A defining characteristic of Americans is their optimism. As a nation of immigrants, perhaps optimism was necessary to leave everything you knew and set out on a hazardous journey to who-knows-what. We can imagine that the pessimists stayed behind, assuming any change would be a change for the worse.
I spent over a week painting somber, stormy scenes: a lonely willow whipped by the wind and a lightening storm over the bay. The government shutdown and various scary portents loom overhead. But perhaps my American optimism kicked in-or I should say my immigrant optimism, since grandpa Czaja (illegally) immigrated here from Poland around the turn of the century.
I often wonder how a nineteen year-old had the courage to leave friends and family forever and how he found the strength to work, buy a small farm and raise eight kids. I am told he never learned English and Pop didn’t learn English until he entered first grade. By the time I was aware of such things, Pop spoke English just fine and I didn’t know any Polish (except for a few profanities the old Polish men used so we kids wouldn’t understand them.)
I spent Monday failing to paint a salt marsh. Oh, I painted and revised and painted some more, but it simply sucked, so I threw it away. I didn’t want to paint a steamy, inhospitable salt marsh, but I was fascinated with the salt marsh’s…flatness. When I first arrived in Florida from hilly New England, a Floridian asked me what I thought. What I thought was “Flat, swampy, dead-looking.” I later found out salt marshes were not dead at all, but teeming with life, more life per square foot than the lovely pastures back home.
So I painted “Blue Crab.” He is in a salt marsh and it is flat, but it is sunny and the water is blue and maybe I’d like to put my kayak in here and explore around a bit.
When I was in Catholic High School I asked the history teacher what the difference was between a liberal and a conservative. The nun said, “A conservative wants things to stay the same and a liberal wants things to change.” “Oh, I told her, “I must be a liberal then.” Because as an optimist, I think: “If things change they will get better.”