How to say goodbye to loved ones who want to ramble in the gypsy life

Watercolor on Arches Hotpress watercolor block

It was a hard weekend. Two bon voyage parties: One for a friend and colleague that may never again cross my path. One for a beloved child-no-longer-a-child who may never fully understand how beloved she is.

It chokes, you know. The feeling of being left behind, of space being emptied, heart hollowed out because it’s time, or it’s the compression of time, or the god-damned lack of time that’s been poured out like water and you can’t gather it back safely to your heart.

I’m maudlin, I know, because others aren’t. And I know it’s not fair for the ones leaving. After all, I’ve done my share of leaving, of rambling, of tramping like a gypsy across oceans and deserts. I’ve delved into jungles where I swam with alligators, sailed on oceans where I slept on islands under the southern cross, drank in garrison towns, hiked up tropical rivers, and lived near the ocean. Twice.

I’m sure I made my mother weep. But I had to do it. Everybody has to find their own selves living at the end of their broken tethers. Everyone should get to experience the rambling life. It’s marvelous, the expectancy of the open road, the unknown ripples, twists and switchbacks of the open road.



But it aches for those of us waving goodby at the dock, dropping them off at the curb with their luggage, or raising one more glass, our tears unshed because the ones leaving need to set off on their journeys unencumbered by salty hugs. They’ve got futures to see to, adventures to create, or to be created by those adventures, if the adventures don’t destroy them first. And that’s the chance we all take with life.

In the end, we all trudge up a hill with only our souls, blocked like felt hats, pooched and folded and brimmed by our experiences, packed into our personal rucksacks.




We all float like feathers up to the sky, borne aloft like hope, like wishes, like minor chords heard across the pigeon bridge.


Be safe, my ones. L’chaim!

A candle for a teacher

A candle for Rob Watercolor on #300 Arches © 2014 Margaret Sloan
A Candle for Rob
Watercolor on #300 Arches
© 2014 Margaret Sloan

This weekend one of my best and favorite teachers, Rob Anderson, passed away. I can’t begin to describe the sadness I feel for losing his presence to the world.

I met Rob nearly a decade ago, when, starving for the knowledge of how to draw stuff-that-looks-like-stuff, I began a serious study of life drawing at the Atelier School of Classical Realism. For 4 years, every other Saturday except during summer, Rob taught us how to visually describe the human body. I learned, slowly at first, then in leaps and bounds. Those days were long, exhausting, and exhilarating.

I couldn’t have had a better teacher in that time and place. Rob was kind, patient, and careful, yet could kick butt when he thought you were slacking. He showed me how to slow down; look closely; and really observe what I was drawing. He imparted his love of portraits. He taught me that drawing class isn’t a competition; we’re all just where we need to be.

And it wasn’t just drawing skills he gave me. Oddly, I also came away from that period of study with something else: more confidence. An assurance that traveled with me from the easel into other areas of my life. I’m grateful to him for those value-added skills.

I once told him that nearly every time I pick up a pencil or a brush, I hear him behind me, saying, “Did you measure the width of that leg? What about the angle of that arm as it supports the head? Are your proportions accurate? Is that really what you’re seeing, or are you making it up?”  And the weekly exhortation: “Go Darker!”

He arched his eyebrow when I told him that and he said, “Well, do you listen?”

Yes, I do listen. I haven’t seen Rob in a few years, yet I still hear his voice. I wish that I could have studied with him once more, but I think he left me with a lot that I’m only yet beginning to internalize. I’ll miss him, but I’ve got  his lessons in my head and hands.

Dear Readers, if there’s someone you want to connect with, to study with, to learn from, to mentor, be friends with: do it now. You know why.

To see some of Rob’s beautiful work: