Escher’s Drawing Hands

Floating hand # 1

 

Floating hands # 2

“One of the great pleasures of doing anything repetitive by hand, whether it’s knitting, making bread, chopping onions or sowing seeds, is that they rhythm of the action allows your mind to wander.”
— Jane Brocket, The Gentle Art of Quiltmaking

Doodling — hand-drawing repetitive lines — fits the bill!

 

 

Fuchsia

Fuchsia

Trumpet flowers

Trumpet flowers

Leaf

Leaf

Calla lilies

Calla lilies

Trees

Trees

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Face

Face

Crow

Crow

Hands

Hands

The end

The end

It was a rush to the finish, but I did complete this project by the end of the year as I had hoped.  Time for new projects in 2017.

 

Happy New Year!

Thank you card

Thank you card

Hand holding stone

Hand holding stone

My left hand

My left hand

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Hands in the garden

Hands in the garden

Hand quilting

Hand quilting

“If there is any one thing that’s unhealthy in America, it’s that it is a whole civilization trying to get out of work — the young, especially, get caught in that.  There is triple alienation when you try to avoid work:  first, you’re trying to get outside energy sources/resources to do it for you; second, you no longer know what your own body can do, where your food or water comes from; third, you lose the capacity to discover the unity of mind and body via your work.”
—  Gary Snyder, from The Gary Snyder Reader:  Prose, Poetry and Translations

I am of two minds about people (affluent people) who hire housecleaners to clean up their messes at home or laborers to mow their lawns and pull weeds.  On one hand, I think people should clean up after themselves.  And I hate the sense of my time being more valuable than yours, so you do the dirty work.  On the other hand, if you can afford it, why not hire people so that your time is freed up to focus on the things that are most important to you.  And hiring people creates jobs and extra income for entrepreneurs.

What do you think?

Old Age and Insights

July 25, 2013

On the occasion of my aunt's and uncle's 60th wedding anniversary

On the occasion of my aunt’s and uncle’s 60th wedding anniversary

As you know from my earlier posts about visiting my 94-year-old father on his Minnesota farm, my mind has been preoccupied with aging.  This post shares some writings that have been on my radar.

“The Joy of Old Age. (No Kidding)”
First, one of my friends and readers sent me an article by Oliver Sacks from the New York Times which he wrote on the occasion of his 80th birthday.  Sacks says, “I do not think of old age as an ever grimmer time that one must somehow endure and make the best of, but as a time of leisure and freedom, freed from the factitious urgencies of earlier days, free to explore whatever I wish, and to bind the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime together.”  Like most of us, he wishes to “die in harness,” loving and working fruitfully through the end, but he acknowledges that “the specter of dementia or stroke looms.”  I found it interesting that Sacks, this most accomplished man, spoke of some regrets, too:  “I am sorry I have wasted (and still waste) so much time; I am sorry to be as agonizingly shy at 80 as I was at 20; I am sorry that I speak no languages but my mother tongue and that I have not traveled or experienced other cultures as widely as I should have done.”  I have provided a link to the complete article, which I believe is well worth reading.

“Retiring Later May Stave Off Dementia”
Then I saw an article in the Seattle Times that cited a French study whose findings indicated that working longer/retiring later could delay the onset/progression of dementia.  My mother had Alzheimer’s and my father is now experiencing short-term memory loss, so I believe there is a rather high chance that eventually my mind will begin to go down the path of dementia.  You would think that I would find this article heartening, but I don’t!  I think this sends the message that those of us unfortunate to have dementia did not work hard enough, exercise our minds enough, eat right, or whatever, and brought this terrible disease upon ourselves.  And I just don’t believe that.  My attitude is more, there but for the grace of God, go I.

