A Limited Palette

I want to say up front that I love my life. That is, I feel tremendously grateful for the work I’ve been given to do, for the people surrounding me, for the family and friends who are regularly such a blessing. I give thanks for all of this everyday.

And yet… And yet there are moments where I grow intensely curious about what a different life would look like and find myself slipping into day dreams about spending my time doing mosaics through the winter and traveling to craft shows to sell them all summer. Or giving everything up to become a documentary film-maker. Or hiking across Europe and cataloguing it via photos. Or playing fiddle in a bluegrass group or…

Well, you get the idea. And I so I resonated so deeply with the first line of Ted Kooser’s poem “A Person of Limited Palette.” But as I was drawn into the poem, I also appreciated that even in the daydream there are limitations. A compelling dream doesn’t have to be heroic. Being a painter with a limited palette might be enough…and might be attainable. Similarly, a dream doesn’t necessarily need to be realized to enrich one’s life. Sometimes – not always, but sometimes – the dream, the vision, the chance to lose yourself in another possibility is enough. So that the dream of a cottage by the sea to the person in Nebraska was still a beautiful vision, one worth dreaming.

A Person of Limited Palette

I would love to have lived out my years
in a cottage a few blocks from the sea,
and to have spent my mornings painting
out in the cold, wet rocks, to be known
as “a local artist,” a pleasant old man
who “paints passably well, in a traditional
manner,” though a person of limited
talent, of limited palette: earth tones
and predictable blues, snap-brim cloth cap
and cardigan, baggy old trousers
and comfortable shoes, but none of this
shall come to pass, for every day
the possibilities grow fewer, like swallows
in autumn. If you should come looking
for me, you’ll find me here, in Nebraska,
thirty miles south of the broad Platte River,
right under the flyway of dreams.

“A Person of Limited Palette” by Ted Kooser from Splitting an Order.