An Artist’s Journey: Looking Backward

Batmobile, ++++P. Crockett Age 6

What exactly is an artist, and what makes him or her “different?” Damned if I know. But I do know this: artistic expression, in whatever form (and these forms can be countless;wherever you are they are all around you) springs from within. It sort of arises, or bubbles out and up, and it really cannot be helped.

But: most especially in a child or one of tender years, the artistic impulse can be hindered, or even mortally wounded as it runs up against dunderheaded authority figures, or hardworking people who consider the pastime “frivolous,” or any number of other such setbacks. Then you have someone on your hands who even years later might feel somehow empty inside, or wonder what’s wrong with them. In general terms, nothing tends to take a greater toll than that which is not expressed. And the problem is not that the art’s not there; the problem remains that it is.

So parents, and friends, and teachers, open your eyes and your heart and get yourself out of the way if you cannot help. For the love of God, realize that this (most especially and above all) is not about you. To the exact contrary, the drawings or poems or photos are the clearest window you will ever have to the uniqueness of this person, for these creations arose from nowhere but within the heart. There are certain fine times to keep your own counsel, and this is one of them.
And if that’s the most you can do, it will have to do.

King of the Road P. Crockett Age 11
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Without going on at great lengths, let me share the story of my Uncle Eddie, and contrast it with mine. Eddie once shared with me, at the family Thanksgiving Table, that when he’d been in first grade the class had been given an assignment of making paper mache masks. He’d had such fun working on his; he had been so very proud of it. Over 50 years later there was still an expression of delight on his face. But not for long. “The faces were supposed to be smiling,” he said. “And I guess mine wasn’t. That teacher gave me such a scolding. It was terrible.”

“I haven’t picked up a paintbrush or anything else since. Though you’d better believe I’ve thought about it…”

                                                      Orpheus and Eurydice, (copied from an illustration) __P. Crockett 5th Grade
In contrast to that very sad and awful tale, I bring up one involving my father, Jerry. He worked very hard for many years as an attorney, and along with my Mom had five kids to handle, and generally had a lot on his plate. But one day when I was very young, he nevertheless had time enough to just take a moment and touch my soul. Just after coming home from work one day, he noticed a full-page pencil drawing I had done left on top of the dining room table. He did sort of a “double take” and stopped and picked it up, and just looked at it for a moment. He then turned to me and said “Paul, this is really good. You really should keep on doing this!”

I cannot tell you how good that felt, or what exact role the event might have played in my development as “one who expresses.” But it felt like a door opening, or a light coming on.

So, if a moral can be drawn from these experiences, it might be that, given a choice, you’d rather act the part of my Father than Uncle Eddie’s teacher, should the time come and that critical moment arrive. At least, think about it. And remember: to be frank (and to me there are few subjects calling for deeper or more relentless clarity than this one): Whatever you think about art does not matter. Again, this is not about you. It’s more about that tender, open, oh so vulnerable heart that, at that singular moment, sits beating in the palm of your hands.

Lift it up, and let it fly. It just might surprise you, one day. Maybe or maybe not, and it might not matter. Something good and precious will have happened no matter what transpires, and that can only help.

                                                                        Unicorn in the Ghetto ___P. Crockett Age 20, at University of Florida
Food for thought.

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Just for Fun.

Up in Alan’s Tower, I

God knows, for better or worse, there is nothing like the Internet. This morning I “stumbledupon” this link: and first thought “What the Hell?” I had rarely seen such a challenging jumble of apparent nonsense, but actually recognized some of the links as ones I had really enjoyed. Be warned: this site could swallow up as much time as you might give it. Yet I’m not sure that would necessarily be a bad thing…

So, as happens sometimes, I checked out a few of the links and cannot be sure exactly where the last hour or so has gone. I found this one such a cool and “feelgood” experience I felt to share it on an easy Saturday afternoon:

Best Wedding Toast Ever (Amy’s Song)

I have no idea what many of the links are about, but I also randomly checked out a couple of others and quite enjoyed these:

31) Christian The Lion

77) Prison Inmates remake “Thriller”

30) David After The Dentist

36) Where The Hell Is Matt

These are just for fun. You might find them rewarding, as did I. There will be no quiz given.

May they lighten your heart and being a smile to your face!

Up in Alan’s Tower, II

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Paul Plays with Photoshop!

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In which my dear friends Eric and Katy Raits find themselves as Seminole, wandering free in a dream of Rousseau’s, without end.

With due appreciation to:

Henri Rousseau, Femme se promenant dans une foret exotique or (translated loosely) Woman Taking Her Stroll in an Exotic Forest 1905

And the following photographs taken in the South Florida area long ago:

Seminole, 1907

Mrs. Cypress Charlie, Coconut Grove, 1880’s


Here is Niki Butcher’s photo journal of a day she and her husband, Clyde, spent with the wild ones in the Florida Everglades, loose with their cameras:

Katy and Eric’s excellent photographs of the vanishing wild can be seen at

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An Encounter with an Old Soul (Part 1)

Behind every painting, there is a story. At least!

often send out emailed pics of my paintings in progress, and share a little of the “story” that seems to inevitably unfold around each experience of painting outside, en plen air. Every time it’s different, and I’ve met such an amazing variety of people out there while I’m working away, splashing on the paint. From time to time I battle depression, if that is an apt term, and so I find that these golden moments sustain me, and I feel led to share them in the hope that they might also lift up others.

