I took this photograph of my little ferret Myst’s paw. She was sleeping and had turned over to stretch, and up popped her little foot. Too cute to resist.
In 2008, in an artists forum that had come into existence in 2006 and was, really, just a handful or two of people who chatted quite regularly and had become very close. One day awoman who went by the screen name Thistledew joined our ranks. New people didn’t often stick around. I think that the small group of us may have been a tiny bit hard to crack as we’d been talking for two years and had developed strong personal ties, that still, incidentally, exist between us. So she joined the group rather quietly and showed her paintings. She was always thoughtful, helpful and kind. And a little mysterious. Watching her painting skill develop rapidly became quite interesting. Her technical skill improved tremendously, but beneath that she had a very powerful ability to tell stories in her paintings. They were beautiful, for sure, but there was also HER inside them. Her struggles, and her joys and her interests. She stuck around, and she became one of us.
Things became complicated in her life. Dramatically. This group of friends found out that this painter was not only lovely and kind and helpful, but also brave. She was thrown into a very difficult set of situations that caused her great personal difficulty. I, at least, worried for her. She reached the point where she couldn’t paint.
She saw the photo of my little ferret’s paw one day and asked me if she could paint it. That she was stuck and felt like this might be a way to get back in the flow. I, of course, said yes! I love her, and I love her work, and if it would help her, I am all for it. So she painted little Myst’s paw and called it “Helping Paws”. I was delighted.
I was even MORE delighted when she sold the painting, and used that money to help fund assistance to some members of our group to start our own websites. She is GENIUS at websites as much as she is at painting.
So the question you are all probably asking, is why is this important? Well, Thistledew — this is a letter to you, really. You helped us all so much. In ways we can never fully repay. It was at this time last year that you decided to leave our orbit and pursue a more private life. ALL of us wish you well. ALL of us hope that you are now living a peaceful and happy life — fulfilled in a way that you were not, perhaps before.
We all, I think, also understand your choice to withdraw, and respect that.
But my dear, I hope that you sometimes check in on us. And I hope that in doing so you discover that you’ve left a positive mark on all of our lives. We think of you often, and wonder how you are. I get emails and PM’s — have you heard from ______? That’s the we….
For the me, I thank you for changing my life in unexpected ways. Going on that journey with you taught me so much about perseverance in the face of overwhelming circumstance. It taught me that one can’t judge a situation so easily and still be fair and true. It taught me a kind of grace. You showed me tremendous generosity and grace, and I am very grateful to you. I always will be. I find myself thinking about you and all you’ve weathered as I go through my own far less dramatic struggles. I look to you as someone who turned a difficult situation into success. I know it can be done.
So if you do check in on us now and again — I hope you see this and know that I love you and miss you and wish you all of the happiness in the world. Your bravery and grace — I hope I have what it takes, too.