My friend Jessica Safran coined the term ‘identity shift’ to apply to how one’s view of self changes when a settled way of life suddenly changes. Examples of this include: losing a parent or loved one; becoming sick; getting married, and so on.  Some life changes alter the future course of one’s life while others are speed bumps or divits (or even axel-bending potholes) along the way.

Non-axel bending potholes

In thinking about the latter class of identity shifts, an image comes to mind: The Gongman, trademark of The Rank Organisation, a British entertainment company that produced films beginning in the late 1930s. I love the opening title sequence where a sweaty, muscly man swings a giant mallet or club at a gong suspended from a rack.  When the sound of the gong settled down, the movie would start.


This is my metaphor for abrupt changes in life: A gong being struck by a mallet.  The initial sound is startling and even overwhelming. However, with time, the gong’s vibrations lessen in amplitude and eventually die out. Like the hammer hitting the gong, the speed bumps and divits are jarring, but one can recover from them and generally move along in the same direction.

Axel bending potholes

The first class of life changes mentioned above, is not really a good fit for the gong metaphor.  A better image for those major life changes is a gong, struck by a mallet and shattering to pieces. One would have to figure out how to re-assemble the pieces into a new way of life, under those conditions.

Today’s experiment

The gong sound is settling down for Joy and me. We arrived certain decisions and have planned certain courses of action. It is much easier to carry on in a more-or-less normal way with our new outlook.

Below is my painting of our current back yard. I made some space to set up my painting paraphernalia, I had the time I needed and was a bit less stressed than I have been lately. Perhaps the act of painting helped me to relax as well.

Watercolor Sketch - Back Yard with Fountain

New Back Yard
9″x12″ 140# Rough Watercolor Block

I used a lot of earth tones in this painting. The fence is Warm Sepia (Sennelier); the ground is a combination of yellow ochre glazed with lemon yellow; the green foreground is sap green. I used Warm Orange (Dailer Rowney) to color the tangerines on the tangerine tree. For the foliage, I used Hooker’s green, Shadow Green (Holbein) and some  other green that was on my palette, for which I don’t have a name. The water in the fountain is Prussian blue; the bridge is a mixture of Titanium Buff (Dailer Rowney) and white. The rock garden is a combination of ivory black, Payne’s gray, quinacridone gold and burnt umber.

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