Monday, March 12, 2012


“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
~ From Walden by Henry David Thoreau


Or else what? Or else you end up like so many people who are dissatisfied with their careers because life got in the way and they had to make a living. 

What is that passion “they” say we should follow? I remember reading somewhere that if there is something you enjoy doing and you enjoy it so much you forget to eat or sleep, you have found “it”. 

I interpret that to mean that your passion and how you make a living should be the same thing.

What if you are passionate about doing something that doesn’t have a paying job associated with it?

Create one.

I know more than a few people who shoved their dreams down deep inside themselves and have never visited them again. They didn’t know how they could make a living and support a family doing what they loved to do…what they were born to do.

“An efficient and valuable man does what he can, whether the community pays him for it or not.

The inefficient offer their inefficiency to the highest bidder,
And are forever expecting to be put in office.”

~ from Life without Principle by Henry David Thoreau

My dad always wanted to return to Arizona after his service in the war. He had trained for the U.S. Army Air Corps at Williams Air Force Base in 1941 and became completely enamored with our diverse and fascinating state. He was a Life Member of The Mighty Eighth and The Eighth Air Force Historical Society.

He also attend Arizona State University but duty called and he was never able to finish college. One of his life regrets.  

We recently purchased an engraved memorial brick in his honor for the Lt. Charles L. Williams Memorial Park at Phoenix-Gateway Airport. Our brick is situated at the memorial park around the T-38 aircraft.


I hope he knows we did this for him. I think he would approve.

After returning to his small hometown in the Midwest following his service in WW II, Mr. Bunting gave him an opportunity to work as a clerk in his finance company. It seems that Dad learned how to run a business. He left Mr. Bunting’s employment and opened his own insurance business.

I don’t think he ever enjoyed a minute of it.

He also worked tirelessly volunteering with different organizations to improve his hometown. He was recognized as Citizen of the Year before he died so he must have known he was appreciated. He died in his early 70s. He was much too young to “go” with dreams unfulfilled. Certainly, he could have had an insurance business in Arizona or something else. His unselfish community work would have been rewarded here as well.

Maybe his passion was volunteering…not a high-paying job is it?

Just one story.

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” ~ from the “Conclusion” to Walden by Henry David Thoreau

The other side of the “follow your passion” story is an artist who has recognized his passion and spends his days living his dream.

Well, that is, except for the constant interruptions that I provide.

A few years before he retired from 30 years in the newspaper business, he signed up for an art class. A spark must have been ignited and left smoldering from an “accidental” art class he attended in college.

The spark caught fire.

His more recent “formal” art education didn’t last long either. But his diligent, patient study of landscape oil painting did. Today, he is a professional landscape oil painter…mostly self-taught. That takes passion.

He is a member of Oil Painters of America and has paintings in homes and offices all over the world.

Recently, I asked him if he was ever passionate about journalism.
His immediate response was “No”.

In that final year in high school, we are all faced with the unsettling reality that we are soon to be “kicked out” of our comfort zone and the safety net of our parents support.

In pondering what his life path would be he figured that since he loved the study of English grammar his Freshman year in high school…and liked writing…and “was good at it”…he would pursue a career along those lines.

He received two national awards for his writing. One he received just months after graduating from college. He was “good at it”!

As a former high school English teacher myself, I can assure you that no one I ever taught “liked” the study of English grammar. It could have been my lack of passion in teaching the subject, of course. Diagramming sentences as a pastime? Never.

Another interesting tidbit from the artist’s childhood that influenced him was the constant accumulation of newspapers to be read in his home and his grandparent’s home.

Newspapers, newspapers everywhere. He remembers stacks of them being around and that his father read all of them…as did he.

“Just the comics, your horoscope and Dear Abby, right?”

He responded with a grin, “No, I read the news.”

That’s not passion? I call that Passion with a capital “P”.

This artist went on to university to study journalism.

One year, in registering for that year’s courses, a journalism class he needed was filled. What to take? His first ever art class took the spot.

After having this discussion I have decided that the artist was also passionate about journalism…and still is. He has all of the news services in his “Favorites” and reads them everyday.

Then he paints.

I watch him in amazement as he creates beautiful paintings. One after the other…day in, day out. 

He is not painting paintings to sell. He is painting western landscapes to reflect the stirrings of his soul and his love of Nature, the Arizona desert, mountains, rivers, and ancient artifacts.

“I, too, had woven a kind of basket of a delicate texture,
but I had not made it worth anyone’s while to buy them.
Yet, not the less, in my case, did I think it worth my while to weave them, and instead of studying how to make it worth men’s while to buy my baskets, I studied rather how to avoid the necessity of selling them.” ~from “Economy” in Walden by Henry David Thoreau

If it weren’t for the auspicious event of marrying me, Peter would have led a life of monastic asceticism.

“I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.” ~ from “Economy” in Walden by Henry David Thoreau

He is content with few worldly goods. He is a quiet man. He dreams and prays and takes walks. He reads. He studies. He writes and paints.

“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.” ~”Where I Lived and What I Lived For” in Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Please Note: The artist and journalist has given permission to this blogger to post the windows to some of his “baskets”.

His books are available at

From Swamp Yankee to Desert Rat: A Hodgepodge Memoir

by Peter M. Pegnam
Stu! Your Hair’s On Fire! Why A Newspaper Lived—And Died
By Paul L. Allen and Peter M. Pegnam

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