Sunday, September 22, 2013

How the arts can change your life.

Port Orford's musicians.
From left, Mark Feldhaus, Bonnie Cox, Suzanne Monk, John Clute.

(The painting is "The Elk" by Elaine Roemen
the bust is called "Birdland" by Julie Hawthorne)

When I retired I had no idea that one day I'd be organizing the events above. Actually, the space is presently housing two events at the same time. 

The first one is on the wall: The Two Muses/Writers and Artists' Exchange organized by Elaine Roemen, the painter of the Two Muses, and Weld Champney, the poet who reflected on the painting. Forty-five writers submitted poems for artists to interpret visually; and vice-versa.  Begun during the last Labor Day Weekend at Siren's Cove Cafe Annex, the Two Muses will run through September.

The event has inspired artists and poets  of all ages and  locals as well as tourists,  have stopped in for an art experience that made them laugh or cry, asked nothing of them except to spend a few minutes and contemplate a unique experience that was not available on the web or on their mobile app. Siren's Cove Cafe has been a marvelous venue for the artists, having hosted many such events.

The second event is a monthly, taking place every Third Tuesday at Two, an open microphone event with live music groups and writers sharing their work, or interpreting the standards. Sometimes the place is standing room only; sometimes, just a handful enjoying a break from their routines, listening to Vivaldi, Bach, or Bob Dylan and Bo Didley.  

I have been president of  Port Orford Arts Council for the last four months, and the idea that someone with my experience would be asked to run this group was never on my radar. I come from an education background, not an artistic one. Writing had not been in my daily life. Only after I retired and had time to learn the craft, to spend hours and hours reading and writing, attending workshops, and mostly meeting with like-minded folks, I began to share what I wrote, got the courage to start blogging, encouraged others to do the same, spoke about the insights and the rewards of writing and sharing. A friend of mine who is an artist asked me to consider lending the POAC a hand as its new president.

Running an organization, obtaining funding, organizing events and communication, is easy for people who have been in such businesses in their working days.   I'm learning. I'm frustrated and elated at the same time. Frustrated that I have no staff; no real knowledge who can do what; but also elated that such a small town has so many artists who are generous with their time and their talents. 

Unlike other businesses,  the arts demand your attention not to sell you anything. They ask you to think with a perspective that is not not usual one; to consider possibilities beyond the obvious. 

The arts put the finishing touches on your human soul.
They allow your inner thoughts to stand in the forefront.

Without the artist, that chunk of marble in Tuscany would never have become The David!   

Thursday, September 12, 2013

How writing saved my sanity.

Nothing helped. Not even gardening and walking and movie watching. My disquiet after we settled in our new place did not have a clear cause. Retirement was supposed to be a happy time in people's life, but it became a serious depression state in my life.

I took long, solitary walks, noticed birds I had never seen before; talked to other retired people. Everyone was happy and well adjusted. I was the only unhappy one.

I did mention my condition to my doctor at my annual visit.  He prescribed some blood tests and later called to tell me to pick up Vitamin D at the pharmacy.
I was relieved! A Vitamin D deficiency is curable.

Weeks later, my mood had not changed.  (Did I mention that our rainy season lasts eight months?) My husband suggested we take a trip to a sunny location.

Florida, a place we had known during our graduate days was the place to go to. We had spent many winter holidays at the Keys, sometimes driving all night from our apartment in Tallahassee for a chance to  bathe in the warm waters of the Gulf as our small children frolicked for hours at the waters' edge. Sitting on the white sands  with tropical drinks made us forget our day-to-day challenges.

We booked our flight knowing the temperatures would be in the mild 80's and sunny the entire time. One afternoon in the same bar that Hemingway had frequented in Key West, I  began to think about our Tallahassee days,  the six years we had spent as graduate students, living in Alumni Village with other couples with small children, eager to get on with our lives, worried about our future. That evening, using the hotel's stationery, I penned my first story, the hurried days of graduate school. It was a piece of fiction drawn from my experience.

When we returned from Florida, I joined a writing group, learned from a blogger how to start a blog, and soon I was writing almost as much as I was reading, and gardening and walking.  The doctor saw me a year later and was happy with my new attitude. He credited Vitamin D. I knew that if I had not discovered writing, I couldn't have made that big leap.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

What do you do?

Remember when you used to be at parties and you were introduced, and the next question was, what do you do, or where do you work? Work was your identity. Almost your whole identity. People who did the same thing usually hung out together, shared tidbits outside of work, participated in hobbies, birthday parties, office parties, sports and trips together.

Your work defined you in your working life, but your hobbies will define you in your retirement years.  Do you golf? Play canasta? Paint? Write? Garden? Each group you'll meet will ask you to join them based on your hobby or outside-home interests. Forget all the other accomplishments and kudos you garnered in your working life. If you don't golf, you'll never meet that couple who moved right next door to you spending six months each year chasing golf balls in your backyard.

The biggest challenge you'll face after work, is figuring out what to do with your time.

Working defined your very being; identified your pace; sent you out to read materials and supplementary literature related to your work experience; brought you together with folks; provided a sense of accomplishment and a sense of purpose to your days; and became your reason for living.

I encountered a mini crisis of identity when I went on maternity leave with my second child and decided to stay at home for the first couple of years.  After six weeks of me and the baby, pacing our lives between feeding and changing and sleeping patterns, I was eager for adult conversations, for activities beyond my four walls, for stimulation from any source.  Going back to school for a Master's Degree in an area that I craved to explore proved most satisfying. I could still be a full-time Mom to my baby, keep the house relatively clean for the family, and take one or two classes late afternoons when my husband could get home and babysit and appreciate the work I was doing.

I did not anticipate the crisis I went through when I retired.

My life lacked direction. I felt empty, inconsequential. 
How about you?
Was the transition easy or difficult?