Last Friday, I attended an art opening at the Blue Heron Gallery on Vashon Island: Portraits of Elders – People Who Inspire. While I’m a big fan of one of the featured artists, Pam Ingalls, I’m equally devoted to three of the women she captured in portraiture. Nina, Phoebe and Karen have rock star status on the island, though they would likely be chagrined if not incredulous at such a claim. As it should be, anyone who knows one or any of these three muses is rightfully inspired by their lives, and by the magic, wit and vibrancy they bring to each moment.
How do I know these fine women? Lucky me, I happen to live across the street from Phoebe, and since they are all friends, I’ve managed to insinuate myself into their Friday tea time and on-the-kitchen-table art classes. Truth be told, I yammer, sip and munch, while they share insights, laughter and brush strokes. In my defense, I am a willing mascot and booster for this team and have finally learned restraint when dolloping up Phoebe’s jam and marmalade.
The art show left me pondering (good use of one’s hammock). If I may leave you with one thought, may it be this. We spend our lives shuffling about, making lists, running errands, pursuing careers and dreams, and we tend to forget (if I may speak broadly) that the silver-haired souls among us have been there, done that. The elder we may overlook or be oblivious to has a story, no doubt a rich tale of decades of living, loving, learning and celebrating. There’s a life behind those wrinkles. Who knows, maybe you’re in the presence of a fine potter, gifted storyteller or spirited singer. Perhaps this kind soul grew up in Africa next door to Karen Blixen, or raised her firstborn in a small cabin in Norway, or gained passage for her family on a tramp steamer to Italy. Could this gentle soul have bravely served her nation in World War II or danced in the streets of Florence and embraced music at every turn? These are neither random nor conjured speculations, but rather truths — the authentic bits and pieces of the full lives of the women found in these portraits and on this page. Sparkling eyes (no matter what the age or medium) never lie.
“Youth is a quality, not a matter of your circumstances.” –Frank Lloyd Wright.
PS – Here’s a movie recommendation, Strangers in Good Company, which I saw at the Seattle Film Festival in 1990. A beautiful film that shares the tales of real lives within the framework of a scripted movie. It may change the way you think about your elders.