Sunday, April 25, 2010

Week 3: I'm writing a list...

I promised myself one thing with this blog and that was to write with an authentic voice about what's going on in my life - or not write at all. Not just in the social voice - you know the one I mean where people say, "Hi how are you?" and you (inevitably) sing back, "Just fine, great. How are you?" Yada, yada. Sing, sing. Smile smile. Some times we need to stop and think about the questions asked and then think again about what are really the answers.

So, go ahead. Ask me. "How are you, Gillian?"

Well, thank you for asking. I feel fearful though if you must know.
I am holding fears in my heart. Don't we all, if we are honest about it? I have fears about surgeries ahead which I REALLY don't want to have. Fear of financial and housing insecurities, fear of being 'up to' mustering the energies to continue working and living alone in the years ahead. I have quite a stack of things I am feared of some days.

Getting old is a good case in point. I remember almost 10 years ago when a 12 year old boy hung out of the window of his yellow school bus and yelled at me, "Heh, Old Lady!". I think it was the only time in my life my jaw quite literally dropped open. It's taken all these 10 years since to begin thinking this through and accepting first the concept then the reality of 'aging' and arriving with my whole being at what I have begun to understand as the 'third trimester of life'.

It's not just getting older anymore - but actually aging that has become the issue. At some point with one birthday following another, these two issues - growing older and aging - separated, diverged, took on entirely different meanings. And, although I still only feel about 30, uh, er, 40-something inside and and I think 59 is pretty darned young all things considered, I know my body is aging, acting differently and has become even occasionally undependable.

None of the platitudes ("It's how young you are inside that counts" or "You're only as old as you feel") help because when I started thinking about it, I realized I don't at all mind 'aging'. It's just that it's all such a gosh-darned blasted surprise. I wasn't expecting it and feel quite unprepared. All of a sudden I have a mental list of things I MUST DO. A.s.a.p. Like before there are no days left in which to do them. And THAT is what I am AFRAID of. Not getting through my list. Not even knowing what I would want on it. Or worse, having no list all.

So here is my list. It's ambitious, admittedly selfish and possibly slightly irreverent. It's a new, starter list and will change - but for now, here goes: I want to see the first human land on planet Mars (OK, this one depends on NASA, but it's staying on the list). I want to to see Norway again. And Switzerland and Austria. I want to see the great wall of China and the panda bears there and maybe visit Brazil or Chile. I want to hold at least one major exhibition of my paper collage work. I want to visit the penguins at the Antarctic and I want to finally learn how to use a camera. I want to live in Newfoundland and Labrador for at least one year. I want a bank account with real numbers finally written in black not in red and without that pesky minus sign in front of them and a tidy reserve of RRSP's to go with that would be really very nice. I want to understand more about world religions and other gods; find out more about how people live elsewhere on the globe. ... and, there's more... I want to contribute to the end of world hunger - (Sounds like an answer from the Miss America Pageant, doesn't it?, however every artist knows what it's like to be hungry at least some of the time.) I want to read more about the universe, the beginning of creation, the 'big bang theory', and the 'God' particle. I want yet to be in a high enough income tax bracket to pay serious income taxes and feel proud. I want to remember my whole life from start to finish in one single continuing verbal 'herstory'. ... and, there's even more... I want to have one more live-in kitty-kat pal. I want the time to read ALL of the books I want - until my heart and mind and soul are completely full.  I want NOT to be afraid of flying any more and before I die I want God to fly me all through the universe so I can see all the lights and colours there are in it. I want to understand better the kind of people my parents were. I want to think of one single important thing that I have learned in my life and can share with people before I die. I want to fall madly (but only briefly) in love again. I can't put back into the world all that I took to survive but I want to return what I can. I want to write a book, learn to folk dance, and get my driver's license again. I want to grow vegetables - enough for a whole year. And, despite that young boy in the little yellow bus or maybe rather because of him, I want to give 'something' meaningful to every child I meet. And, finally, I would really like an honest heart to heart chat with God about this whole business of being human.

Thanks for travelling with me on my footpath this week...

Weekly Health Check:

I enjoyed the photograph-taking. Creating, bringing new pictures into the world that weren't there before, shakes the mind free to travel along new mental synapses - think vertically, horizontally, diagonally. One of the biggest gifts of later life, I am certain of it, if one frees the time and the will and the energy, is the gift to think and reflect, looking forward, informed by backward glances.

Lost 3 pounds this week. BP and pulse rate are down - aerobic affects of walking, I guess. I feel a little better though not ready for a marathon or to parade in my swimsuit at the public beach this season.

The Artist Soul: I took pictures this week of a little boy in a swing at the playground. I was somewhat embarrassed to ask him if it was okay: We are asking to let ourselves into someone else's private world when we seek permission to photo-record one of their moments. And I was also hesitant since I am still trying to learn all the camera functions (to whit: there is no actual viewable picture to show you of said little boy on the swing!) However, ask I did, of both him and his Mom. And I took 4 photos as they swung back and forth. The young boy looked a little embarrassed too - about having his picture taken - a little of his emotional self exposed to my camera. We were struggling to connect - or not connect too directly - beyond our feelings. As a result, I didn't take the time to concentrate on camera technique and he didn't seem inclined to invest the required trust to look into the camera. I took the photos, said thanks and made to move on when the little boy called out after me, "Thank you, thank you for taking my picture!". I was touched. He didn't seem to need to see his picture. He just was glad that I had taken it. I know I will be chewing on this exchange all week or longer.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Week 2: I lied.

