The entry below was written on 4/22/2008. My mother has since died and my life has a slightly different shape to it now. But something about this day was so powerful to me that it set into motion a chain of events I hope to continue building upon.
I believe deeply in the power of the creative in ALL of us. I believe that when we tap into this power in whatever way feels right, something happens…..chemically, metabolically…..i don’t know for sure…..but i know things shift. I have been process painting for a very long time now and it has changed my life…so i know there is power there. But to watch my mother go through the stages of such a devastating disease and to see her so affected by coloring fish moved me greatly and has lead me to volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association’s “Memories In The Making.” This program brings artists and nursing home residents with Alzheimer’s together for one hour a week to do some painting. Some of the paintings are then sold at a yearly benefit auction to help fund the Association and the work they do. But even further than that, all of the participants have an hour to create and are allowed to just be there in the present moment with ….no pressure to do anything in particular….just get the creative juices flowing a little.
It has been my intention for quite some time to write about the power of creativity….if for no other reason than helping myself to get what is in…out. Also,I hope anyone who would like to share their own story about creativity and what it has brought to their life to please do so.With this blog my hope is to show how creativity has a way of bringing us together and when brought out in a safe environment, free of judgement and competition,literally transform us.
The other day I went to visit my mother in her nursing home. She has Alzheimer’s disease lives in the hall specifically for memory care. I never know what to expect when I walk through the doors. Sometimes, the place is buzzing with activity and old country and western music. Other times, I am greeted by the smell of urine and a woman I pass in the hallway demanding to speak to her deceased parents. (During one memorable visit, a resident who had just moved in came to me crying and confused…she wondered if I could take her home….to please just get her home.) But on this particular day, I was greeted with peace. Music was playing softly and most of the residents were sitting at tables with crayons, markers and sheets of white paper with black outlines of ocean fish printed on one side. Everyone was busy coloring their fish….some inside the lines others outside. Some made their fish brown… some red… others were just scribbling. It didn’t matter. Something about engaging that part of the brain was extremely calming for everyone. There was no agitation. There was no sadness. There was nothing but the sound of Waylon Jennings and marker on paper.
My brother and I joined my mother and two other residents at her table. We got our own pieces of fish paper and started coloring as well. Every once in awhile someone would say something …but there were a lot of gaps; Lovely, brilliant, shiny gaps where some light managed to shine.
At one point a woman at the table said to me, “I don’t think I am doing this right…your colors are better.”
I told her I thought that in the ocean there were fish of every color imaginable some with colors we hadn’t even dreamed of yet.
“How do they do that?” she asked.
“Do what?” I ask “Know what color to be?”….and from across the table another woman, without looking up from her fish, plainly states, “They are just waiting for someone to come along and color them.”
We all continued to color our fish, the quiet once again taking us over. The peace of it, cradled us. And I sat, somehow completely altered by it all.
This is why I love painting….and creativity in general. Not for any particular product…but for the process of it. For what it can provide me. For where it will take me and how it sustains, holds and guides me…if I let it.