Taking on new skills at an older age is tricky. One would think it might be easier since as we age we learn more about learning. We develop more patiences and have time to practice over and over again strengthening that new skill. It all sounds so good.
I have begun over the last few years to learn to draw and watercolor. I have written about it on and off. I have been following lots of blogs and instagram accounts with mainly younger folks displaying their fabulous work. I can imagine them hiking in the woods finding mushrooms or small flowers. They sit among the forest plants to draw and maybe even paint a little with fancy and cool water brushes. (a small plastic paint brush that holds water in the barrel of the handle so you can water paint anywhere you like)
Ok then there is me – I have my water brushes, notebooks and paints. I have my camera on the phone to help me remember the details. I have my pencils and micro pens in sepia tones. I have my hiking boots and am ready to go. I can do this right?
Well – yes but with modifications. At this age (late 60’s) my fingers have begun to develop arthritis and drawing and painting need to happen in shorter amounts of time so I can move and stretch those fingers often. No long painting sessions in the woods or garden for me. So the camera is an important tool for me to use so I can come back the image when I want to finish the painting or drawing.
I am great at the hiking part. I walk a couple a miles a day or more if I can. It is the sitting down with the trees and painting for awhile that creates an issue. I can get down but oh my there is the getting up after sitting for awhile. The knees and hips do not always agree with me. Even with my daily yoga practice standing up after sitting on the ground for awhile is an interesting proposition. I end up having a bit of a conversation with several body parts to remind them they can do this. I may look funny but I do make it up. So modification number two is finding a small folding chair to carry along for sitting and painting. I am not happy about this but …
My vision of walking the woods with a small notebook and paints in a little backpack or pouch slowly gets changed to hauling a few more things. There is the chair, the art materials, a water bottle for drinking and then a snack if I plan on being out for awhile. There is the hat I should wear and do own but am still refusing to take along.
I am in small battles with my vision of the youthful nature artist that I think about as me and the reality of who I am at this age and what I can and can not do. This applies to my garden work as well. I spend plenty of time thinking of the trees I will plant and the gardens I will re do and then find myself out in the soil wondering if my back, knees and hands will handle the work I have set before me.
I think often of my mothers words at 92 – “I don’t want to go in there with all those old people!” I seem to have acquired her thinking that I am not old. A good thing to think about to keep me young but there is a point where we need to admit what we are capable of doing. The time when we need to accept the limits of health or age. I am working on that. I am working on finding ways to be active, engaged and doing but also understanding my limits and finding ways to work around them in a positive way. Acceptance may be the key here.
In the garden the Aconites are now blooming. In working on being flexible and accepting what I can do I decided to photograph them and then draw and paint at my desk. It was easier than sitting in the spring mud.
Here’s to spring, keeping active, learning new things and being flexible in thinking and action!
Aconites watercolor and photo: