The art of loving & living well

by Jules Masterjohn

Artistry comes in many forms. Not only found in a play, a painting or a pirouette, one can live one’s life artfully, embracing each day in a way that inspires not only oneself but those around us.

It seems that we human beings are easily inspired. It comes naturally to most of us: even the word, whose Latin root means, “to breathe,” suggests involuntary action. We are receptive to the skillful and beautiful qualities in each other and the world.

A reminder of how powerfully our lives can inspire others was brought home to me recently while attending the memorial service for Durango community member David Reynolds, the husband of colleague and fellow Durango Telegraph writer, Judith. Though not an artist by traditional definition, David was clearly an artist by temperament. He lived his life by his own volition and in doing so, inspired many who were present at the gathering.

In times of difficulty, he offered sage advice to Judith, “Have the courage to live your own life.”

During the first few days after the news of David’s passing, I could not get his rosy-cheeked, gently smiling face out of my mind’s eye. Though I did not know David beyond our half dozen brief interactions before or after Judith’s public art lectures, I felt deeply moved by his death. He let his ‘being” be known without talking about his “doing.” His ability to be in the present moment was remarkable. In this way, David was unique. His graceful and gentle manner was quietly apparent as were his respect and love for Judith. Together, they lived life fully, engaging in their collaborative and individual interests with passion.

I remember the first time I was introduced to David. After one of Judith’s lectures, my partner, Steven, and I remained in the lecture hall to help Judith collect her lecture materials. David was there, as always, to escort and support her. Judith, having just introduced me to David, turned to introduce him to Steven. She said, “David, I’d like you to meet the second most handsome man in the room tonight.” David’s already rosy cheeks blushed pinker as he and Judith exchanged a twinkling moment that reminded me of two teen-agers who had just started dating. I remember thinking how sweet it was that these two, who had been married almost as long as I have been alive, still shared such fresh and appreciative moments. Witnessing their exchange was a great gift.

David was Judith’s active supporter, kind and insightful critic, and lifelong friend. Judith joked once that if she ever fell ill before one of her public lectures, not to worry, the show would go on. Having listened to her practice each lecture up to six or eight times, he knew the material cold and could present it himself if need be.

Last week during the gathering in celebration of David’s life, my impressions of him were confirmed through the readings and tributes offered by those present. I learned that he was a chess master who played with creativity, humor and modesty. David’s longest chess game took eight years and was played through the mail. His opponent was a Russian master; the game took place during the Cold War – one postcard move at a time.

I learned that David was an ardent hiker. Five years after a double bypass heart surgery, he had climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. Though halted at 18,000 feet by altitude sickness, he felt he had succeeded in his effort. He titled his journal from that trip, “In Defiance.” This same man not long after returning from his Tanzanian trek, began gracefully accepting his life’s limitations.

I learned of David’s life-long love of poetry and his ritual of memorizing poems for special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. As if preparing for his own death, he committed to memory Prospero’s speech from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest:”

Our revels now ended,

These our actors,

As I foretold you, were all spirits, and

Are melted into air, into thin air:

And like the baseless fabric of this vision,

The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,

The solemn temples, the great globe itself,

Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,

And like this insubstantial pageant faded,

Leave not a rack behind.

We are such stuff

As dreams are made on:

And our little life

Is rounded with a sleep.

Above all, I learned from David’s life that loving and living well, by one’s own terms, might just be the most creative and inspirational act of all. Yes, in the face of death and uncertainty, terror and hatred, let us embrace this life as we live it. Or as the late artist and cartoonist Saul Steinberg depicted in his drawing of an artist inside a dragon’s mouth: let us create despite our fate, the world in which we wish to live. •

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