Last summer, we came back from our first Caribbean vacation with a rescue dog. A puppy, in fact, from the Turks and Caicos Islands. Most people bring back a t-shirt or some shells, we came home with our first dog.
Watching him grow and adapt to our household has been a treat. I don’t think a day goes by that he doesn’t make us laugh.
He’s desperate to belong–a potcake cannot survive on the islands without his mates. Here in our home, it means fitting into our family. Watching his antics as he tries to befriend and play with our cats is a hoot.
There are no other dogs in our household, so of course he mimics many of the our cats’ behaviors. He has been around other dogs, of course. But he and the cats are together 24/7, so they are his first source of observation. For example, he noticed that both our cats take a piece of kibble, drop it on the floor, then eat it. And so he does the same.
The funniest cat imitation is how he goes up and down stairs. He watched our cats closely as a pup to see how they did it. Aha! One step at a time.
It worked when he was a puppy because he was the same size as our cats.
But he’s a lot bigger now. As he grew to the size of a border collie, it got harder and harder to scrunch up his body to take each single step. His contortions were extreme.
Yesterday, he had a sort of doggie breakthrough.
For the first time, he took the stairs in great, bounding leaps, three at a time. He practically flew up those stairs.
The look of pleased astonishment on his face was delightful. “Aha!”, he seemed to say. “I can bound!”
There’s a lesson in here for us; you know that, right?
When we have no other examples to learn from, we believe the right way–the ONLY way–is what we see around us.
We look to the people around us to learn “the right way” to do things.
That’s perfectly fine, if we are surrounded by excellent examples. But ask yourself: Perfect examples of what?
Not many artists grow up surrounded by artists and encouraged by other artists.
If you are a dog, there are only so many things you can do like a cat. No matter how many cats you surround yourself with, you cannot be a cat. No matter how much those cats wish you were a cat, you are still a dog. No matter how much they wish you were not a dog, it ain’t gonna happen.
If you yearn to make things with your hands, if you love to draw or paint, if you love to make music, or you must dance in order to think… (I urge you to listen til he gets to part about the little girl who could simply not sit still in school. It is astonishing.)
…And the people around you do not understand that….
What contortions would you put yourself through to fit in?
I scrunched to get up and down those “stairs”, for years. I’ll bet many of you did, too.
When I finally broke through, and created my own paradigm, I felt a freedom of spirit I hadn’t felt since I was a kid.
Ever since, I’ve encourage others do do the same–to find some way of getting their heart’s work out into the world.
Because when you try to bury who you really are, bad things can happen.
If you cannot be the artist you are meant to be, you may become a shadow artist.
I guess you CAN teach an old dog new tricks.