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So. Onward. And artward.

I learned yesterday that the gift Toyota is not going to be. Turned out it’s a great vehicle for someone who doesn’t mind getting out and doing minor wrenching once in a while, but not for someone who just wants to get in and go.

But I had fun exchanging messages and receiving photos from FishOrMan (and with another friend who offered to join the Toyota conspiracy) and I consider the offer(s) and consequences to be part of the magic that touches my life so often.

It’s been a rough six or seven days. There’s been good news (no surgery! Toyota offer) but also more stresses and troubles than I’ve written about. I found that when FishOrMan emailed to say he didn’t think his 4-Runner was for me, I felt peaceful and happy about the decision. Somehow it was one more thing I didn’t have to think about.

I’ve been having a fine time on foot. It’s been mind-easing not to think about car repairs for a while. And heaven knows Ava thinks walking even more than usual is the way to live. I’ll take Old Blue in for a second opinion. If she’s fixable, I’ll get her fixed. If not, another vehicle will come along when the time is right. I can still drive Old Blue short distances — to the grocery store, for instance, or to Furrydoc’s clinic in an emergency. Who knows, maybe the Elio will eventually become something other than vaporware and endlessly upbeat PR.


And there’s always that magic. Which I think of as the work of good friends, good fortune, and good freedomista hearts, but which some of those friends are more inclined to see as God’s providence coupled with human action.

One of those moments struck yesterday, as well. It arrived at my PO box in an envelope that held both $100 and a dare. Not merely a dare, but a double dare. The sender didn’t go as far as making it a double-DOG-dare. But still. It was serious stuff.

For my friend’s privacy, I can’t give much background. So this might seem out of context. I’ll just ask you to understand that the money and the dare were a culmination of a long, sometimes challenging dialog between skeptical me and one of the most devout (though unconventionally devout) people I know. A dialog that (unusually in these cases) has never been about proselytizing, but only about faith and God and the intellect and art and many wide-ranging things.

So to the dare: After I quickly pocketed the money (because I was in a public place and even in this friendly small town it doesn’t do to wave random pictures of Ulysses S. Grant around in public), I read the accompanying letter.

The $100 is meant to be the deposit on a week-long icon-painting class to be held at a monastery here in the PNW this summer. The class requires staying at the remote, rural location (a feature, not a bug). The class fee is $500. Room and board with the contemplative community is another $210 or thereabouts. Somebody has to take care of my animals. And somehow I have to get there. (I can reach the nearest town by bus, but the last 12 or 15 miles gets tricky.)

I accepted the dare immediately. I sent off to the monastery for class registration papers as soon as I got home. There was no doubt from the second I read the letter.

If this all seems totally off-the-wall, I may just have to leave you with that impression. My friend didn’t realize, and I find it impossible to explain, that icon painting, remote monasteries, and the chance to learn an artform that’s both highly formalized and devotional has meaning for me that goes both back to my roots and back to the three hours I spent in a float tank last week.

Is it completely impractical to consider accepting this dare — double-dare! — at a time when half my house still needs to be raised and repaired? While Old Blue is sitting lame and neglected in the driveway? When I’ve gotten this far only through the help of friends?

Yep. Completely impractical. Crazy, nutz. Call it what you will. Shake your head, click your tongue. If I were you, I’d probably type tsk-tsk into my computer.

But I’ll also call it absolutely necessary. Necessary to heart and soul. Necessary to follow where my friend, my inner voice, and those hours in the float tank are sending me.

How to make it happen … that’s still ahead. Metals prices are up; I have a few coins I could sell. I still have a bit of my generator fund, no longer needed since the gift of the magical Honda. I won’t touch the house-foundation fund. I did have to tap into it to pay doctors (ptooey!), but that fund is strictly for practical, necessary things.

And though I don’t intend to ask (because I’ve already received more than my share), maybe other souls who value impractical aesthetics and wild leaps of faith will want to contribute to the crazy cause.

But … dare enthusiastically accepted.

Source. (That one’s not really an icon and I gather that it’s a huge no-no, at least in purist eyes, to paint an icon on canvas rather than on board. But it turned up in my image search for icon painting and I thought it was charming.)


  1. Joel
    Joel February 14, 2017 9:12 am

    “Is it completely impractical to consider accepting this dare — double-dare! — at a time when half my house still needs to be raised and repaired? While Old Blue is sitting lame and neglected in the driveway? When I’ve gotten this far only through the help of friends?

    Yep. Completely impractical. Crazy, nutz. Call it what you will. Shake your head, click your tongue. If I were you, I’d probably type tsk-tsk into my computer.”

    The sourest, saddest excuses for human beings I ever met were the ones who made their frugality and common sense into such an intrusive (and usually loud) lifestyle that they managed to transform those virtuous traits into vices.

