columbus State University starting with a friend who runs the international studies program. People immediately stepped up with advice, support, applications for scholarships, etc. My friend the Mayor has offered an internship at the Mayor’s office. So with this, if all goes well with the application process, we will be hosting a young woman from Nepal beginning this January. I’ve never been a mother before, but something tells me this will be something close to motherhood.
The life of a painter is solitary. I paint to make sense of the world. Studio life is rich, rewarding, full of problem solving and possibilities. It’s limitless. But lately, that limitlessness has been spilling outside the studio doors and manifesting in love, connection, effecting change. And for it, the paintings feel richer. My music feels deeper and effortless. Friendships have grown with amazing women. We’ve been blessed with the friendship and support of collectors who have come into our lives offering a kind of patronage and support that we imagine happening in the golden age. They are passionate, curious people with whom we’ve been corresponding regularly. They have just acquired a substantial collection of Bo Bartlett paintings and will be sharing them with museums. This support came into our lives shortly after I emailed Merina Singh and said “Merina, would you like to come study in America?”
The universe works in mysterious ways. My lesson of the year, live in Love Time and let it spread. Step forward and ask, “What can I do?”