Have you painted your rock today?

  When my daughter was about two, she was invited to a party with the big girls up the block. She was so excited! One of the craft projects led to the girls decorating a rock.
Now, there’s nothing exciting or special about this rock. It is plain, smooth-faced gray stone, the kind you might find all over your neighborhood, especially if you live near me. I happen to like rocks, and this one has done little to pique my geologic interest over the years.

But I was wrong about it. This stone is special to my daughter. Princess brought the whole force of her creative self upon this rock. She painted it, spread glitter on it, and glued gems to it. For five years now, I have kept this craft masterpiece in my kitchen, on the window ledge by the sink, so I can look at it when I am doing the dishes. It reminds me that things aren’t always what they seem – and that my perspective might be quite different than someone else’s.

If we are honest with ourselves, I think we all have a plain grey rock in our lives. Something that you – and maybe only you – are excited about. Maybe it’s your new fuzzy socks or a song you like. Perhaps it’s an art technique or an artificial intelligence algorithm. Whatever it is, it’s something that makes your heart sing. Something that makes you feel creative and alive and special and chosen.

Too often, I think, we let other people’s views of what we should or shouldn’t like or do color our actions. Others see our passions or interests as plain grey rocks instead of the fine igneous masterpieces that they truly are. And instead of fearlessly throwing ourselves into our passions like only a toddler can do, we walk away, a little sadder, the world less bright than before.

Now is the time to reclaim your passion. Have you painted your rock today? 

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Waiting for Billy Collins to Speak at the National Book Festival

My thirteen-year-old son sits next to me,
comic book in hand, imaginary bud of music in his ear,
waiting for mom to finish listening to dry words
on dry pages; the only thing more boring would be
if he were forced read the poems aloud himself.

But Billy Collins is not to be ignored.
“He’s a rock star of poetry,” I whisper reverently,
and my son nods, thinking perhaps that
mom has lost it but in a cute way, the way
I used to laugh at his lame jokes
when he was small; he knows he owes me.

When the words come, we don’t notice as the poems rise
gently with the tide, a wave of literary action
elevating the audience; line by line,
we are transported out of the auditorium,
past the flotsam and jetsam of plastic trees and manicured nails,
out back to where the dirty magazines once were hidden,
into the blood and piss, the egg crates and stray cats.

I look over at my son and realize he is laughing
in all of the right places, and I know that, right here,
in this lecture hall, my son has grown up, enjoying this poetry reading
in spite of himself, his comic book usurped, at least for today,
by a book of poems; I am proud and happy
that he chose to share this experience with me.