volunteering…and cowboys

The following was written on Wednesday, 4/20…

Two Bridges and a Small Stream In a Pacific No...

Image by bterrycompton via Flickr

Have been sitting here for the last couple of hours volunteering as a meet and greet person for Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association. By sitting in close proximity to professional writers, I thought perhaps through the process of osmosis I’d gain some knowledge that might prove useful to me, as I try to become one of them. At this point I’m a little doubtful. I can see that the staff writers aren’t about to sit around sharing tidbits of insider information with me. Besides which, the 3 are much younger.

I’m like the “fly on the wall.” I’m here, but I’m not here. Their words flow unencumbered through the wooden bi-fold screen, loud and clear. But with my back toward them, and the screen in-between, I’m naturally excluded from their conversation. But those aren’t the only obstacles to my being part of the group. I’m old enough to be their mothers, or grandmothers!

Public Cowboy

Image via Wikipedia

Our generations enjoy different jokes, music, topics of interest. But as I said before, I’m not here to schmooze. I’m here to “pull my own weight,” which in this case means tackling someone who walks through the front door before they can invade the inner sanctum of the youngsters with whom I work. And I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. I mean they’re in their 20s and I’m in my 60s. Get the picture? They’re up and coming, while I’m on the verge of applying for Medicare. Unless the Republicans pull the rug out from under my feet, that is!

Cowboy W-1

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I’m excellent at meeting and greeting. So far I’ve stopped a couple “dead in their tracks” who were soliciting ads for their magazine, “Best of Issaquah.” After querying them, I handed them over to Kelly, one of my young overseers. Next through the door came a giant, hulking man, with a mile-wide grin planted on his face, bearing huge plastic bags that contained colorful, plastic eggs under both his armpits. Planting myself in front of this oversized, elderly gentleman, I asked how I might help. Not slowed down by me in the least, he proceeded to sweep me along as he continued striding toward the back office. Blah, blah, blah…yada, yada, yada…I heard myself saying. My companions stood up in unison, laughing heartily at my faux pas. It seems the gentleman was the head of the assocation of shopkeepers in the Gilman Village complex. Duh? The youngsters cut me some slack, complimenting me on how seriously I took my job. “Ruff! Ruff! Aren’t I a great guard dog?!?”

Next I tried attacking a lady carrying a large, heavy box. She too was one of “them,” dropping something off that belonged to some author. But the final visitor of the day, was the real deal. Finally, I was confronting a stranger, a complete unknown. But this 77-year-old gentleman was mighty friendly…mighty friendly. He’d come from the Senior Center where he participates in a writing class. Thinking he wanted something a little more advanced, a friend referred him to PNWA.

Basic creditcard / debitcard / smartcard graph...

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Amidst much joking and bantering back-and-forth, the gentleman signed up for an annual, paid membership. Kelly again assisted. He tried to get she or I to loan him a credit card. We laughed. Then when he said he’d pay cash, he asked if I had the cash. I laughed. He soon pulled out a $100 bill which I handed over to the staff. As they poked around for the cash box, which turned up void of funds, I overheard the man speaking on his cellphone. When Kelly left to make change from a neighboring shop, he told me what the call was about.

The Cowboy Millionaire

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It seemed the man and a friend were part-time prospectors. They were set to fly to New Mexico to track down buried treasure, hidden in the 1800’s by outlaws. Evidently they forgot where they had dumped the stuff when they went to retrieve it for the law. Unfortunately, this man’s partner had called cancelling the trip because of wildfires in the area. I was dumbfounded. Could the storytelling get any richer? Yes, it could.

The old codger proceeded to tell me he had other friends who were in the film business, 2 were directors, and one was an actor. I was familiar with some of the movies in which they were involved, but at the moment their titles escape me. In fact one of his director friends encouraged this gentleman to write Western stories, which is what he plans to do. It seems his writing skills have come in handy helping to edit some screenplays. Needless to say I was speechless for most of the conversation. 

So as not to encourage the man to while away the afternoon with me, I nodded and smiled, but spoke very little. He eventually stood up from his chair taking his leave. But before he did he bent over to ask me if I’d run away with him. Well I nearly fell out of my chair, but quickly replied “I don’t think my husband would like that!” To which came the retort “Well, I’ll just have to ask him!” Followed by my laughing response that I’d been married 41 years, and I didn’t think my husband would walk away from his investment. Backing away the man laughingly exclaimed “The poor guy!”

