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  • Writer's pictureStuart Sheldon

Follow The Bubbles

Follow the Bubbles 3, Acrylic on our Costa Rica architectural plans, 31.5x23.5" 2000

“On the third day, my room became a cell, which became a cage, which became a coffin, and I discovered the very deepest fear that swam through my heart like eels in undersea caves: to be locked away, trapped and alone.” ― Alix E. Harrow, The Ten Thousand Doors of January

It’s a funny thing to be trapped in paradise - caged by leaves and sky and infinite ocean. Verdant and spacious though it may be, a cage is a cage. And, like so many during this past terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Covid year, Jodi and I suffered emotionally and mentally. Costa Rica’s borders opened a few months back after being locked most of 2020. Admittedly, if you must survive a zombie apocalypse, this is a fine place to be imprisoned. However, I learned that such forced isolation eats away like acid at your sense of peace, mobility and freedom, until you physically ache to see, smell and touch the skin of those most dear. Perhaps, everyone, everywhere feels this to some degree.

Scroll through this slide show above!

But, this is not a sad story, quite the contrary. Much light has shone through this monumental darkness. During Covid, we built a beautiful home in Costa Rica, our “forever home” … and now live between Miami and Playa Grande, each a sanctuary that provides essential nourishment. CR bestows nature and salt; Miami supplies culture and blood. Architected by a dear friend, we created magic from an empty patch of tropical dry-forest that drapes like green velvet down to the shimmering sea. We named it Casa AMA, a verb that means love ... a place where love is made and shared. And a word whose three letters honor people who made this fantasy possible.

We all define home differently. For me, home has become tranquility base where, no matter how awful the morning news, the dawn sky files away the edges and the sounds of nature subsume the din. Check out this grey fox drinking from the pool a couple days back.

We are blessed to have our nuclear family shoulder-to-shoulder, allowing constant daily collisions that reveal more and more of them to us and vice-versa. What I find most deeply satisfying about our new CR home is not that it is a beautiful object (which it certainly is) but that it represents a dream chased and caught. We drove a flag into fertile soil on a mountain top and claimed our sanctuary. Put our heads down, rolled up our sleeves and got it done. Now, these walls ground us in gratitude, in comfort, in peace.

Follow the Bubbles 1, Acrylic on canvas, 31.5x23.5" 2000

Follow the Bubbles 2, Acrylic on canvas, 31.5x23.5" 2000

Follow the Bubbles 3, Acrylic on canvas, 31.5x23.5" 2000

Follow the Bubbles 4, Acrylic on canvas, 25x18" 2000

Covid reinforced the fact that life is short and that, in the ocean, I feel most alive. In Miami, the great Atlantic lies just down the street, in CR, the Pacific is our daily muse. Gleefully, I spend nearly each day within her outstretched arms, breathing her blue horizon as it spreads to infinity and beyond. My new Covid-born paintings, Follow the Bubbles, explore a metaphor I learned while surfing. When savagely thrown under waves, tumbled and disoriented, gasping for air, there is a trick surfers use to find the surface - go limp, stay calm and follow the bubbles. The bubbles always ascend. And guide us to safety. In these dire and demoralizing times, may these new paintings remind us to follow the bubbles in life. We are the bubbles - complex, clustered, prismatic, ever-ascending circles seeking oxygen. Seeking truth. May we rise in this vertiginous moment … together.

In other creative news, my Swan Dive Podcast collaboration just turned one year old. And it’s magnificent, if I do say so myself. What started as a shared art experiment between two old friends has evolved into a substantive repository of inspiring revelations from some of the world’s most empowered thought leaders: artists, Olympians, civil rights icons, authors, entrepreneurs, regular folks from all walks of life who decided to take definitive action to realize who their gut told them to be.

I view Swan Dive as a lifelong project, a chance to be inspired weekly while collecting a treasure trove of oral histories of pivotal moments in meaningful lives. Each guest drops at least one glorious pearl of wisdom that makes me a slightly better version of myself. I invite you to grow with us. Subscribe and join the adventure. Better yet, make YOUR own swan dive today.

This past year changed us all in ways we cannot yet fully appreciate. Hopefully, the pandemic fires burned out the dead underbrush of your heart and mind, leaving rich soil prepped for inward-looking contemplation. Plant your garden in that soil. For, that garden is your legacy. Let's burn our egos in the embers of this universal madness. Say what we need to say. Make amends. Reconcile relations. Buy less stuff. Wear less makeup. Dance like dorks, And say, "I Love You" more often.

Let's stop focusing on our own insecure existence. Fact is, nobody really cares what you do or even who you are. So, might as well be who you wish to be. It’s so much less work. And, soon you’ll be dead, and that will be that.

Pura Vida!

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