Color warms my lens.
My heart too. I grab my pens.
Gratitude soon flows.
“Hey there, Rex. Did you just tap on the delete button of that really long post I just wrote?”
“You know the one that took me all morning to draft?”
Rex shook his head while avoiding any eye contact.
“Lying makes pup owners very cranky, buddy. And we’ve talked before about the dangers of dancing on the iPad screen.”
Rex stole a quick glance up at me, looking sheepish.
He then jumped on the couch right by my side, and kissed my hand gently for a while.
I’m no dog expert, but I believe my dog just learned how to apologize.
That at least is one very good lesson learned.
My knobby fingers have quit moving.
And it isn’t the arthritis.
No longer are they keying in the words I want to share.
I’m been pulling together prior posts on Alzheimer’s and dementia with other writings I’ve done on memory loss. I hope to publish a book to help other caregivers.
But I’ve hit a roadblock.
So this morning I decided to go for a long walk to find some inspiration.
And then I found it.
Right there in the bright eyes of a cat staring at me from a bookstore window.
He was perched next to an old noiseless Remington typewriter. It reminded me of my aging and silent computer keyboard back home.
The feline suddenly jumped up as if to show me something.
In the reflection of the dirty shop window, he helped me recognize some current distractions in my house:
-Auto claim paperwork needing follow up from a recent car accident.
-Unread books on my living room coffee table.
-A crazy world spinning faster and faster on my TV and in my news feed.
I thanked the cat. I can ignore all three at least for the moment.
Then the feline led me over to a stack of the store’s newest and boldest book titles. Three impressive titles in particular caught my eye. I believe the cat knew that they might.
“ILLUSIVE”-Is it really an illusive goal to finish a draft of my book I wondered? The cat looked at me and shook his head. It just takes dedication and hard work he seemed to say.
“THE DETOUR”-I’ve been taking a long route to write and re-write my way around the toughest passages. I looked up at the cat again. He seemed to be nodding as if to tell me he understood. Maybe the boy’s dealt with some rough passages in his own nine lives.
“THE FALLOUT”-There have been moments I’ve wanted to give up on my project. The cat tapped at the window as I pondered this title for a while. If the whole point of writing my book draft is to potentially help other caregivers, who am I serving if I quit?
“No one,” I mumbled out loud.
I’m sure I saw the cat nod in agreement as I turned to rush back home to my computer keyboard.
I often find myself in a fog when I try something new.
Take last week, for example.
I was very excited about attending my first session of a nature sketchbook drawing series.
After a few minutes of introductions and instruction, I found myself on a bench by a weedy marsh and started drawing.
But just two hours later I was blindsided when I saw the incredible talent of my co-students as they placed their notebooks on the picnic table to share at the end of class.
Embarrassed by my own manic scribbling, I kept mine hidden away in a old backpack.
Talking to the teacher yesterday before the start of the second session, I realized the majority of students had taken classes from the instructor before.
My fog suddenly lifted.
And I saw the light.
I no longer felt ignorant asking her basic questions like “do I need to add water to a water color pencil” or “just how do you sharpen it?”
And then I relaxed, which is the instructor’s main goal for the nature series.
I soon found I was enjoying myself as I mixed colors and tried new techniques.
Sure, I have a long way to go to fine tune my skills, but isn’t that the point of instruction and practice anyway?
Writer Natalie Goldberg, who is also a teacher and artist, has written a new book called “The Great Spring: Writing, Zen and This Zigzag Life.”
In it she writes: “There is no cure for human life, except to live it, being willing to rip off blinders as we go and let the light in.”
She also refers to writing as “a training in waking up.”
I’m thinking the same can definitely be said of drawing.
It turns out I may just need a second sketchbook.
Oh, and a pair of sunglasses for sure.
Before deciding to ‘right size’ in this autumn of my life, I chose two guiding principals to follow:
-Live your life with intention
-Know that you can’t go home again
I was thinking about my changes while falling crimson and gold maple leaves kept me company last night on a walk.
I’ve scaled back to a 30 hour job so I can write more. And I’ve scaled back to a tiny white cottage with a patch of grass I’m maintaining with a push mower.
I rely only on my strength for fuel.
That’s just the life I led back way back in my twenties.
Yet it seems I’m now living just a mile north from a house my parents rented during grade school, right over the border in the next town.
And I’m only a mile west from the hospital where my husband passed away a year and a half ago, and two miles from the depot where his memorial service was held.
I’ve also discovered I’m three miles from the clapboard house I rented the last time I tried to live with intention, back in my twenties.
But this time I’ll aim to keep that focus sharper, knowing I have many more seasons behind me then ahead of me.
