I saw a friend after she’d come out of a meeting. I made the light-hearted comment, ‘Must have been a good meeting, you’ve got a smudge on your face.’ And I meant that in all honesty. From my years of being a painter, and being a bit of a grubby outdoorsy type, I often judge an action’s success based on how messy you come out the other side.
I always painted with intent. Specific strokes, painstaking detail, blending colours together with my fingertips on canvas. I love the act of mixing paints, getting the tone you want. Adding just a drop of some colour you wouldn’t expect, if you weren’t experienced with paint, and getting the exact result you were after. I have never been a wild painter, with splashes and swipes. If a picture has paint dribbling through the background, I made each rivulet cautiously.
Regardless of my care, I always ended up splattered with paint, myself. And I wasn’t the kind of person to wear painting clothes or aprons, either, so there are numerous shirts and pants with the addition of a great green splotch or other (acrylic doesn’t wash off fabric). I would get paint through my hair, on my elbow, a spot on the side of my nose or in my eyebrow. And that meant it was a good day. I had painted. All was well.
Going outside and scrambling around often has similar results. Gotten twigs and leaves through my hair, mud over my pants, a scrap or two on my hands? A good day. If I’m all sticky from climbing trees, how could I not associate the mess with the excitement I experienced? Even now, you’ll probably find pen marks on me (how often I catch myself with the pen, or drop it, and get an errant line across my skin or clothes!), and I will feel certain that means I had a good day.
I tend to think some people would take it all wrong, though. Like I was making fun of them if I declare their mess a positive attribute. But truly, if you’ve been doing something that leaves you grubby, or your hair in a tangle, you’re probably doing it right. I like that. We should go run around the beach and get all sandy, or make pottery and get drenched in clay (two of my other favourite pastimes, no less).
We’ll end up dirty. That means we had a good day.