I made myself proud today. Every week, I carve out Thursday mornings as my time to write, trying to come up with a week’s worth of comic gems. What ensues is several hours worth of mental calisthenics as I try and think, write, edit, think some more, write some more, edit some more…and then edit again. And again. I write jokes that will be told to an audience I won’t see or hear. I am forced to critically judge my own sense of humor without getting a confirmation back on whether or not I have judged wisely. I am grateful that I have Kim to read my finished strip everyday, if nothing else than to validate that what I’m doing is real. Like any good, self-respecting artist, I typically loathe my past work, especially if it is a year or more old. I have been pushing lately to try and dig even deeper in my writing, exploring more fully each character, and going past my first good idea to the point of trying to make myself laugh out loud. Most of the time, I settle for a chuckle. (As my Mom and my wife would testify, I don’t get overly excited about things, especially wonderfully thoughtful gifts, but that’s another story). So I have a good chunk of morning set aside to get the ol’ joke factory churning. It can be hard to be creative with the pending deadline of a business lunch that awaits to be met when the writing time is up…whether or not any good strips have emerged. Today was no different, and I really felt an extra-intense desire to come up with some good stuff. Since it was absolutely gorgeous this morning, I grabbed my sketchbooks and iPod and headed off t o a park near Lake Monona to find inspiration. Upon settling in at a sturdy wood picnic table with the lapping of waves in front of me, I was happy that I had picked a day when the construction cranes weren’t echoing behind me while assembling the new shelter. It was peaceful. Until I looked down at my shirt and noticed a green worm. Naturally, I was a bit startled (freaked out), and casually brushed off (frantically swiped away) the harmless (carnivorous) critter. I laughed to myself at how reflexively shook up I could get over something so small. I went about my writing, but it wasn’t long before I noticed my friend had returned to the table. To my delight, I realized it was an inch worm (please excuse the lack of scientific technology) and marveled at how he (or she, if you prefer) made his way along the wooden highway ahead of him. Then, right before my eyes, he transformed from a bright light green to a pale brown, almost perfectly blending in to the table. Deadlines whispered from the back of my mind, so I got back to work. But curiosity got the best of me and I turned my head a little later to see where my new friend was now. I couldn’t find him anywhere, speculating that he must have turned on the afterburners. But out of the corner of my eye, a caught a glimpse of the worm, seemingly dangling in mid-air. Upon further inspection, could see that he was descending from the table via a thin web-like strand coming from his backside (again, more confusing bio-speak). It was pretty windy this morning, but that web held strong as he casually descended lower and lower. I paused in awe to watch this miniscule marvel complete his patient plunge and get on with his day. All in all, I spent about five minutes with the unexpected distraction. Shortly thereafter, it was time to pack it up, and as I walked back to the car, I smiled. I was happy and proud that I was still able to be amazed by the little things, a very childlike quality. My wish is that I will still have that capacity when I’m 90. Interestingly, those five minutes really made my day. And perhaps not ironically, it was a pretty productive one at that.