Solitude and creativity have been in my arsenal for some time now. They’re the best way to confront the inhumanity and sorrow one witnesses in law enforcement.
Suicides. Murder. Accident victims. Child abuse. Such things are obscenities that crush the human spirit. I’ve been a cop for over twenty five years and the last nine as a police chief. The years of shift work, little sleep, fear and moments of pure adrelanine take their toll.
Cops learn to be stoic. We bury our feelings, mask our emotions and get the job done. It’s only later, in the sanctity of our homes, that the demons come. Memories, images and scenes of carnage that reside persistently in the psyche.
Each of us has to find our own way. Our own salvation and methods to process it all and stay healthy. For me, my family plays a crucial role. Next to them, solitude and creativity are the ballasts that steady my course.
I was constantly drawing as a kid and served as an editorial cartoonist on several newspapers. I did the cartooning on the side while working full time as a cop. But as I rose in the ranks it became politically difficult to continue with my editorial cartoons. So I turned to landscape painting.
I didn’t have time to go back to school and study art. So I sought out one of the best landscape painters in the country, Scott L. Christensen. I flew to Idaho and took a workshop with Scott. Then the next year I flew back for an advanced workshop.
I wasn’t like most of Scott Christensen’s students. They had art backgrounds, worked in design or were full time professional artists. I was a full time cop who liked to paint. Guess I was a bit of a novelty. The artful cop.
Scott Christensen took a liking to me and invited another artist and myself to a week long salon in his studio. What an experience that was. One on one instruction. Daily outdoor painting. Total art immersion.
I discovered that I fell in love with plein air (outdoor) painting. Standing near those Idaho cottonwoods, or taking in the grandeur of the Tetons, stirred something in me.The wind in the trees and the silent solitude of being alone in nature calms the soul. Heals the spirit. Time stands still.
My professional law enforcement world involves responsibility and the weight of leadership. The phones ring, my cell phone buzzes, emails pour into my computer. There is a community to protect and politicians to keep informed. It’s a privilege to serve as Chief of Police and I am proud to have helped so many in my police career.
But I am growing tired. The siren song of mountains and ocean waves tug at me. Sometimes I swear I hear my paint box whisper to me. Late at night, after another long day at the office. Its voice is faint but the message is strong and clear: “ Take off that gun belt. Set down the ballistic vest. Grab your brushes and gear. Let’s leave the noise and sadness and responsibility behind. Let go. Paint.”
(Originally published at Medium.com)