I am currently working my way through Julia Cameron’s newest Artist’s Way series, It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again – a program specifically targeted to help those in midlife discover creativity and meaning.
This week I focused on chapter two: Reigniting a Sense of Freedom.
I continue to follow the four cornerstones of the program:
- Daily hand-written Morning Pages (wrote 6 out of 7 days)
- Weekly solo Artist Dates (visited the local Farmer’s Market)
- Two 20-minute solo walks per week (still walking the Bassett – even in this Midwest heatwave)
- Ten weekly Memoir prompts (this week focusing on ages 6-10)
Freedom is rooted in the memoir prompts. These elementary school days allow us our first taste of independence. We spend more waking hours away from home than we do with Mom and Dad. We learn we have choices in life, albeit often judged as good or bad – right or wrong. We become aware of our individuality and we learn to express ourselves in unique ways to fit our budding personality.
This week’s writing prompts asks us to recall the following:
- Where did you live? Describe your bedroom.
- Who were the major players in your life? Did you have an influential teacher?
- Did you try new artforms in this period?
- What new freedoms did you experience?
- What were you bored by?
- Describe a smell you remember.
- Describe a close friend – real or imaginary.
- Describe a favorite treat.
- Describe a location where you spent time.
- What other memories do you recall?
While I jotted notes for all the questions, I was most interested in question three: what new artforms did I try at this time?
For most of my adult years, I claimed to have little creativity. And while I have begun to cultivate a writing practice, I really don’t consider myself an artist. But as I allowed myself to ruminate on this question, I realized I tried several different artforms as a child – some with a certain degree of success.
I started piano lessons in second grade. I learned the value of daily practice (20 minutes – 3 times a day). I learned the sense of satisfaction that comes with consistent work. And I learned an appreciation for music that lasted well into college. In fact, if it were not for my involvement in band and orchestra, I’m not sure I would have survived high school.
I also tried my hand at various forms of needlework. This was Mom’s favorite past time (needlepoint – crewel embroidery – sewing play outfits for me) and I wanted to share these hobbies with her. Unfortunately, my lack of patience and need for perfection prevented me from enjoying the process.
But Mom also let me help her in the kitchen and I soon developed an interest in baking that continues to this day. We started with chocolate chip cookies. She would measure the ingredients and I would pour them in the bowl when told. We then moved on to holiday Bishop’s Bread – a southern style fruitcake that required lots of prep-work such as halving the candied cherries, chopping the dates, and shelling the pecans. This proved perfect tasks for young hands.
I pretty much took over holiday baking when I entered high school – and when I got married and moved to New York City, we held an annual Christmas party that required two weeks of food preparation. I loved every minute of it.
When we moved to Kansas in 1990 my husband’s Italian grandmother passed the torch to me to prepare the family’s traditional Christmas Eve Vigil or The Feast of Seven Fishes. A true labor of love, this multi-course meal provides a bond to the past that we cherish. In an effort to prepare the next generation to continue this tradition, I wrote a book documenting our family stories and favorite recipes.
All this thought of family celebrations around the dining room table informed my choice for this week’s Artist Date. I took myself to the local farmer’s market. I pretended we lived in a small Italian village and daily shopping was required. I looked closely at each stall, eyeing what looked fresh enough to prepare that evening. I marveled at nature’s colorful rainbow: ruby red tomatoes – golden yellow squash – garnet-colored beets – purple onions – green asparagus – white garlic bulbs. Delicioso!
On the way home from the market I stopped by the library. I scanned the shelves and selected several authentic Italian cookbooks for research. We are planning a family trip to Italy in 2021 to visit my husband’s homeland. I want to learn as much as I can about his past so I can fully immerse myself into that experience.
I plan to practice authentic Italian cooking in the hopes of recreating regional recipes when we are there. I even plan to delve into Rosetta Stone lessons so I can converse with the locals in their native language.
As I finish writing this post it occurs to me… Freedom is the perfect word for this week.
I rediscovered a love of cooking. And I realized midlife offers me time to experiment in the kitchen that I missed when the children were younger. I was too busy rushing them to after-school activities to do more than reheat frozen meals. Now I can pour over cookbooks, create extensive grocery lists, wander up and down the market aisles and select only the freshest ingredients.
I have always loved to travel, but limited funds and busy lifestyles prevented us from doing more than an occasional weekend on the lake. Now my husband and I have the means as well as the freedom to travel overseas, reconnect with our ancestral past, and enrich our lives for the better.
There is a parallel to be found between the expansion of later childhood and the expansion of retirement. ~ Julia Cameron (p 21)