    If in the face of a long list of money troubles and personal issues you can say, ‘screw it, I’m going to take an art class,” you’ll probably be all right whether or not your money troubles go away. 🙂

  2. Comrade X
    Comrade X February 14, 2017 10:13 am

    Opportunity and freedom and ……….

  3. Claire
    Claire February 14, 2017 10:16 am

    Bravo, Joel!

    I believe in being practical, especially where Other People’s Money is at stake. But sometimes I do feel as if the virtue of practicality was stamped on me and in the process stamped OUT something perhaps even more vital.

    And I know what you mean; I was raised around a person who transformed his undoubted virtues (honesty and hard work) into weapons of self-righteousness, leaving him with a most unpleasant personality.

    Love your final paragraph. A good reminder of something too often forgotten.

  4. Claire
    Claire February 14, 2017 10:21 am

    Never saw that movie, Comrade. Perhaps it’s time to put it in my Netflix queue. (You always find these perfect little tidbits …)

  5. Comrade X
    Comrade X February 14, 2017 10:32 am

    At one point in time I owned that exact model of submarine (you’ll know what I’m talking about when you see the movie) too.

  6. Pat
    Pat February 14, 2017 10:55 am

    Did you paint the beautiful lady with her flowers, Claire? No matter; there’s a softness that shines through the striking colors — it’s just lovely.

  7. Claire
    Claire February 14, 2017 10:59 am

    Pat, I didn’t paint her (there’s a link to her source), but you have a good thought there. I chose her not only because she drew my eye but because she is very much like something I would have painted or drawn at one time. She is beautiful and beautifully done, isn’t she? I particularly like the way part of her halo seems to glow even though it’s done with just the same ordinary paints as the rest of her and not augmented with gold leaf or anything.

  8. Claire
    Claire February 14, 2017 11:01 am

    Comrade — Going to be a while before I see that submarine. Just put Risky Business in my queue and moved it to the top, but it’s listed with “very long wait” — and they usually mean that. Could be months.

  9. Pat
    Pat February 14, 2017 11:10 am

    ” (there’s a link to her source),”

    Thanks, I had overlooked the source link.

  10. Shel
    Shel February 14, 2017 1:39 pm

    At a time of stress (as if that’s different) I once spent two weeks at the guest house of a Benedictine Monastery. It was time exceptionally well spent. I found that the Fathers were extremely pleasant and sociable and the Brothers (non-ordained) weren’t too interested in talking, which of course is why they went there in the first place. It’s a no brainer; you’re making the right move.

  11. Shel
    Shel February 14, 2017 2:03 pm

    Consider attending a Mass. Probably the Sunday before your class starts would be best. It will give you a true feel for the place. Hearing monks sing a capella is particularly wonderful. Just don’t participate in communion; in the Catholic Church unlike with Protestants you must be Catholic to participate. I blew it, naturally.

  12. SKSK
    SKSK February 14, 2017 2:15 pm

    sez I, “go for the gusto, ma’am!”

  13. Claire
    Claire February 14, 2017 2:39 pm

    Tahn — That’s a lovely idea! Thank you. I’ll really be giving that some thought.

    Shel — Your idea is pretty lovely, too. In fact, I’m guessing the class is set up precisely to allow the timing of “mass before class.”

    And SKSK — I’m goin’ for it! The monastery has alredy mailed the paperwork. Nice to have your blessing, though. 🙂

  14. jed
    jed February 14, 2017 4:16 pm

    Submarines? I guess I’ll have to watch it again, just to figure that one out. It’s only been decades since I last saw it.

  15. Claire
    Claire February 16, 2017 8:19 am

    Very perspicacious of you, AG. When I named myself, St. Clare was part of my inspiration. As was the fact that Claire is one of several female names that connote “light” or “enlightenment.”

    Beautiful video. I hope in that icon-painting class that we won’t have to make our own brushes from feathers (though how clever and surprisingly simple). But we will be using the ancient medium of egg tempera on board. Until recently learning about icon painting I had no idea that that historic method (which I learned about only in art history class and I long imagined to be extinct) was still in use.

    Every step of icon painting, it turns out, is exactingly ritualistic and symbolic:

  16. Claire
    Claire February 16, 2017 10:37 am

    Whoo hoo! A second person just matched the original icon fund! Thank you, J. I’ve emailed you.

    I’m not expecting people to donate to this cause. First, it hardly involves life’s practical necessities. Second, you gave so much so recently to last year’s foundation fundraiser. Still. Opening that envelope this morning felt great.

    With the money I’ve been able to put in from my own funds, there’s now more than enough to cover room and board at the monastery and start making headway on the class itself. Given that the event is still months away, that’s serious progress.

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