One day, while walking our dog, my husband reflected on how differently he views trees in his adult years. As a child growing up surrounded by trees in Ohio, he would size them up with excitement. He would calculate which trees had accessible branches that would allow him to climb to the highest point possible, proudly enjoying a victorious bird’s-eye view. Trees were potential playmates, action-packed adventures, and enchanting explorations.

Today, he typically views trees with more complacency, and sometimes even with anxiety. If a tree is too close to our house, he may wonder if the roots will cause damage to our pipes, or if certain branches might fall during a storm. Branches that once offered a benevolent helping hand now represented an antagonistic fist, an imposing threat for potential battle.

This change in perspective is a poignant metaphor for what happens to so many of us in life. We want to be practical and sensible, but this often comes at the cost of our wondrous curiosity, carefreeness, creativity, and sense of adventure. What was seen as joyous and inviting as a child can be seen as worrisome and dangerous as an adult. 

As Picasso once famously observed, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” To remain an artist, we need to find ways to balance the tendencies toward negativity and fear with the wonders of play and possibility. 

Remaining an artist isn’t limited to the arts. It includes discovering creative ways to bring joy, excitement, adventure, beauty, love and meaning into our lives, experiencing it with the same childlike splendor, again and again. 

To be an artist is a way of life. It’s an option available to us all, but it’s not for the faint-hearted. To accept this invitation from Life, we need to literally stop and smell the roses (and the gardenia, jasmine, lavender, and other various aromatic scents in nature). We need to pay as much homage to sunrises and sunsets, as we do to our daily chores and work schedules. We surrender to beauty, whether in nature or art, recognizing that it fuels the fire of our wild and emboldens our spirit. 

And trees remain our magnificent playmates, inviting us to climb to the outer-most branches for a victorious bird’s-eye view of our passionately purposeful life.

Mental Exercise:

1. Reflect on a current problem or challenging situation.

2. Ask, “How would my inner-artist respond to this?”

3. Be open to new ways of seeing it and creative ways to solve it.

4. Do it.