Max came into my studio and sat down heavily, tears welling in his eyes.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Just got an email from the garnishing school in Japan I attended. My teacher and beloved mentor Tokanada died yesterday.”
I went to him, put my arms around him and kissed him. “I’m so sorry.”
Everything we have is just for a while. Everything changes whether we want it to or not.
“It was to be expected. He was almost 100.” He sighed. “He meant a lot to me. Often I would email him to ask for advice on a garnishing technique. He shared his knowledge freely but always urged me to find my own style and not to be discouraged. He liked to quote Billie Jean King, ‘Champions keep playing until they get it right.’ I’m going to miss him terribly.” Max sighed again and got up. “I’m going to my cushion to meditate.”
I put my paints away and went to the garden to sit. Salsa jumped into my lap and I played with her fuzzy ears. It was comforting to feel the dog’s small, soft, warm weight and it reminded me of the dog we had before Salsa, Truffle. She was with us on the island where we lived before we moved to Mexico.
Truffle died and Salsa has taken Truffle’s place on my lap. But no animal or human can really take the place of another living being. Everything we have is just for a while. Everything changes whether we want it to or not.
The ficus saplings planted around the pool have grown and been trimmed back numerous times. The huge agave plant that looked like a giant sculpture had to be taken down. Now there are several new cactuses in its place.
I look at my hand. Once it had been plump and pink and smooth. Now it shows veins, spots and wrinkles.
Making food and garnishes is also a study in impermanence. Time is spent on the planning and preparing. The food looks appetizing and tastes good. And then, in a flash, it’s eaten!
Just then I heard a ping on my computer and saw it was an email from Scorpion. It read:
Just wanted to share some news before you heard it from anyone else.
Had high hopes for my show in London but the critics were cruel. They called my string and nail sculptures ‘not sculptures but royal messes’ and that I was a ‘carpenter not a sculptor’ and that I was ‘an amateur and totally unprofessional.’ Maybe they’re right.
I know I can tell you how it hurts. You are a fellow artist and my friend and I know you understand how I feel. I want to throw my hammer down and quit sculpting. I’m so angry, I could spit!!!
Missing you and Mexico,
You are a fine sculptor! Don’t let critics sway you. If they could sculpt, they would, but since they can’t sculpt, they critique. Consider if their comments are valid and you can learn from them. If not, throw them into the garbage. Sometimes people accept you. Sometimes they don’t. Your next show might be a huge success.
Being angry at the critics does no harm to them, but every day that anger will eat at you. They criticized you in London but we love you in Mexico. Every moment is fresh and a chance to do something new. Keep evolving.
So they called you “an amateur and unprofessional?” Just remember this quote, ‘Amateurs built the arc. Professionals built the Titantic.’
Max and I will open champagne tonight and toast Tokanada. The journey is endless. The trick is to enjoy the ride.
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