Well, last week I said there wouldn't be a blog, but here we are... I held out for a whole week. But, with the cat gone there's no one to talk to here at odd hours and I love to write, blabber on.   So it was inevitable, I guess. And, it helps to see some progress, keep inspired, stay on track.  Stay tuned, as they say.

Last week began with a camera lesson. I have to tell you that I do NOT like reading directions. The manual is 111 pages; give me a break.  :(

Weekly Health Check:
Mind: Spirits lifted with the start of the Bracebridge Photo Project.

Body: No weight loss this week - but big mass loss. Walking about town does wonders. Fit into my jeans for the first time in months!

The Artist Soul: I connected with some seagulls. One of them limps quite badly but flies like - well, like a bird! I can only share the obvious: Handicaps of any kind don't need to stop us. They're relative. And who cares? As long as we can fly.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Week 1: Why am I doing this?

Spring is always that time of year when things are growing. Unfortunately most springs it is my middle that's growing and I usually try early in the year to do at least something about this. But this past winter there was more encouragement than usual to get on the scales and get going with the program: I need 2 surgeries. Gulp. Not serious ones but for moi, the original scaredy cat, well it kind of woke me up to things, like health and age and not being able to walk a block without puffing.

So I began cooking healthy again for the umpteenth time in my diet yoyo history which seems to have gone on since God was a boy but this time I know it's for good. I'm too old and the body parts are starting to demonstrate 'attitude'. So this time the changes need to be for life in every sense.
I did the normal things beginning with an overhaul of my fridge and dusting off more pots and pans for home cooking EVERY SINGLE MEAL. However, I will never be a Julia Child or a Julie Powell (more about these two cooks later). I just felt I needed to do something else and more.

So next thing on the list was to begin walking every day about 30 minutes or so. This isn't hard to do - I don't drive and the nearest place to forage for food is 1/2 a mile from here. It seems to be the end of the world during bug season and on plus or minus 30 celsius days; otherwise it's an enjoyable ramble. Gradually the 30 minutes stretched to an hour some days and even 2 hours on others.

So the body beautiful was being looked after (or will be after an interminable amount of dieting). And 'these boots will keep on walking' to tone those little couch potato muscles. But it all seemed like work. None of it really was making me feel much better. I KNOW about WORK! I am a 'working' artisan - euphemism for 70 hour weeks and low pay. Ergo, STRESS!  
- Always in the red instead of the pink and just kind of trying to make do most days. I absolutely love the work I do, making greeting cards and party crackers (you know, those Christmas crackers you pull and they go pop and out falls a little paper hat and a trinket? Well, that's what I make - only really fun ones all year round). But, the bills pile up, the orders - though great - come in at odd times with a whoosh at Christmas and a tiny tinkle in January or July and, quite honestly, it really is STRESSFUL! My poor friend, Diana, listens to my constant whine about the perils of the party supplies trade. UGH! Colour me nerve-wracked! 

And that's how this project got started. It's the artist equivalent of a medical prescription to combat fatigue and stress - the slow drain of the soul.  
I saw Julie and Julia with Meryl Streep bringing life to Julie Powell's story about how Julia saved her life and taught her how to cook. You can read about the movie here and about Julie Powell's Julie/Julie Project here. It may be at this late date that I am the only person on the planet who hadn't seen this movie or heard of Julie's blog before now but from the first moment of the movie I knew this was going to be one of those rare life-changing events - even though I wasn't sure just how it was going to happen. I knew I needed a 'project' something to get back in touch with the creativity in my soul and reaffirm that life isn't all work. I knew the project had to be ABSOLUTELY FREE (I can't afford lobsters like Julie!) And I knew it had to be a part of my usual day since I have so little personal time for anything before after or during WORK - that 4 letter word!
And then I 'got' it. Out walking I started looking at stuff - closely - let details sink in or pop out to find new ways to 'see' them and capture them. So I added my camera to the health walk regimen to make a record, to begin 'seeing', to heal the soul, to create, to rest the spirit - choose any of the above. Not the big things or the everyday things but the little details that take a few moments to see. I rarely take the time. So I'm making time. This year I am just going to plain make the time!

Like Julia, I need to create. Like Julie, I need a 'project'. Well, Julia did too, come to think of it. And that's what this project - "The 52-Week Bracebridge Photo Project" - is all about. 12 new photos taken somewhere about something in Bracebridge every week for 52 weeks. I don't know what will happen in 52 weeks, if anything. Maybe I will learn how to use my camera finally. Maybe I will see new things. Maybe I will begin to see old things that have been around for awhile. Maybe all will end in ignominy!  
Or a coffee table book?

Please walk along with me whenever you have the inclination. Enjoy the pictures and the blog. 
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April 13, 2010