And it’s safe to say that I have never before in my life been more aware of such an uncountable multitude of people who are really having a hard time, on so many levels. It’s as if the Earth is crying. Yet something deep within me counsels that all pain is growing pain, and that despite our sense of isolation we are all woven of and into one great fabric, and remain each and every one of us part of some great and mysterious plan that leads on through the darkness to light, and will in the end leave no soul, not even one, behind.

Ready to Begin, on “Recycled” Canvas

Here is one such e-mail I sent out, on March 26, 2006. As it turns out, the first sitting on this one was also the last. Upon contemplation (and the relentless badgering of a couple of friends!), I decided that the painting was done.

Hey, Folks:

Here’s my new baby a’birthing, as of first sitting. It is called Saturday Afternoon. I had a grand time this afternoon, splashing paint around in a suitably mad fashion w/ a palette knife.


Several beautiful young kids came up, parents in tow. to ask questions and to watch. And, I think,to experience art.



One exceptionally beautiful five-year-old girl with kind, ancient, eyes approached me with no fear and asked,“Why do you paint?” I am rarely at a loss for words, but that one wasn’t easy. Her mom had walked up behind her and rested her hands lightly on the girl’s shoulders. They were both stately. Trying to help, the Mother sort of leaned down and coaxed, “Well, probably the same reason you like to paint, Honey.” I smiled and said, “Probably, yeah.” But the girl wanted an answer, and stood her ground. She was so solemn, and so beautiful, that I just wanted to pull her to me and give her a big hug. So I thought a moment and then said, “I guess to help me really see the world. I think that there is beauty around us,a lot, but sometimes we forget to take the time to look.” She was paying careful attention; I watched her eyes subtly but carefully scan the horizon of great blue bay before us, and the palms, and the big sky above. “You know what?,” I told her, “Sometimes, I don’t think I’ve really seen the beauty of a place at all until I’ve painted it.” The child nodded slightly; she understood. “And so I’d guess I’d have to say, that is how come I paint.”

She said nothing; she only stepped back, looked at the canvas and then once again to the vista beyond, and turned to skip away and join her friends to play. Her Mom smiled. “Special kid you got there,” I told her. “Yes,” she said.

Later on, just before the whole group moved on, the girl returned, alone, and stood just behind me, to my left side. I could feel her. I turned, and our eyes met. A simple moment, really. Big, beautiful brown eyes. So innocent, so open to the world. I loved her, perhaps by way of honoring that beautiful boy always inside of me, also with big brown eyes, also burning with that quiet hunger always resident in the heart of the innocent: To really know, to see, to understand, to love and be loved.

Or maybe just because

And then she was gone. Just a moment in time’s river, but I am left with this strange feeling that I’ve had one or two times in the last couple of months, actually more of a quiet conviction: that in all probability I may not see this child again while on Earth, but that we will meet again and recognize one another back in Heaven, and be glad. I cannot explain it, but am fully content with the mystery.

Love always, P.

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Fay, Schmay : (

Alan up on the Cottage roof, wrestling to the ground splintered branches left behind by Tropical Storm Fay. Fay’s moved nefariously upstate to share the chaos, but the heavy rains continue to fall.

Summer in Miami… hot as Hell. And happy to be here.

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The Last Days of the Peacock Inn

Return to the Peacock Inn P. Crockett 1995

Vitae Summa Brevis Spem Nos Vetat Incohare Longam

(The brief sum of life forbids us the hope of enduring long – Horace)

They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,

Love and desire and hate:

I think they have no portion in us after

We pass the gate.

They are not long, the days of wine and roses:

Out of a misty dream

Our path emerges for a while, then closes

Within a dream.

— Ernest Dowson, 1867-1900

The Last Days of the Peacock Inn P. Crockett 1997

So long…

Remains, across the street. From where this house once stood, an excellent vista of open bay could be enjoyed. One can still make out a sliver of its blue, over the rooftop beyond.

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Simply for Your Enjoyment

Saturday Afternoon, Bayside

Figured I’d share a couple of my visions of this mad place that I so love. There is a certain special quality to paintings; it can’t really be put into words, but it invites one to enter, or perhaps visit another place…. And I love that.

In fact, I need it.

Garden Oasis

Thank you.
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Latest Painting: “Fireflies”

I’VE just returned from a visit with my brother Whit, wife Sam, and wunderkind Alianne and Thompson, along with my parents, up in Jersey and NYC. I hadn’t taken my paints or brushes with me, figuring I’d just “veg” for a change, but in the end felt that pull, and had to paint. I did what I could with the mess of childrens’ paints, glitter, etc. that was lying around. When I ran out of white paint, I used Elmer’s glue.

So here are Ali and Thompson experiencing a moment. They loved to catch the fireflies. Or perhaps moreso, to run here and there, and FAST, into the darkness in their pursuit.

