Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – Artists and Old Age by D.Wallace Peach

I’m over at Sally Cronin’s wonderful site today with another post from the past. This one about the joy of remaining creative as we age. If you have a moment, stop by to say hello. Comments are closed here.

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

Time to enjoy another post from the archives of D.Wallace Peach where Diana explores the loss of things as we get older, including our identity.. unless of course you are an artist.. in which case……..

Artists and Old Age by D.Wallace Peach

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My brother and I just spent a few days touring our parents through senior housing. At one point, he leaned in, and whispered, “Growing old is tough.” I agreed, though “tough” is probably too mild a word, the reality deserving something more visceral, definitely more chilling. As my parent’s generation enters what I would generalize as “old age,” they’re struggling with what seems an endless list of losses—family, friends, careers, driver’s licenses, vision, independence, stamina, health, dreams, and the myths about who they are.

I mention myths because so much of who we are is perception, our firmly-gripped beliefs about ourselves. One of the more painful…

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Passion and Priority

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Passion and Priorities may sound like a Jane Austin novel…but nope, nothing so restrained.

I’m talking about a circus act, a high-wire attempt at juggling while riding a unicycle with five bowling pins flipping through the air. It’s an act of balance.

Anyone possessed with an all-consuming passion, knows what I refer to. Whether it’s an artistic endeavor, a desire to race cars in the desert, to savor exotic foods, ban landmines, or never wear the same shoes twice, the need for balance occasionally sets that high-wire a-wiggling. Sometimes it’s the clown stomping around down there in the three rings, the one with the diapered terrier on a hip, pointing at the kiddie pool, demanding a reassessment of one’s priorities.

I walk that tightrope a lot, relishing the thrill, the single-minded concentration as I surrender to my passion for the written word. To immerse myself fully in my world of imagination, without regard for other priorities, is liberating. I’m spinning plates on spindly poles and no one’s shouting to save the dinnerware.

But I’m also that orange-haired, red-nosed fussbudget with her clown shoes slapping the ground in furious circles. Under my polka-dot skirt, I must mind my clown family and friends, a squeaky car that needs oiling, more terriers due for the vet, and grocery bags overflowing with bananas. I can pretend this part of me isn’t real or that she’s just a joke, but in truth, she’s a necessary part of the big show.

In my thirties, I used to wonder what I would do when I “grew up.” I remember those drifting days of waiting…for inspiration…for passion…for the circus to come to town. Always an eye on the magical tomorrow when something wonderful would happen. The big top finally arrived and I’m making up for lost time. Juggling those priorities, keeping all the pins and plates spinning in the air. It’s a grand problem to have.

Are you like me? How do you keep your balance?

Winter’s Creative Gift

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pixabay free images/ Anja Osenberg

The holidays come to a hectic close and my favorite time of year ambles in. Here is Oregon, if you gaze out the window at the January weather, you’ll find a misty, drippy, icy, foggy-soggy mess, at least through May. That gives me five whole months of lighter obligations and a complete lack of guilt for not “enjoying the weather.” In a climate boasting only three months of sunshine, the Vitamin D police are checking every household for us slackers.

For quite a few creative sorts, our pursuits get back-burnered by other more pressing responsibilities – jobs, violin lessons, soccer practice, staining the deck, grocery shopping, sorting socks…it’s amazing that anything in the world ever gets painted, composed, sculpted, or tapped out on the keyboard.

We, who aren’t independently wealthy or already famous, squeeze precious moments for inspiration from the cracks of our crowded lives. We hide in our cubbyholes, our converted attics, our bedrooms and garages. (Oh, I’ve written in the bathroom too). We rise before dawn with a steamy cup of coffee, kiss our lovers goodnight and stay up with the stars. A weekend alone isn’t a time for melancholy wishes; it’s a little taste of heaven with a neglected muse.

Creative time is sacred time, hours marked with inky conviction on the calendar that can’t be erased. As artists, we need to cultivate a belief in the importance of what we do, even when other duties jostle for our attention. We need to believe in the intrinsic value of our art, even when no paycheck arrives in the mail. We need to honor our creative calling and spirit of inspiration, even when the doubters tell us how nice it is we have a hobby to fill our free time!

In Oregon, the winter weather comes bearing the creative gift of unassigned hours. No matter where you live, dedicate a few empty squares of your calendar to nourish your creative soul and save the dates as you would for your child’s wedding. Be resolved.

The Zone

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I don’t know about you, but for me, the creative process requires a lengthy visit to “The Zone.” If you’re an artist of any kind, you probably know what I’m talking about, surely sense the obsessive urge, the quiver of excitement at the prospect of exploring undiscovered shores. My creative muse resides there, tantalizing and intoxicating, and she demands my undivided attention.

I love my forays into the Zone, despite its consumption of my life. It’s creative gluttony, stuffing my face with words, gobbling down characters, disgorging pathos. When I dive into the Zone, I’m not myself. I’m immersed in my craft, drowning in a taste of pure manna like an addict. The rest of the world fades into the hazy horizon as the Zone awakens that right brain craving.

As a writer, this is especially true during my first draft when a story’s taking shape. Within the Zone, unfamiliar scenes tap from my fingertips and uncooperative characters demand a voice. A fickle wind pushes my plot, requiring vigilance to stay on course. As an adventurer, I’m on my own, trying to make sense of an untold tale before I return to my ordinary life, take a long overdue shower…wash loads of stinky laundry…vacuum blankets of dog hair…make dinner for a gaunt spouse surviving on snack food.

Fortunately, my visits to the Zone are temporary, and I recognize the pattern well enough now that I can plan ahead. “Okay, everybody,” I announce to the family, “I’m going to the Zone for a month. See ya.” My eyes droop and I make a pouty face as if I’m going to miss them, but inside I’m giddy as a new mom with a night out. Party time for me and my laptop!

Here’s a typical conversation when I’ve entered the Zone:

Husband: “Blah blah…dinner…blah blah…oil change…blah blah blah?”—long pause—“I might as well live alone.”

Me: “Hmm, what?”

Sad, but true.

I’m starting to emerge from my most recent jaunt into the Zone. My latest creation, The Rose Shield, feels ready for a little breathing room. I timed my journey well this year, with summer blooming and the weeds in my garden whining for attention. The husband and house require a healthy dose of TLC too that I’ll sate over the next few months…but, oh yes, you guessed it…in preparation for another spree into the Zone come fall. I can’t wait!