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Couple’s book celebrates the simple joy of being

ENCINITAS — The illustrated book, “I Thought: A Story of Awakening” by local artist Grant Pecoff and his wife, Layne Lyons, is on exhibit in the Community Room of the Encinitas Library through Aug. 30.
A reception celebrating the project will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Aug. 8.
The book pairs simple statements with whimsical cartoons to remind us that repetitive thoughts learned from childhood often prevent us from experiencing the joy of being.
One cartoon strip shows an old LP vinyl record with a person who is standing alone, looking at others wondering, “What are they thinking of me?” “I thought.” “Best selling album.”
The explanation underneath reads, “There is a record that sometimes plays in the mind and is based on conditioning from the past. This is a thought. It does not mean anything. It only means what we choose it to mean. Notice the records that may occasionally be playing in your head.”
The idea for the book came from Lyons while staying at the couple’s second home on a remote island in the Bahamas.
“I think being away from all of those distractions made it possible for me to become aware of my own thoughts,” she said. “I literally began hearing my mind’s noise and I realized that I could make it slow down and sometimes even stop the noise for a moment or two, simply by becoming aware of it, by putting my direct attention on it.”
A native New Yorker, Lyons worked in Atlanta for several years as a district attorney, and later as a litigation attorney representing children.
In 2002 she followed her California dreams and moved to Del Mar.
Three weeks later she met Pecoff while admiring one of his paintings at Del Mar Plaza.
“Almost immediately I started working with Grant at the gallery and I would look at his paintings and say, ‘I know there is a story that would link these together,’” she said. “I made 50 or 60 thumbnails and laid them out on the dining room table and looked at them. Suddenly, I saw the book, ‘Open Your Heart’ with the theme that anything you dream is possible.”
Pecoff learned the lesson through life experience following graduation from San Dieguito High School in 1992.
After studying sculpture in San Francisco he found himself back in North County working for his father fabricating a hybrid of artificial palm trees.
“I got more inspired in my own work and pursued a career as an artist full-time,” he said.
After taking courses at Palomar and MiraCosta colleges he realized it was up to him to chart his own career course.
“If you put your career in other people’s hands you lose your power to create it the way you want it,” he said. “I sent art to publishers and it was rejected. After a while I thought ‘I know this is good. I’m inspired by it and so are my friends. I need to make it happen myself.’ That’s when I started my own galleries.”
Pecoff sold animal paintings to the zoo then switched gears.
“I painted how I thought the world saw it,” he said. “I could paint realistically but I needed to move on from that. I gave myself permission to paint the world the way I saw it.”
Pecoff adds that many times we are our own worst enemy.
“The conventional way of thinking is I can’t do that, it’s not attainable,” he said. “I want people to do what they love in life — then the world becomes a better place — and they’ll spread it to other people. It’s like lighting a fire.”
He continues, “The book is about being reminded of the divinity within, that the thoughts and demons that drive us down are not necessarily real. They go around in an endless loop. A lot of time they consume us.”
Pecoff and Lyons would like to rotate the exhibit with the hope that their message can reach everyone.
To read an excerpt of the book, visit