Thursday, 12 May 2011

Of Time and Tides of New Baby Leaves

A little while ago I saw a blue jay perched on a branch of a birch tree. There was soft sunlight turning the new leaves to shining green but the jay was, in the shadow of the trunk, soft blue gray. It was a painting in the making. In fact, all around me the last few days have brought incipient paintings, the green gold of the flowers on the sugar maples, small keys forming a halo around each branch, the muted red madder of the red maple flowers, soft cream and pink of the hawthorn bushes, silver gleam of the tiny oak leaves, just barely visible. There is green of every describable colour and some shades so pale, so transient, that they are barely there. A camera would not capture them, but paint might.

Down in my basement drawers is a box of oil paints, an easel, stretched canvas. I haven't touched them for a long time, occupied and preoccupied as I am with my volunteer work, my computer (haven't been posting lately, but I am inspired to do better), my bulbs, the yard and garden, changing the winter clothing for summer weight, spring cleaning urges. ( JG had a spring cleaning urge yesterday and sorted all his clothes, getting rid of a huge number of garments he had not worn for years. A shirt and trousers boasted Eaton’s labels; Canadian readers will know this store has been closed for well over a decade.) But I could paint today. If the tubes of colour were still good. If I weren't writing about it instead of doing it. If the windows were all clean. If there were not raspberry canes laughing at me in the iris bed. No, not today. But sometime soon.

I think, from time to time, how the immediate tasks and preoccupations seem to take over from the long held, the dearly held, things we want to do. The immediate necessity pushes in, shoving other things further back. At one time I thought that when my children were grown, when I stopped working for a salary, I would have so, so much time. Free, unencumbered hours to spend as I wish. And I do have time. I don't manage it well. I do not fill the unrelenting hour with even thirty minutes' worth of distance walked. I read, I watch the birds, I putter at household tasks that could be accomplished in half the time it takes me, stopping to check out a newly arrived grosbeak at the feeder or what Time has to say about the Wedding. It feels luxurious to do things this way. But it's sure not efficient.

Those of us who have raised children and managed a household and worked outside the home at the same time did not have the luxury, while doing so, of being 'in the minute', of pausing to admire a blue jay on a branch, of reading the magazine as soon as it arrived in the mail. Children need, as a matter of immediate necessity, the meal should be somewhere close to being on time, the man is out of clean socks (as are the children, for that matter), there are so many urgent tasks, deadlines, voices calling. Now that there is no stress in my life that I do not create for myself, I treasure the luxury of putting off, I give myself permission to loiter and look and dream.

I might enjoy the birds more, though, if I could see clearly through the kitchen window. 

 One of a host of golden daffodils.

 There is a carpet of dutchman's breeches in the woods

 JG and Shammy investigate windstorm damage

 Shammy investigates the dutchman's breeches

 Crunch.  One of the mature maples the wind pushed over.

Last three photographs courtesy of the YD.


  1. I saw this posted last night but was unable to comment. Tough day for Bloggerites.

    It is a very good and deep post, unlike the rotten posts on my fallen fence.

    The joy of retirement is working at a more humane pace. Or not working if you don't wanna.

  2. Oh, look! I can comment now!

    I thought of you and this post as I drove home this evening. The sunlight was hitting the new leaves, making them glow in all their varied greenness.

    And I don't think I knew that you used to paint. What sort of painting did you do?

    I took painting classes for a few years. I keep thinking I'll get back to it some day. (I used to think after retirement, but you are leading me to believe that I still won't find the time!)

  3. What a lovely, lovely post, both for its writing and its photos. Like others, I tried to post a comment when it first went up, but Blogger was in a snit, and then the post disappeared completely.

    As a fifty-something teacher who is looking forward to retirement (not soon enough!), I think you are much too hard on yourself. Why, at age 60+, do you feel the pressure so deeply to be inherently busy? You lived that life; you did that already. You are RETIRED. Feel no guilt, feel no compulsion. You earned this rest. Look proudly upon what you have set forth in this world: your children, your grandchildren, others whom you have touched with your kindness and altruism who pay it forward because of you. This blog often inspires me in many thought-provoking ways. Your work continues, whether you actively do it or not. Enjoy a retirement. Truly enjoy it.

  4. Nance, I do enjoy retirement. I have a penchant, however, for joining things, getting involved and, finally, letting one interest take over most of my time and energy. Then I get tired and feel overwhelmed. My own fault.
    I just bet you are more disciplined.
    Alejna, I took many lessons and painted in oils many years ago. Small children and oils do not make a good combination and so I let go of oils in favour of watercolour. I like oils better, however, and a few years ago I re-equipped myself with paints and paraphinalia but have not followed up. See comment to Nance.
    AC, yes indeed. Flexibility of choice is the wonderful part of growing older and having fewer responsibilities. Alejna and Nance take note.

  5. I must admit that Jays are very beautiful birds but tend to gobble up smaller baby birds.... I suppose that is normal in Nature.

    How lovely that you got your paints out. Hope to see a photo of the painting!
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  6. Loved this. I felt like I was seeing through your eyes. Beautifully written. And thanks for stopping by my blog!