Lost & Found

Lost & Found

Something nearly unbearable happened recently: I lost my stethoscope and my sketchbook. Through a boneheaded move (I've made several in my life) I misplaced both of these crucial pieces of my professional life. And no amount of moping, shuffling around the house, checking and rechecking all the usual places turned up any evidence of their whereabouts. Obviously, I blamed the kids, the wife, the dog, the houseplants, gremlins. It was all a conspiracy to subvert my wildly ambitious plans as a veterinary artist.

The stethoscope had been with me from my very first week of veterinary school. Fifteen years of auscultations. Everything from a penguin to a giant eland, and thousands upon thousands of dogs and cats. It represented my time in veterinary medicine, and was quite hard to come to grips with.

But the sketchbook really hurt. It's not my only one, and it really only had about 10 or so pages filled out. But it was far more valuable to me than a replaceable piece of medical equipment. Hidden in those pages of rough sketches, daisy-chained thoughts and ink thumbnails, were the precious seeds I'd been planning to grow. Ideas. Precious to me.

The pages were beautiful. Branches flowing and unfurling with imaginative force. My progression showed with each turn of the page, developing into the fruits of creative labor. There were moments of pure inspiration. Ink had flowed automatically, my hand merely a conduit for the delivery of sublime creation.

I had gold, baby!

The loss was intolerable. I got desperate. I offered to pay my son an unreasonable reward ($11). Couches got pulled out, furniture was looked under. Thoughts of ripping apart the house were entertained. Alas!

But then something unexpected happened. My sketchbook, though not physically present, reminded me to let it go. It had already taught me this lesson, during rapturous moments of blissful discovery. I had noticed (been receptive to?) that the joy of creation came from attunement to a higher sphere, not attachment to the success of the idea itself. Each time thoughts of glamour, fame, dollah bills crept in, the lovely ideas would vanish like a herd of skittish deer.

The purity of creative flow only occurred when I gave up my attachment to the idea of success and admiration. I had been with that sketchbook in moments of serene self-discovery, relaxing my mind and allowing the current to take me where it wanted to flow. If I resisted and swam against it, I'd lose its energy and end up frustrated. The sketchbook itself didn't hold the value, didn't even represent what I enjoyed. The entire benefit of the sketchbook was to make me believe that the ideas had a place to land. Everything I cared about could be tapped into independent of that mostly blank talisman.

The material world had bastardized that creative beauty. That sketchbook had already shown me that material is finite. It’s just a bunch of paper. It was like training wheels for my creative thoughts. Fortunately, I have plenty of blank pages available to work with.

But I do need to buy a new stethoscope.

Greg Bishop

Greg Bishop

A veterinarian with unquenchable creative impulses. Unquenchable? Hmmm... creative "tendencies"? Well, it depends on how well I slept last night. Also a writer, illustrator and whatever-elser.