Are you open for business?

We’re in control of where we’re going and what we’re doing. To ignore that is self-inflicted slavery.
Float, by Carol L. Douglas. Oil on canvas. Available.
For the last several weeks, I’ve had my gallery-studio open every weekday from noon to five. That might not seem like a challenge, but old habits die hard. Noon comes, and I realize I’ve missed the opportunity to walk to the post office, or run to Home Depot, or any of the other errands I used to do when the spirit moved me. If I want to paint en plein air, I must finish before noon. Since daylight is short right now and the air is cold early in the day, that’s difficult.
Being open requires that I keep things looking beautiful. No more carrying in a stack of paintings and dumping it on the nearest flat surface. Everything goes in its place when I finish for the evening. It’s nice to walk into a beautiful space each morning, but it’s a lot of work to maintain. I have a new admiration for Sue Baines, who’s been running the Kelpie Gallery as a workspace-gallery all year.
Blueberry barrens #1, by Carol L. Douglas. Oil on canvas. Available.
Of course, once I put out my Open sign and turn on the lights, I go on with my workday as usual. My gallery-studio is attached to our house. It’s a lot different for someone who has to travel to open, or worse, pay someone to run their gallery. In the latter case it’s just not feasible to be open during the off-season.
Other than the locals, nobody is around in mid-coast Maine right now. A few people will be back for Christmas week, and after that it will be absolutely dead until Spring. So as of today, I’m done with this experiment. I have some painting and trim work to do, which will involve making a big mess. It has to be finished before my next classes start on January 7.
Blueberry barrens #2, by Carol L. Douglas. Watercolor on Yupo. Available.
In some ways, being open has been a spiritual metaphor for me. I know the chances of anyone stopping by the week before Christmas are slim, but if I’m not open, then the chances are nil.
Likewise, if you’re not open to the possibility of good things happening in life, you can’t receive them. Most of the best things that have happened in my life haven’t been by design, but by happy accident. Conversely, my worst mistakes have been repudiating things I didn’t expect because they weren’t what I thought I wanted at the moment.
My friend Barb recently asked me if I’d read The Chronicles of Narnia. Of course; I read them to my kids. She drew my attention to The Last Battle. In the end, the Dwarfs perceive themselves to be locked in a dirty stable, when, in fact, they are dwelling in Paradise. Without faith, even Aslan can’t help them.
Glade, by Carol L. Douglas. Watercolor on Yupo, courtesy private collection.
Sadly, I talk to people every day who think like that. There are people who have been given freedom but see it only as loss. There are those who hate their surroundings or loathe their jobs but can’t move on. Their imprisonment is largely in their minds. There is change available to almost all of us, even if it’s only in the form of insisting that your chair in the nursing home be by the window so you can watch the birds.
I realize there are seasons of crisis, when major change is impossible. All of us have been or will be there at some point in life, sadly. But during the vast majority of our time on earth, we’re in control of where we’re going and what we’re doing. To ignore that is self-inflicted slavery. The greatest gift we give ourselves is a window for opportunity. In other words, we must be open for business.