The other morning I woke up thinking about age...not so much feeling my age (I don't think I have ever felt my age, so distorted my sense of it...sometimes being this old bemuses me; sometimes I feel 100), but calculating it in my head. I figured, in three years I will be 78, and it came on me like a light from above that that pinpoint in time would be another major turning point in my life.
Maybe the thought of age has been drifting toward me for longer than I realized. A few weeks ago, a book I hadn't seen in years fell at my feet from the bottom of my bookshelf. I had been digging around looking for one to read...since the library has been closed, I've been re-reading old ones, and, as you might expect, finding new ones in them. I know I can go to the online catalog, choose a library book and then pick it up at the door at the appointed time, but, you know, I have rarely searched for a book that way. I don't necessarily know what I want. I need to be in among the shelves, deciding that today I would pick from the BA - CT shelves, or whatever, or go back to browse among the new book displays. Even in the days of the card catalog, flipping among the cards found me more interesting things than what I could have opened those drawers intending to find. (My friend Jim and I were, just recently, ruing the day the card catalogs disappeared.)
Anyway, so as I picked up the book that dropped, it opened to an unfamiliar page. The artist figured in it, Marjorie Raeder Altenburg, mentioned thumb-printing a painting. Or so I misread. Hmm, I thought. Maybe that is my inspiration for the day. I put the book on my worktable, still opened to its self-selected page, and chose another book to read...I think it was Jessie Burton's The Muse.
Later, as I sat down to work on the small art I've been practicing these few months, I tried thumb-printing, pressing my thumb into the paint and designing a flower or two. It didn't really work well...too confining. Too regulated. I never went back to it. (Not that I regretted having tried it...Alexander might find it fun, or my grandnieces when they visit.)
But closing the book to put it away, I read again and realized my mistake: the caption under the artist's work read,
I remember in art school they used to tell us to make these little thumbnail compositions.
Oh, right. Thumbnail sketches. I knew what they were. Something to get you started, to help you "plan" your painting. as my friend Nancy Collis used to suggest, looking at me in despair. Back in the caption, the artist went on:
I never would get anything out of that. Things keep shifting until I know exactly where it is supposed to go. When it's there, it's there, and that's it....one thing suggests the next thing...I don't seem to be painting my paintings. They just seem to happen.
No way I could misread that one. It's the story of not only my painting but my life. Planning (though I have tried on a number of occasions) is not in my veins, or the paint on my brush.
|Small art: collage|
|Small art: watercolor|
|Small art: photograph|
I admit to getting a bit scatty about things...hearing broken in half; tongue disconnected from word-hoard; knees unable to take a 45-degree downward slope over wet cobblestones; mind deconstructing a lot of what I once knew for sure... I'm not sure 78 will make a difference in that regard.
Misreading, misdirection, mistakes...I would prefer to think that they are not really about age but about a nudge from the unseen forces that lead us to an opening in the field we hadn't seen yet. I am finding that out more and more these anti-viral days, in sometimes literal ways.
But I am planning a big celebration for that 78th birthday. I'm not sure what it will be yet, but it will come to me when I am ready. I know that for sure. Perhaps you will join me?
|Sunset, Saharan dust|