I remember teaching my children how to use knives and scissors safely. I remember being taught the same things by my own parents.
So why did I foolishly use a knife to open a seal, blade pointing to my other hand? It's not a big wound, and the small amount of blood lost was satisfyingly cadmium red deep, rather than flesh deep, but it was enough to make me stop and think.
How many times in life do we take short cuts without even registering what we are doing? How much risk-taking is good for us? And what is a risk, really? Maybe risky behaviour and being fool-hardy are not synonymous.
I posted this Katherine Mansfield quote on Facebook today.
Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinions of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth.
I sent the same quote to an old school friend who is agitating for much needed change in administration in New Zealand. But do I follow it myself? Or is it too easy to advise and not heed one's own advice?
I have been delaying facing a commission for several months now. Quite frankly, after the work I did in the palazzo, I was afraid that this might be more than I could manage without more damage to my body. The straw that would break me, perhaps. Scaffolding, cement, all those things. What I once saw as a wonderful challenge is no longer an exciting romance with ancient walls.
Yesterday I plucked up courage and went to meet the patron and inspect the site. What had I been so worried about? I will really enjoy this work! The fresco will be no taller than I am, and there will be no pesky straight lines involved. My arm, knees and back might protest, but I shall not listen!
In stepping out yesterday I had to face the truth; I was afraid that this work was going to be too much for me - one section of one wall, when over the last couple of years I had managed several walls and three vaulted ceilings. I had lost my passion for creating, for taking on a challenge.
Then I had to ask myself why this had happened.
Sometimes I am a bit like a turtle. I stick my head out, blunder along, and make surprising headway with my lumbering steps. But then I need to pull my head in for a while, hide myself from view, perhaps lick my wounds. That's all very well, but it is then very hard to get started again, to put that head back out into the daylight, to face what is coming towards me.
I think that is where I have been for a while. I was wearing several caps on my head, and when the last one fell off I retreated into my housework, seeking solace in routine. If you don't try, you can't fail. If you are not seen you can't be judged. If you hide from it, life will pass you by.
But that is not how I want to be.
Today I talked to a student about balance. I have coached others to look at what their ideal day looks like. I know I sound like a broken record, but it is time to practise what I preach.
That crazy woman you see walking along the top of the wall with a dog leash in each hand just might be me, making sure that I don't lose my balance again.
Today I am grateful for people who are not afraid to take risks.