Color warms my lens.
My heart too. I grab my pens.
Gratitude soon flows.
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.
I pondered before making the decision, but only briefly.
I hadn’t intended to visit the beautiful cemetary before me today, but my plans had changed.
Though the remains of my parents, brother and husband rest elsewhere, my grandparents ashes are in this sacred spot.
The lush, green rolling hills are striking and it’s been decades since I’ve visited.
Yet an additional draw for me today was the arts.
And there was plenty of it.
Music sang from all directions. The local police band played the traditional patriotic songs, but also offerings were made of gospel, classical, folk, and swing.
And there was poetry, including a poetry writing class with critiques available for all.
There was also drawing sessions with guidance, paper, and pastels freely given by professional artists.
Photography, too, was represented with creative and technical tips being shared by instructors.
With white doves soaring above and shiny horse drawn carriages trotting along side me, opportunities for subjects to shoot were everywhere.
Unfortunately my digital camera, currently short a memory card, peacefully rested at home missing the events.
But in the camera’s honor, and also that of my sweet caramel loving grandmother, I did pen one short poem in my poetry session that reads:
My memories are like caramels.
Savored and sweet.
Melting on my tongue till they’re gone.
Maybe I can freeze them?
All right, I admit I was really hungry and hot when I wrote it.
I’ll try again next year.
My days have been far from still lately, yet I took a few moments to create a still life this morning after putting the kettle on the stove.
The cat on my lap and the mug on the table.
The happy cat mug arrived in the mail yesterday.
My purring sweet cat, several years before.
The mug was carefully carried back from Japan by my dear friend Deb, and was mailed along with coconut mango tea and a warm note congratulating me on my new house. It was signed by others, just as kind, at a recent open house I was unable to attend.
I belong to a special group of creative souls assembled by writer Jon Katz of Bedlam Farm fame several years ago.
Each group member freely shares his gifts of writing, art, and music with each other, and the world beyond. They’re all fully supportive of their co-members’ creativity and over time have become supportive of the transitions different members have traveled.
Though I haven’t met all of the members in person, as we live in different states and countries, I feel I know many of them well through the sharing of our work.
As I look at each of the well wishers’ names, I wonder how many of them I’d recognize anyway from their unique and creative styles of handwriting, poetic words written, and loving hearts drawn.
So many of them have shared blessings with me in the card and I see one member, Donna, added, “I wish you all the happiness your heart can hold”.
Well, Donna, I believe it’s already overflowing with the loving card, comments, and my happy cat mug.
I get up to tend to my whistling tea kettle.
And I smile, knowing I’m whistling as well.
I’ve been reading a lot.
And thinking too much.
Probably not too surprising as I’ve entered the second act of my life’s play.
A milestone birthday along with a major life change always kickstarts some serious self reflection.
And so will taking a life expectancy quiz, where I’m gently reminded that I have a lot more miles behind me then in front of me.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Instead more like a coaching session to convince me to pick up the pace.
And I’m excited.
In the last year, I’ve discovered in many ways I’m moving back to that girl I once was (except for some graying hair and those wrinkles of wisdom).
What I’m talking about here is jogging back towards my passions.
Writing, drawing, photography, the outdoors.
Those passions from my twenties that rarely were penciled in with work and family responsibilities.
Then finally growing dormant once the cobwebs of family illnesses covered all.
But it doesn’t really matter if I’m older now, with a smaller nest egg as a result.
As I’m much richer for the growing appreciation I have for the years left.
And I don’t need much besides my own health.
When I was young, my life was never more efficient than when I lived in a small studio apartment.
Maybe it would be again, with a library, grocer and a community center where I can volunteer after my senior dogs have passed over the rainbow bridge.
I’d also want a lake nearby as my muse, with ample acres of parkland to travel.
Along with one sturdy mountain bike and a good pair of snowshoes.
Because in the end this second act is simply about playing more.
And smiling more as well.
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.