You were the very first person on planet Earth to hang something I made on a wall. It was a heart valentine project, covered in pom pom fluff balls. All pink. I remember your high school bedroom like it’s a fable. Your Mom let you paint it however you wanted and we covered the door in our painted handprints. Some of the violet in the painting is a nod to the glittery purple Ford Taurus you had.
When I read the text message that said “This is Josh Browning” my stomach did a flip and my heart went up into my throat. Your family is the first I have seen go through an adoption journey from start to finish. I feel so lucky that it was you that taught me what it means to bring your brand new baby to a family function. Like I felt that joy as an adult as if on the other side of the mirror. I never really had a huge ability for most of my life to identify and celebrate miracles. It is a gift to me to know that there are other parents out there that honor the birth mothers of their children just as my daughters' parents honor me. Witnessing your family come together and the joy and growth that has taken place has healed in me in ways I can carry on about forever but never really explain.
We are thinking of leaving San Diego. My only dream ever was to live by the ocean and the rest just happened. It feels insane to leave. I go out to the water lately and I stare at it as hard as I can, trying to etch it into my memory. I try to savor every sunset and memorize the colors. I worry that the movement in my paintings won’t be the same, or people won’t think I’m as magical and lucky because I get to live here (what is that honestly lol.) I fear not smelling the ocean from my doorstep or seeing my dachshunds run in the sand.
That is my smaller self with all of those thoughts. The places within me that are more grounded, still and sure know that it is absurd to think that I could ever leave the ocean, as the ocean is what I have created it to be. In general the ocean and all of my hopes and dreams about it are mine, they are inside of me. The beauty, freedom and identity of this place are really my own, not that of a place or a point in time. I can access this knowledge and awareness anywhere, no matter what city I live in.
There is a bigger picture for me, as I know there is one for you and your family too. I never want to fear change or growth. Just because I can’t see it right away doesn’t mean there isn't more freedom, more beauty, more movement, and more gratitude waiting for me on the other side. One of my favorite things is how you celebrate Brathan and Aaliyah playing outside. It is my hope that with this painting they will still always recognize the colors and the frequency of the Pacific Ocean, but also grow up with an understanding of the seasons and the outdoors, the way that holidays and celebrations match certain weathers and the sky.
Process-wise, all of my paintings come out differently but this one was like a lightning bolt. I am so proud of it. I’ve been mumbling to myself a lot the past few days that I need to memorize this one and maybe paint a sister one of it for my studio when I move. I believe that my very best paintings come from when I am able to let go, feel what I know, and put it on a canvas. So much joy went into her. Especially the feelings of learning to swim in the water in the winter. (Recently it was so cold I got like a brain freeze but in my neck. Never doing that again.) Like that rush of cold when the wave hits and how it just makes me laugh like a crazy person every time.
There was this time I went surfing at 6 pm. I was in between the glow of the setting sun and the glow of a full moon in an electric pink sky, watching a pod of dolphins 200 feet away from my surfboard. I didn’t want to go in the water that day, I was afraid. I pushed through the fear and got to have a moment like that, that I will remember for the rest of my life. Will I ever love the idea of a place any more than I do here? Probably not. But I know my memories will take it with me. I can’t unlearn what I know.
The magic of everything I wanted and everything I got is in this canvas in regards to this city. That’s a high volume. I am so honored that she will be the centerpiece of your new home. As they say, wherever you go there you are, and here you are no matter where. She is a diagonal split of the water and the sky at sunset in San Diego on a cloudy day. Nowhere else I have been in the world has this color palette the way San Diego does. I hope she illuminates your home with the light of all of your memories of home, wherever that may be. Family, whomever that is and of course, the Pacific Ocean at sunset. One of the brightest illuminations of movement that our minds and hearts have created for us. With the pulse of a wave, but a calm rhythm of the way the sky settles over the water for balance too. It’s a whole lot of soul. Probably too much glitter, mixed with Earth. Air. Water.
Mitakuye Oyasin & Love,