The Force of Character
Rather than thinking about old age as a medical condition, I respond better to a more sacramental approach — looking at the ageing and declining body as a source of insights and continuing soul expression and growth.  One of the best books I’ve read that talks about the “forming of character that is actually taking place in these ‘symptoms’ of aging” is James Hillman’s The Force of CharacterI first mentioned this book in this blog post.  Hillman says:

  • “When the body begins to sag, it is abandoning sham and hypocrisy.  The body leads the way down, deepening your character.”
  • About those mid-night excursions to the bathroom:  “Suppose, however, that the getting up from sleep awakens you not only in the night, but to the night. . . . Awakening to the night opens a dark eye into the invisible world.  It opens an acute ear to the cautions, insights, and promptings that seem to visit only at night, disturbing sleep in order to be heard.”
  • “Forgetting, that marvel of the old mind, may actually be the truest form of forgiveness, and a blessing.”
  • “So what is left after you have left is character, the layered image that has been shaping your potentials and your limits from the beginning.”
  • “Character is refined in the laboratory of aging.”

Norwegian by Night
Finally, I will end with a great summer read, Derek B. Miller’s debut novel, Norwegian by NightWhat I love most about this thriller is its 82-year-old protagonist, Sheldon Horowitz, a recent widower who moves to Norway to be near his grand-daughter.  He’s a curmudgeon and has a philosophical outlook on life, although his nearest family sees him as a doddering old man.  They refuse to believe he was a sharp shooter in WWII and still retains his sharp mind.  His dormant skills come into play when he crosses paths with a domestic violence incident and murder in his apartment building.  I think that anyone who likes those dark Scandinavian thrillers will like this book, too.

“On the very backs of our hands, just under the skin, lie veins looking ever so much like little road maps, and as we age, those charts grow more pronounced as if to jog a memory of the journey we unceasingly undertake in our decision to continue to live.”
— William Least Heat Moon, Here, There, Elsewhere:  Stories from the Road

My Dad's 94-year-old hands

My Dad’s 94-year-old hands

Self-portrait of 59-year-old hand

Self-portrait of 59-year-old hand

Eyes may be the windows of the soul, but hands can be equally expressive and evocative.  I think that babies’ hands look like tiny sea stars.  But old hands reflect the character and experience of the passing years.

 

 

 

 

What Remains

July 8, 2013

“It’s all life until death.”
— Grace Paley

My 94-year-old Dad and the old farm house where he lives

My 94-year-old Dad and the old farm house where he lives

Our family has been blessed with Dad’s long life.  If one of the central questions of our humanity is how to live our lives, trying to figure this out can become a bewildering predicament if we live to a very old age.  While staying with my 94-year-old Dad, I was reminded that one’s value and worth should not depend on what you do, but rather should be inherent in simply being.  Because at 94, life has slowed considerably, and a good day is not filled with lots of activities or accomplishments, but with moments of doing nothing.

A full life is inevitably filled with losses, grief and suffering.  But this post will focus on what remains, what my father is still able to do and enjoy.

Every morning of my stay, Dad cooked breakfast for both of us — usually bacon, eggs, and toast, with tomato juice or half a grapefruit, and once, pancakes.

Dad making breakfast

Dad making breakfast

A cup of instant coffee with every meal

A cup of instant coffee with every meal

And after every meal, Dad helped wipe the dishes.

Dad at the kitchen sink

Dad at the kitchen sink

Putting the clean dishes into the cupboard

Putting the clean dishes into the cupboard

On Mondays, laundry day, and Dad still used the old Maytag wringer machine to wash his clothes and then he hung them on a line to dry outside.

Hanging his laundry

Hanging his laundry

Mowing the vast lawn, a summer job, took several hours (with rest breaks).

Dad mowing the lawn

Dad mowing the lawn

Through the window

Through the window

Dad is now the oldest person in his parish.  He always said grace before and after meals.

"Bless us O Lord . . ."

“Bless us O Lord . . .”

Dad still read the local weekly paper and bought the Minneapolis paper on Sundays.

Reading the paper

Reading the paper

Reading the paper in Dad's favorite chair

Reading the paper in Dad’s favorite chair

Dad continues to play cards — cribbage and solo.  He gets together with two of his sisters, his brother-in-law, and son for a weekly card game.  They take turns hosting the games and then go out to eat after hours of playing cards.

Playing cribbage

Playing cribbage

The days were full of dozing and naps.

Dad at rest

Dad at rest

And all of these things made for good days.  For that we are grateful.

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