The dawning day at Green Lake

The dawning day at Green Lake

Another November morning, pink and gray,  at Green Lake

Another November morning, pink and gray, at Green Lake

“A human being would certainly not grow to be 70 or 80 years old if this longevity had no meaning for the species to which he belongs.  The afternoon of human life must also have a significance of its own and cannot be merely a pitiful appendage of life’s morning.  The significance of the morning undoubtedly lies in the development of the individual, our entrenchment in the outer world, the propagation of our kind and the care of our children.  This is the obvious purpose of nature.  But . . . whoever carries over into the afternoon the law of the morning must pay for so doing with damage to his soul.  Moneymaking, social existence, family and posterity are nothing but plain nature — not culture.  Culture lies beyond the purpose of nature.  Could by any chance culture be the meaning and purpose of the second half of life?”
— Carl Jung

I am preoccupied with thoughts of old age.  I am well past the morning of my life, and I have a strong sense that the afternoon is waning, too.  This year, I am on the threshold of turning 60, and I feel that I am entering the evening of my life.  I may be getting a late start on embarking on a new path for the second half of my life.  I didn’t give birth to my daughter until I was 34, and I want to keep working at the library for another 6 years or so, and that means I’m still given over to moneymaking, etc.

But I agree with Jung that staying engaged and growing means changing my attitude and the mechanics of my life.  I feel lucky to feel passion for photography, watercolor painting, and blogging/writing, all of which absorb me and delight me.  I also admire people who immerse themselves in other people — helping and enjoying family and neighbors and strangers.  They, too, seem to lead purposeful lives as they age.  There are many possible paths for navigating the afternoon and evening years.  What is yours?

Practice Any Art

November 9, 2013

Ink and watercolor sketch of trees at dawn, Green Lake

Ink and watercolor sketch of trees at dawn, Green Lake

“Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or how badly, not to get money or fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.”
— Kurt Vonnegut

It’s just getting light when I run around Green Lake on these November mornings. There is one point along the path where the shadows of the trees reach close like long fingers in the indistinct dawn. Everything is golden or dark, no grays.

On Any Day, Do Something

January 1, 2013

Watercolor sketch, tools of the trade

Watercolor sketch, tools of the trade

I was inspired recently reading these words by the poet Jane Hirshfield in Jeffrey Skinner’s book, The 6.5 Practices of Moderately Successful Poets:

“You don’t need to write every day, but you can do something every day that connects to and sustains your life as a person in love with words, images, music, stories, and what they can hold.  Listen with the ears of a language thief casing the mansion.  Cultivate concentration.  As you move through the day, notice one thing that you would not have seen if you were not looking with the questions of poetry in your ankles, knees, and tongue.  Remember a memorized poem in line at the post office.  Read something of substance before you read anything else in a day.  You don’t need to do all these things, you don’t need to write; only, on any day, do something.”

What do these words mean for me?

“I don’t need to paint every day, but I can do something every day that connects to and sustains my life as a person in love with images, form, pattern, composition, colors, and what they can hold.  Look with the eyes of a thief casing the mansion.  Cultivate concentration.  As I move through each day, notice one thing that I would not have seen if I were not looking with the questions of art in my ankles, knees, and eyes.  Look for forms and patterns in line at the post office. Read something of substance before I read anything else in a day.  I don’t need to do all these things, I don’t need to paint or sketch; only, on any day, do something.”
— with apologies to Jane Hirshfield

So this is my resolution for the new year.  To live a more artful life.  Maybe not to sketch or paint every day, but to sketch or paint more often.  To build a habit of art.  To give art prominent time in my days.  To feed my soul by visiting museums, learning the names of colors, experimenting and playing with tools of the craft, reading about artists and creativity, cultivating an attentive eye.  Slowly, slowly grow as an artist.