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Image by Michael Lisagor

Mike's Musings: Georgia O’Keefe & the Coronavirus

Because of the pandemic, the last time my wife, Most Beautiful One (MBO), and I traveled anywhere was last February for a winter Utah vacation with our entire family. So it was with no small…

Because of the pandemic, the last time my wife, Most Beautiful One (MBO), and I traveled anywhere was last February for a winter Utah vacation with our entire family. So it was with no small amount of excitement and, in my case, trepidation at the prospect of the four-hour drive that we stayed at Long Beach, Washington on the Olympic Peninsula last week with our Seattle Awesome Younger Daughter (AYD) and her wonder dog, Bailey.

Going on this trip reminded me of this quote by the artist Georgia O’Keefe. “I’m frightened all the time. But I never let it stop me. Never!” Several years ago, MBO and I visited her museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I have always admired her strong will and love of nature. I also experienced the best sandwich ever made in the history of sandwiches in her favorite town of Taos.

Georgia Totto O’Keeffe (1887 – 1986) was an American artist known for her paintings of enlarged flowers, New York skyscrapers, and New Mexico landscapes. O’Keefe has been recognized as the “Mother of American modernism.” According to Wikipedia, she adopted the principles and philosophies of Arthur Wesley Dow who created works of art based upon personal style, design, and interpretation of subjects rather than trying to copy or represent them. In simple words, she painted how and what she wanted to, not what someone else said she should. This really resonates with me. Especially as I’ve never been inclined to do what was expected of me except as it applies to MBO! I also love O’Keefe’s practical dry sense of humor, evidenced by her exclamation that, “I hate flowers — I paint them because they’re cheaper than models and they don’t move!”

“Come quickly. You mustn’t miss the dawn. It will never be just like this again.” – Georgia O’Keeffe

The beautiful wide sandy shore at Long Beach goes on for miles. We were pleased that everywhere we went people were wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. I feel compelled to admit that it took me the first two days to decompress from all the political and corona-insanity that has become such an infernal aspect of all our daily lives. I don’t think I had appreciated the extent to which it was causing me to grieve. I was also able to recognize when old patterns of sadness started causing minor physical ailments, an old pattern I had experienced many times in the past.

On the third day, I realized I’d only been focused on myself. I recalled how the first time MBO and I took our young daughters on a family vacation to Bethany Beach in Delaware we became frustrated that they were always demanding our attention. We never had a moment to ourselves. In a random flash of wisdom, we decided that maybe if we focused all our energy on making sure they had a great time, they would be less inclined to need us as much. Sure enough, it was true! That became our vacation mantra from then on.

Daisaku Ikeda expressed it very succinctly when he wrote, “The fact is, when we support others, we ourselves are actually being supported; when we help others, we ourselves are actually being helped. This is the worldview of “dependent origination” taught in Buddhism.”

So, I shifted my orientation to MBO and AYD’s happiness. I bought them each a funny pair of socks and made their favorite butterscotch pancakes for dinner. From that moment on, my mood lifted and I was able to fully relax. The sunset (see photo on the upper right) the final evening of our trip as B pranced along the beach was phenomenal. Yet, like most things in life, ephemeral.

“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment.” – O’Keefe

It’s during stressful times such as these that I’ve learned the importance of appreciating the moment. At the risk of appearing hopelessly corny, we need to “smell the roses.” The hidden philosopher in me might even declare that inner growth is the very reason we face hardships in our lives. As O’Keefe put it, “I think it’s so foolish for people to want to be happy. Happy is so momentary–you’re happy for an instant and then you start thinking again. Interest is the most important thing in life; happiness is temporary, but interest is continuous.”I’m assuming she wasn’t referring to interesting times such as we are facing now but rather reorienting ourselves from “being happy” to the deeper fulfillment that results from being engaged with everything and everyone around us. I truly love this sentiment.

Thanks for reading and, of course, let’s do our best to stay safe for ourselves and others.

Most recent titles by Mike during Covid-19:

Sir Isaac Newton & the Coronavirus

Never Disparaging & the Coronavirus

Eliud Kipchoge and the Coronavirus


Image Courtesy of Michael Lisagor

ABOUT MIKE LISAGOR – Mike Lisagor plays harmonica and sings in Good Karma Blues. He has written hundreds of magazine articles and blogs on a variety of business and Buddhist related topics. He is the author of “Romancing the Buddha,” which he adapted into a successful one-man show that he performed at Bainbridge Performing Arts and in Los Angeles and Washington D.C. His nature photographs have appeared in the Boston Globe, Bainbridge Island Magazine, Living Buddhism as well as in several local galleries. His latest graphic art project, “Reimagined Nature”, is in the lobby of New Motion Physical Therapy.