Dear Hope Nation:
To quote Joel Goodson in “Risky Business” (or at least the bowdlerized over-the-air television version), “Sometimes you just gotta say, ‘What the heck.’” This, for me, is one of those moments. After all, it’s not often I have tears streaming down my face. I am so incredibly overwhelmed by a work of art, by its creator’s explanation of it, and by the whole feel of the project that I’m going to risk a rift in a friendship. Let me explain.
Many of you know Dave Cote, Hope’s data/technology/social media guy. You may also know he is the driving force behind the painting renaissance at Hope. What you may not know is Dave is an artist who is modest about receiving praise for his work, or, honestly, about praise in general. At my request, Dave reads over each of these letters before they go out, and has made a number of improving suggestions, even stopping the sending of one because it was too too too much me being me. Just this past weekend, my letter about “Sicker than Most” led to a request from Dave that I rewrite a paragraph he thought had too much about his role in painting here. I complied.
But not today.
This letter will go out despite, I am sure, Dave’s overwhelming request that it remain a draft forever. Although I try to almost never use it, I do have the prerogative to overrule Dave’s judgment. And I will.
Dave Cote painted “Peers” over the past weekend. When I saw it, and read Dave’s commentary on it, I cried at both:Dave Cote painted “Peers” over the past weekend. When I saw it, and read Dave’s commentary on it, I cried at both:
For almost five years I have been working at Hope for NH Recovery, a peer-to-peer Recovery Community Organization. Although I’ve had several different roles, it has always included peer support in some form. That has allowed me to use my experience in long-term recovery from drug and alcohol addiction to help others connect to a recovery pathway that might work for them.
Those who know my story have heard me say that art played a big role in my early recovery. Painting helped me express what I cannot put into words. Creativity is still a force in maintaining my recovery, and a life I never imagined would come to be for me. Creating is meditative, introspective, healing, expressive, and comes easier than speaking for me. Sometimes, once it’s out, words follow.
Last week, a conversation at a staff meeting set my creativity on fire. As each staff member talked about what they were doing to support one of the members at Hope, I saw little pieces of the painting flash in my head. This painting is inspired by my coworkers’ passion for helping others and specifically that conversation. Their devotion to helping others often leaves me in awe.
Today I took pause – for three days, this painting had been building up inside of me in a flurry of color and motion. Today it took shape.
“Peers” is dedicated to those who’ve found recovery and are inspiring others to discover their path.
- Two hands moving together to symbolize the peer showing the new person how
- The similarity in the hands is to show equality
- Green is a healing color – it signifies rebirth/new beginnings
- Water is nourishing. It also symbolizes cleansing and new beginnings
- Two sets of ripples are intertwining and becoming one – a little messy, but a work in progress
- Red represents suffering
- White signifies safety, purity, and cleanliness
- Golden yellow – spirituality or self-awareness
(The hands were inspired by a detail of the sculpture, The Three Shades by Auguste Rodin)
It is stunning. Dave is stunning. Recovery is stunning.
Dave matters. You matter. I matter. We matter.
Keith Howard is Executive Director of Hope for NH Recovery. Catch up on his Daily Hope Nation messages here.