Four Cowboys

Image by anyjazz65 via Flickr

Well if I had been writing a Western, I’d have said this old cowboy blew through the front door of our office overturning everything in his path, like a human tornado, before taking off again for parts, and adventures, unknown. But before leaving, he promised to return…as a volunteer.

Cowboy snake

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you know where i’ll be when that day arrives…out on the open range…hugmamma.

 

creative passion, “fountain of youth”

I’m living proof of AARP’s recent article GENIUS! Not that I’m a genius, but I can vouch for the fact that “our creative horizons need not narrow with age” as the article states. Gay Hanna, head of the National Center for Creative Aging says “We never lose the potential to learn new things as we grow older…In fact, we can master new skills and be creative all our lives.” So the old adage IS true “You CAN teach an old dog new tricks.” Contributing to the discussion is David Shenk, author of The Genius in All of Us, “Genes impact our lives,…but our lives also impact our genes–the brain changes shape according to the experiences it has. …Most of us don’t understand that our true inner potential is quite extraordinary. Not just at age 20 or 40 but well into our elder years. The main reason people stagnate is that they limit themselves through their mind-set or habits. Or they simply set their sights too low.”

Sixty-five-year old Mack Orr had been a cotton picker in Mississippi in the 50’s, as well as a heavy-equipment operator when he moved to Memphis in 1965. Along the way he became a husband, father of 4, and the owner of Mack’s Auto Repair. At 45 he “…was listening to the radio in my auto-repair shop,…They were playing an Albert King song–‘Walkin’ the Back Streets and Cryin’–and it sounded real good. …I went down to the pawn shop, got me a guitar and amp, …And I carried that guitar everywhere I went. If I went to work, I carried it with me. If I went fishing, I carried it. I stayed on it day and night.” Within 3 years his hard work got him gigs as a blues guitarist around Memphis. Daddy Mack, as he is known to friends and fans, has since jammed with Keith Richards and Ron Wood of The Rolling Stones, performed at festivals across America and Europe, and recorded 4 CDs–including Bluesfinger, his latest. Daddy Mack confesses “I never dreamed I’d go to the places I’ve been…”

In the 60’s and 70’s, Judithe Hernandez was known in Los Angeles for her murals. Resettling in Chicago in 1984, marriage, motherhood and a position as a university art instructor sidelined her artwork. Her creative passion took a back seat but she continued to draw, though infrequently, she “…had all these ideas stored away in file drawers–and in my head. And I never let go of the dream that someday I’d come back to it.” At 62, with the end of her marriage and her only child off to college, Hernandez returned to L.A. and resumed her artistic career with renderings of symbol-rich pastel drawings. Evidently she made the right move for in January 2011, Chicago’s National Museum of Mexican Art will feature her as a solo artist. Hernandez compares herself to an artist years younger “It’s the difference between a sauce you make in five minutes and one that you reduce and reduce and the flavor gets more intense and deeper. You’re left with a smaller amount, but the flavor is amazing.”

Painting literally saved 54-year-old, abstract painter Audrey Phillips. Losing her mother to a brutal murder traumatized Phillips so that in the years that followed she lost her job, her faith, her second marriage. In 2000, a friend with whom she was visiting in New Mexico urged Phillips to start drawing, since she’d been a student of graphic design. “Abruptly, the pictures tumbled forth. The subject: the killer’s face–one version after another in wild, furious, almost brutal renditions. ‘I had been thinking about it a long time,…And it came out with such energy–I probably had 30 pieces of art when I was done. I was like, ‘Thank God that’s out on the page and not inside me anymore!’ ” Phillips, an award-winning abstract artist, living in New Smyrna Beach, Florida confirms that “Painting catapulted me through my final phase of grieving and loss…It basically saved my life.”

According to the article “Of all the qualities that distinguish older artists, perseverance may be the most vital.” In her 9th decade, author Eugenia Lovett West had her first novel, Without Warning, published in 2007 and its sequel, Overkill, came out in 2009. Two more books are in the works. West hopes her story “…inspires older writers to persevere. It’s a blessing to wake up in the morning with the urge to create.”

So here I sit at 12:31 a.m. still typing away at the keyboard, husband snoring in his favorite recliner, with the TV “watching” him, and pets slumbering comfortably nearby. Will I too be allowed to rest, or am I doomed to give voice to the “genius” of my old age without let up?

 “fountain of youth,” may be the death of me yet…hugmamma.