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.
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.
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.