Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Crone Birth

Sharon Wildwind

As part of my day job I’m in and out of a lot of places where older people live. I was at an assisted living facility at 9:30 last Sunday morning. The visitor sign-in binder was on a table in one corner of the main activities room.

In that room 20 people were gathered for a church service. The minister’s sermon focused on community reaction to unwed mothers 2000 years ago in Israel, and some of the challenges Mary would have faced. The congregation listened politely, but from their expressions I wasn’t sure that they were completely engaged with the topic.

On my way down the hall I passed a smaller room used for art. There was one woman in there, bent over her art. Literally bent over it because she had severe kyphosis, the curving of the back that happens in people with osteoporosis. Someone had rigged an easel for her set at a thirty degree angle and the perfect height so that she could look directly down onto her canvas.

The easel and canvas were turned away from the door, so I couldn’t see what she was painting, but I could see her palette, which someone — maybe the same someone who had rigged her easel — had attached to a bannister with a rotating ball head so that it could be angled to the exact spot where she reached out with her brush. The paints on the palette were bright yellow, orange and red. Unlike the people down the hall, she was completely engaged in what she was doing.

After I finished my visit half an hour later, I walked back down the hall. The people at church were milling around, collecting their sweaters and other belongings; talking about what was on the menu for lunch. The woman was still at her easel. I doubt that she knew time had passed.

Unlike me.

I’ve been sitting here for an hour, hoping this blog would build to a crescendo, some profound conclusion about the image of that solitary woman painting alone on a snowy Sunday morning. Truthfully, I don’t think I have a profound conclusion unless it's to remind us all to do art, do it all the time, and keep doing it.

This was simply a wonderful image that I wanted to share with you.

I also sent a little prayer of thanksgiving for the person who had the imagination and took the time to build the easel and palette holder especially for her. We need more people like that.


Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Sharon, for me the message is something I already believe: that if you engage with life (through art or anything else) rather than merely attending it as a spectator, you'll experience life as worth living no matter how old you get, regardless of your circumstances. I'd rather be that solitary artist, or my aunt who's still playing tennis at 98, than the people listening to the sermon.

Sandra Parshall said...

I can't imagine what life would be like without writing, without the imaginary world I create in my head every day. I hope I'll be doing this until the day I die, however soon or late that is. But others find that intense engagement in science, in medicine, in volunteer work, in raising their children. Having something in your life that compels you and engrosses you and satisfies your mind and heart -- that's what counts.

Leslie Budewitz said...

Sharon, it's a lovely image -- many thanks for sharing it. I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes, from Joseph Campbell: "Never underestimate the value to the universe of a fully realized life." Full engagement is the key.

Anonymous said...

Amen, sisters. We are so fortunate as writers and other kinds of artists to be so engaged in all manner of creative things.