If It Feels Right, It’s Right


“…What the river says, that is what I say.”
© 2019, Molly Larson Cook
18″ x 24″
Acrylic and ink


The summer heat has finally arrived in my part of Mexico.  Unfortunately, the heat is accompanied by humidity I didn’t expect, so the days are muggy and mostly still.  No cool sea breezes now, although the sea is just yards away.

The good news is that the overhead fans are working great and I’m finding more time to paint – I’m not a sun baby at the best of times (heat stroke a few years ago changed any interest I had in lolling on a hot beach), so my go-to is the studio.  Oh, yeah, with overhead fan. Cool and comfortable.

So I’m painting and I’m thinking about things.

A couple of weeks ago I went for a walk in this odd little town.  I’m a stranger here.  A foreigner.  I work to not become the Ugly American of film and story.  I don’t join those who complain that it’s not like the home they left.  I want to understand this place.  And to understand the sense I have too often that things are “out of joint” as Hamlet said of Time.

There are lovely places, pretty gardens, beautifully crafted walls and fences next to lots that are not vacant but instead filled with trash and weeds and remnants of buildings that once were – broken cement, the occasional collapsing fountain, stairways to nowhere. There are half-finished houses that seem to have been left unfinished for a very long time.  A pleasant wide avenue and manicured grassy college campus sits one block from a narrow street lined with dilapidated shacks where kids play in the dirt.

I understand the poverty and not having the means to repair things.  I don’t yet understand the apparent lack of interest in fixing what could be cleaned up or repaired. I’m not passing judgment, just trying to sort this out.

I mess with words the way I mess with paint and the word that first came to me was contradiction.  But then the word I was looking for: congruence. 

In my artist’s eyes, I seek congruence all the time.  Not perfection – that train has left the station.  But congruence. Harmony. Agreement. Consonance. Concord.

The street scenes and neighborhoods of this little Mexican town I love lack the congruence I need.  It’s a cultural thing, I know, and for now, I live with it.  Understanding helps almost everything.

To me congruence is not the same as wanting everything to be alike.  But it is the same as wanting things to relate to one another in some kind of harmonic manner.

I love, write about, and “paint” jazz.  To some people, jazz is a lot of noise, and I’ll admit there are a few musicians and groups that sometimes sound a little that way to me, too.  But I do know what they’re doing and why, whether it appeals to me or not.  And I also know when I occasionally hear some less capable wannabe playing discordant music for the hell of it and calling it jazz.

There’s a place in art and music, in life – my life anyway – for congruence.  Harmony. Consonance. Concord. Don’t confuse this with technique.  Picasso is supposed to have said (along with the Dalai Lama and others – never believe what you read on the Web), “Learn the rules like a pro and then break them like an artist.”  I don’t care who said it – it’s something to remember.

And the best artists, musicians, dancers, writers, any body who creates anything, understand that in the breaking of those rules, you hang onto the congruence for dear life.  It’s a chancy trick and the balance is delicate.  But if we learn to do it well, our art will flourish and we can sleep at night.

As my metaphorical old friends Bayles & Orland say in Art & Fear, “Some things, regardless of whether they are discovered or invented, simply and assuredly feel right.  What is natural and what is beautiful are, in their purest state, indistinguishable. Could you improve upon the Circle?”


The title of the painting comes from “Ask Me” by Oregon poet, William Stafford





8 thoughts on “If It Feels Right, It’s Right

  1. Shel, the Kesey line came at a perfect moment! I’d forgotten that one. As for beauty, I learned much from a professor at PSU – taught a wonderful poetry seminar that I loved. Oh, right – that was you!!! Your light on so many lives shines on, dear friend.

  2. Those rumors are true! How do you like Modelo Negra? Very popular down here – and much cheaper than in the states…Ciao!

  3. I am always ready to have coffee (or even a beer) with Molly when she returns to the Northwest. Rumor has it that I know some good places for the latter. Cheers

  4. Hey, Moll,

    Your search for congruence is right out of Aristotle and the golden mean, the middle way. Keep searching for beauty, too. It’s in your paintings already. While you’re working on your art, remember Ken Kesey, “never give a inch”!


    Shelley Reece

  5. Thank you, Don. Your words cheer me when I need the cheering. We’re all in it together and friends like you mean the world to me. Happy travels and good work for us all. I may be headed back to Oregon before long. Let’s have coffee!

  6. Bless you and bless your words, Lesley. They hit the mark today and mean the world to me.

    With love, Molly

  7. I think the apparent lack of interest is possibly about lack of motivation. Sometimes when one can’t make enough of a difference, and/or don’t have the means to make enough of a difference, one loses heart. It’s easier to accept that you can’t win the battle and to just go with how things are. I love your posts Molly, love how you write and how you give us things to think about along with your paintings.

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