Leading up to this fall of change, I read two books that spurred me on.
The first, titled the “The Blue Zones”, is about how to live longer and better. The second provides tips on the creativity, titled “Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within”.
What’s better that living healthier and freeing the writer within, I thought as I continued my walk and noticed the freshly painted little free library in my new neighborhood.
I opened the door and peeked inside.
That’s when I spotted the same two books I’d just read stacked neatly on the top shelf.
I took it as a sign.
It’s never too late for us to live our days with intention.
And perhaps we can actually go home again, even if we never intended to.
It’s all in that perspective.
Here I was thinking I’d acquired just a sweet little home with a sweet little porch last month.
But it seems I’ve gained so much more.
I have myself a sweet new little life.
Oh, and what’s even better, it’s just the right size.
I believe many of the best things in life are free.
Or at least pretty close.
I woke up this morning knowing I should drive into the city and catch up on a few projects at work.
But I’d already reserved a spot in a e-publishing class at the library.
I knew it was my one big chance, and there was no cost involved.
Organizing my posts into a book about family members with memory loss has been on my bucket list all year. I’m hoping my experiences may help a few others.
Once I arrived in the classroom, it didn’t take me long to realize I’d made the right choice.
A dozen of us sat in a half circle eagerly listening to a former publishing house editor and self published writer. My fellow classmates were as energetic as the instructor, each with their own unique story.
One was a tanned golf instructor who’d like to share her technical expertise in a book for her clientele.
Another, a gentle gray haired woman anxious to tell tales of family members serving in the military.
And finally a savvy senior who has several books in print, but is now ready to jump bravely into the new e-world.
I left with many learnings and websites to study from our teacher’s shared wisdom and rich group discussions.
And also with more confidence than I carried in hours before.
Our library even bestowed each of us with the parting gift of a brand new hardcover.
It’s titled, “A Reader’s Journal,” where I can record recommended books.
I do plan on reading some tonight, then turning in early knowing I’ll now be working Sunday.
But I’m hopeful for pleasant dreams, with me writing that last book chapter.
And perhaps even one day seeing a few readers recommend my book in their own journals.
I’d like you to meet my new muse.
It’s not the scarecrow, but the heavy black typewriter resting in front of it.
An early birthday present from my sister, it’s the replacement for a 1939 Smith Corona typewriter used my first year of college.
I preferred banging on its round keys, creating staccato clickety clack music to the buzz of computers being added daily to the library.
Besides, it beat walking across campus at -30 below.
The typewriter actually belonged to Dad. He’d bought it used for his own college years decades before.
I can still imagine him huddled in wool sweaters pulled down to his knuckles, busily typing J-School papers in a drafty St. Paul attic apartment.
So I felt honored to have the machine with me for my own first year of school.
That is until I lost it in one on my many moves.
I believe it’s tucked away in yet another old attic some where across the Mississippi in Minneapolis, where I attended college.
Still dealing with the guilt (a Norwegian thing) and still missing that old typewriter, I met up with my muse in a gift store recently.
This work of art was manufactured by Remington Rand, a company where Grandpa once worked.
And Dad eventually joined him there in public relations, for a division of the same company.
Talking to my sister this week, I told her how I’ve been in a rut with my writing.
Then I told her how amused I was when I encountered the old Remington Rand.
A wise woman, she knew I needed to add some rhythm back in my writing so the muse has moved in.
Right next to the iPad.
And I’ve found my muse is a very hard worker.
But also stubborn.
She absolutely refuses to learn spell check.
I listened to an author last night speak of writing in the wee morning hours before sunrise.
It was the one time he could get an hour in before the responsibilities of his day job and family made their daily arrival.
I too love early mornings spent with a pad and pencil. Though it took decades for me to come around, and see the light on that subject.
It’s as if my senses are on fire before 5:00 a.m.
I taste extra sweetness in blueberry jam I’m balancing with toast in my left hand, while I scribble a few words with my right.
The smell of brewing french roast, doing double duty as a tease and my muse.
I find my insatiable thirst for that first cup of caffeine grows minute by minute, as does my desire to keep writing.
The quiet, except for gentle rain falling outside my leaking kitchen window washes away worrisome dreams from the night before.
It seems to do the same for the corgis at my feet, drifting back into post breakfast naps as I bend down to scratch their soft and full bellies.
When the hands finally wave 6am to me from the wall clock, I set down my pencil and pad and travel on the bus to my job in the city.
But I discover as I get off at my stop, the day is now looking brighter.
And more beautiful.
Even the colors appear more intense at the farmer’s market before me than they were the night before.
I stop to admire for a minute, and then smile.
Perhaps a pad and pencil in the morning awakens the soul as well.