I can’t remember his name but I’ll call him Mr. A.T. (art teacher). Mr. A.T. made a significant difference in my life and feelings about being creative many years ago. In 7th grade he told me that the tree I had painted “didn’t look like a tree.” I relate that experience in my book, Keep Your Fork: Dessert Is On The Way. My recollection is that there were many adults that I had contact with in my small home town in Michigan did not feel that teaching me to sing, paint, play a musical instrument, act in a community play or do anything creative was something they wanted to invest time doing. These events included being told I could march in the band as long as I didn’t blow my horn and being turned down for a role as a Native American princess in the community theater.
In Keep Your Fork, I title the chapter on creativity, Bette and Me. In it I relate driving down to New Mexico in 2001 to celebrate finishing my chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer. On that trip, Bette Midler and I sang “The Wind Beneath My Wings” with the windows wide open in my car celebrating my encouraging prognosis. By that time I had realized that creativity perhaps wasn’t just attached to artistic activities but could extend to include living any part of life in an original and very conscious way.
Dr. Gene Cohen, relates in his book, The Creative Age, Awakening the Human Potential in the Second Half of Life:
“Different than many other cells in our body, brain cells called neurons show adaptive capacity regardless of age. It is clear that our brain function and creative potential don’t diminish as other body systems do.”
Dr. Cohen defines creativity as an ability that everyone has to think a new thought and to act on it. He explains that when acted upon, this is “one proven scientific way to alter the effects of aging and boost the quality of life as you get older.”
Fast forward to 2017. I still wanted to learn how to paint a tree. In the past 63 years I have taken several art classes. However never have I felt that picking up a paint brush was something that was worth my time. Now things have changed, Last month I went on a Road Scholar trip,The Beauty of Yosemite and the Joy of Watercolor. I had always wanted to see Yosemite and the idea of learning to watercolor still fascinated me.
I wish I could tell you that I now could paint a tree which would please Mr. A.T. Probably not. I look forward to having fun experimenting with water colors and remembering that at this time of life it is all about having fun.
In This Our Life Ellen Glasgow who won a Pulitzer Prize at age 67 wrote, “In the past few years I have made a thrilling discovery. That until one is over 60, one can never really learn the secret of living. The unique combination of creativity and life experiences creates a dynamic dimension for inner growth and the opportunity to shine in the second half of our lives.”