This is a special time of year, especially in Connecticut, where residents experience four seasons.
As we face the reality of summer's end, heading into fall can bring a rejuvenation often spurred by the beginning of a new school year and an urge to begin again with a refreshed, focused desire maybe this time to achieve some goals or at least to set some in place.
No matter what age I am, every year I seem to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of a new school year. Some years I've been a student, then an educator, and now just a proud grandmother watching from the sidelines as my grandchildren begin a new school year. I, too, seem to hold enthusiasm for a chance to begin again -- maybe to take a different approach or to set goals and a new routine.
I, too, enjoy going to the local office supply store to buy a new notebook, maybe a new colorful binder with a big supply of paper to lure me into setting some new goals.
This goal-setting is so important for me as I age and more so as I become more aware of the passing of time, which keeps hitting home with me each time I visit a grandchild. Didn't I just wheel him around the neighborhood in his carriage just a while back. Now he's getting ready to start second grade? Where was I the past six years?
Nothing hits home about the passing of time than the death of friends, but two in two weeks? One death was expected for he had been suffering from a life-threatening illness for many years. However, the second death was unexpected.
My friend Julie, an artist, was killed in a head-on car crash in Wisconsin, where her extended family had a home. A few years ago my late friend had led me and a few others on an artist's visit to Italy where she rented a house in Tuscany and we painted outside near the olive trees.
Following her death, I received an email of recollections passed on to me from Julie's nephew. Given this season of new beginnings, I found inspiration:
"Three weeks ago, I asked Aunt Julie to share some of her wisdom on my latest creative chapter and interest, watercolors. She raised her right hand and pointed to the clearing among the birch and cedar trees that surround our family home in Ephraim, Wisc. The pale blue sky lit the opening, an arboreal porthole, highlighting the quivering birch leaves around it. She said, `Focus on the negative space. Find what's there and let that define what's not there.'
Focus not on what is in front and obvious, but on what might be off to the side and elusive. Focus on what others might not see at first; find it, and help them see it.
That pale blue sky peeking through the porthole is the source of light and, as defined by physical science, it's infinite. It is that infinite source of light, the negative space, the subtle beauty in everyday life that Aunt Julie found, shared and taught to countless friends and neighbors.
"Aunt Julie found and painted negative space in the rolling hills of southern France, on the banks of the Charles River, the beaches of Long Island and the bluffs of Door County. She found the negative space in clouds of bleached flour, as seven captivated young bakers helped knead dough and roll out multiple cherry pie crusts...Find what's there and let that define what is not there."
I remember during our trip to Italy Julie would not waste a moment. She was forever going off with her sketch pad to some little corner to capture some scene and then later recapture it with her watercolors. I envied her focus.
I think of Julie today and the inspiration she was for everyone who knew her. I did not know her very long, but I took away from knowing her the love of life, especially the creative life.
And before I heard of her passing, I had already incorporated into my new beginnings this fall, the determination to set aside time to photograph and to paint.
And as her nephew said, to "focus not on what is in front and obvious, but on what might be off to the side and elusive."
I so remember Julie doing just that in a piazza.
Rita Papazian is a freelance writer who has covered Norwalk extensively.