One Small Dream That Came True

Matheson Hammock

You’re on a beach, beneath a coconut palm, sipping a cold juice, as you watch the antics of a pudgy naked baby digging in the sand and splashing at the water’s edge. It’s not your baby, but the pureness of the scene delights you at your core.

I was that baby. Frolicking in the buttery waters of a small protected lagoon called Matheson Hammock in Miami. 

That joyful memory burned itself into my psyche, and I always dreamed that one day my own child would be that baby, shrieking with the same delight. But that simple little notion stood frozen for decades, buried beneath the fear that I may never have kids. Until, at age 45, my first lovely son waded through that gentle water, his own dimpled tush covered in sand. I stood a few feet away and teared up silently behind my sunnies.

Dreams need not be epic to be important.

“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.” T. E. Lawrence.

We all yearn for  the home runs: wealth, creative power, professional ascendance. But, we often brush past the everyday events we hope for … and achieve.

Life is the small stuff stacked into a pile. And that pile becomes our memories. And those memories become our narrative.

It could be as basic as doing down dog with feet finally flat on the ground after 20 years of hamstrings tight as bridge girders (thank you, Day!). Or throwing your conservative upbringing to the wind to get a tattoo. Or cooking an eggplant parm tender enough to cut with a fork. Whatever it is, that quiet victory satisfied you deeply. And that satisfaction is something you should revisit and wallow in a while. “Spend some time wit it, mon,” a Rasta once said to me. Sage advice.

Regal Elephant, acrylic & Chinese funeral paper on paper, 8"x12", Stuart Sheldon
Regal Elephant, acrylic & Chinese funeral paper on paper, 8″x12″, Stuart Sheldon

Walt Disney said, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” Bullshit. Many of our dreams die on the vine. But that’s okay. Many do indeed come true. That is not to say that we should not dream big. Quite the contrary. Go big or go home. But keep those big mama dreams in perspective. Not a day goes by that I don’t wish I was shooting the breeze with Terry Gross about my memoir, A Lonely Fool’s Masterpiece, and the extraordinary odyssey it represents in the life of my wife and me. But, finding an A-list publisher is tough these days. I get it. It’s fine. I’m on it.

Our big dreams will always be there, the mountains we all aim to climb. Hopefully, we all summit.

But think of a tiny dream you’ve achieved recently that really felt good in your gut? Honor that small personal triumph that meant something to you.

Do a little victory dance in the end zone of your heart. Go ahead and spike the ball! Then share it here.

 This post is dedicated to my friend and food artist, Chris L’Hommedieu and his wife Kendra Stanley. Chris died yesterday at 44. But his food and grace personally fulfilled some of my dreams. 

Is 13 Unlucky?

Bounce - one artist's active wish for a child

“Why is there no 13th floor on that building?” my 5-yr-old son asked, his head tilted back. Sure enough, spray-painted on the side of the tall, fancy, under-construction hotel were large, red numbers for each floor level. They skipped from 12 to 14.

“Some people believe 13 is an unlucky number, so some buildings don’t have 13th floors,” I said.
“But why?” my boy pressed. Another vexing inquiry from the objective observer.

I’m not superstitious. I’ll swagger under every ladder you put in front of me. Black cats? Love em. Broken mirror. Whatevs …

What I wanted to tell my son was that superstition is the bastard step-child of hope, a force whose power is so great that it compels 21st century, gazillion dollar hotel developers to play prehistoric numerology games. 

Our Magic Houseboat
Our Magic Houseboat

BUT …  there was a time when I too open-mouth kissed superstitious rituals.

In 2006, after three miscarriages in 12-months, my heart and mind were desperately scrambled by the thought that we might be childless forever. In light of our repeated losses, we’d received a handful of special gifts and talismans from intimates eager to sprinkle over us whatever magic dust they could. A makeshift fertility shrine emerged in the kitchen of our Sausalito houseboat: an African fertility statue, a pyrite egg, heart-shaped stones and even little baby sandals.

One morning, in the throes of our emotional recovery, as we both stepped off our gangplank and past the garden I tended, Jodi asked, “Hey, what’s that?” In the potted jade, before two bride/groom figurines, stood a small, grey elephant.

Trunk Up!

“I found it at the end of the dock. He’s protecting us.” I said. Most of you know that elephants are my thing, symbols of fierce loyalty, rough-hewn beauty and ongoing playfulness. The wedding figures I’d quietly placed in the garden months earlier, so I could keep a symbolic eye on the two of us.
“I like how you put the trunk up,” said Jodi.
“Shows that he means business,” I said, scratching her back with my fingernails.

Silly as playing with these toys may now seem, desperation takes us to funny places. I was ready to kneel before whatever spirit might intervene on the most critical journey of my life.

In fact, the painting above is one of a series designed solely and exclusively to bring a child. It features balls of joy falling from heaven into the pathways of our lives.

Kai … AT LAST

You know how this story ends … very happily … with a beautiful, healthy 5-yr-old asking me why there is no 13th floor.

Did our actions manifest our child? I try to avoid question that have no answers. At the end of the day, I believe life is one big string of random events. But there is comfort in believing we are doing SOMETHING to tip the scales in our favor. Perception is most certainly reality. There’s a valuable saying in New Orleans, “DON’T MESS WITH THE VOODOO.” I guess a little magic never hurt anyone.

Here’s to an epic, fruitful and supernatural year for us all. FINGERS CROSSED!

Are you superstitious? Please tell me about your own magical experience or rituals that enhance your well-being.