I especially enjoyed one special evening painting with Alianne. She is six. (Thompson is four, and most definitely worth his own story, at least!) In the middle of our conversation, she said “Uncle Paul, let’s stop talking and listen to the sound of the crickets.” “Cool,” I thought. I had to smile. It is not easy to shut me up!

The sound was like a symphony, or perhaps several.

Ali’s two paintings, and my one. The one she’s holding is finger paint on slate.
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If We Are All On Some Great Journey of the Soul…

Well, then, here we are.

Feeling for clues, is what I am all about. You see, I’ve grown to realize that I am a healer, and I am here to serve. That is my purpose in life and the mission of my soul, zero doubt about it. And so I reach out, through my painting, my writing, my work in teaching and advocacy as an attorney. Yet it’s different than I once would have imagined, and far richer. On the most important levels, those I’d describe as closest to the soul, I can no longer really distinguish between giving and receiving. We are not better or worse than one another, and in fact have no way of even purporting to calibrate, compare, or judge one another’s experience and journey. Our stories are in equal measure absolutely unique, and fundamentally linked in commonality.

At this point exactly the mystery suddenly kicks in to high gear. It is a challenge to capture in words, and the folly of “assumption” the greatest impediment. So bear with me here. I am allowed to be wrong, and it’s OK if my musings are irrelevant to your experience. Really. The only thing I’d ask from the reader is an open heart, and the only invitation I’d extend would be a sense of wonder. Because no matter what we may be doing, or where we might mark the tides of our passion, I have to feel that it can only be enriched by an open heart. I am not here to say, “Do this,” or “This is the right path.” I am much more here to say, instead, “You are important. Yes, you!” “You do have a reason, just as much as anyone that you can name, or any luminary you look up to, or even hold as sacred.”

“Why not give yourself the respect of inquiring, with an open heart and mind, what it might be yours to do or be here?” It’s a big question, and calls for a spirit of bravery. It’s all right to be afraid. It’s also all right, or perhaps essential, to be able to search your soul as diligently as you can, and conclude “I have no idea. None!” Because if that’s what you come up with, that is your truth. And that is a fine place to start, and there’s no shame in it. We have this terrible tendency to compare ourselves to others, and an awful way of assuming the best about them and the worst about ourselves. But in deeper truth we are all in this together. We are here, each of us and without exception, not because we are “done” and neatly defined, because we are still growing, and are not.

Key Biscayne Trail 36″ X 48″ 1991

So, why not start where we are? Let’s settle in to an open heart, and start exploring truths to which we might hold, and the much larger unexplored areas still shrouded in mystery. Come on, let’s walk together for a while on the Greater Path, and see where we might wind up!

Thanks for the company. I mean that.

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A Prayer for the "Stranger Within Our Gates"

By day…

Returning from a family vacation last summer in Colorado, my brother Whitney and drove into Boulder, returned the rental car, etc., and checked into the Holiday Inn near the airport. The staff was friendly and the place nice enough, but the one thing I will always remember about the stay was finding a poem in our room. And not only finding it there, printed on a laminated card, but really being moved by it. I don’t know which caught me more by surprise, but there it was.

Its message surprised and delighted me, and somehow touched me. In today’s America especially travel often seems inherently a “tensing” thing, and I found myself melting just a little. For the last couple of weeks the Prayer/ Poem has kept popping back into my mind, and refusing to let go. So I finally sat down yesterday and Googled it, and first found it quoted in a web site by “Jenne Ink,” a talented and spirited writer journaling online about her experience of cancer. She had come across the message at the Courtyard Inn in Oklahoma City

( ).

In skimming only the first few other postings I saw that any number of travelers had also unexpectedly come across the Prayer in all kinds of hotels across the Country (one in Williamsburg, Kentucky at the Cumberland Inn, another the Embassy Suites in St. Charles, Missouri (near St. Louis), etc., etc.) and thought enough of it to post their experiences. It had been discussed on a forum of a national hotel chain. The prayer and its message also showed up on various web sites: alternative lodgings, churches, and others.

So quite obviously it hadn’t been just me; here was a message with a power of its own, that all kinds of people in all kinds of places were thirsty to receive. Now seems the time.

And so I share it here, its wonderfully simple language changed only a bit. (I must say, I love it that both of our properties share a common Garden Gate, so the prayer seems a propos in a particular and special way.)

In ancient times there was a prayer for “The Stranger within our gates.”

You are here because you have accepted our invitation to hospitality, and we are grateful and glad. Hosts among the Inuit people, sometimes called the Eskimo, customarily greet their guests with this heartfelt acknowledgment: “You bless our Home with your presence.” May you experience peace, rest, and a promise of refreshment while you are here.

May this Cottage and its gardens be your “second” home. May those you love be near you in thoughts and dreams. Even though we may not get to know you, we hope that you will be comfortable and happy as if you were in your own house. Or even happier, and happier still to return at last to your own bed.

May the business that brought you our way prosper. May every call you make and every message you receive add to your joy. When you leave, may your journey be safe.

We are all travelers. From “birth till death” we travel between the eternities. May these days be pleasant for you, profitable for society, helpful for those you meet, and a joy to those who know and love you best.

And by night.


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