Just when I think I’m too old to learn new things, I learn I’m wrong.
This week, finally reaching that momentous event that sometimes occurs in life, I had cataract surgery. The world had been a dim, sometimes scary, place to be. My surgery was quick and painless, with little recovery time. Imagine my delight when I discovered a bright, fresh, and more colorful world!
I vaguely remembered that beauty, or the anticipation of all the unexpected wonders yet-to-be. Without realizing it, life grew a bit dimmer, along with my eyesight. I didn’t take the time to appreciate the nuances of life. I was no longer delighted by the various shades of green in the tree line. I couldn’t remember when I stopped seeing, or appreciating, the life I had been given.
Pastor Mic once told me that God could have given us a world of black and white. We wouldn’t have known any other view, so why did He? “God didn’t need to give us color,” Pastor Mic said. “He did because He wanted us to find joy in the world which He had given us.”
A forty-five minute surgery changed my way of seeing. Learning changed my way of being. The way of being is all about living life; and isn’t life all about learning to live it?
In the past few years I learned that my career had a shelf life, and when I reached it, I retired and learned to live life in reverse. Not a “do-over”, I liked my life, but rather to do those things I always intended to “get around to”.
I’m learning to paint. Nelle, one of my dearest friends, will turn ninety in a few days. I had gone to Picasso’s Corner to paint, considering it a lark since I had never painted. Ever. They guarantee that you will walk out with a completed painting within 2-3 hours.
Nelle, whose paintings take my breath away, took one look at my painting and invited me to the painting sessions she attends each Tuesday morning. Being so busy with doing laundry, cleaning out the junk drawers and other such stimulating activities, I declined. Needless to say, Nelle has learned to get done what needs to be done in the most effective way over her first ninety years. Each Tuesday morning, precisely at 10:00 a.m. I’m standing on my driveway, waiting for her to pick me up for our painting sessions.
I’m also learning to write with clearer eyes. My friend Liz coaches me to be better. She introduced me to Julia Cameron, Anne Lamott, Natalie Goldberg and other authors who inspire me to write what I am meant to write.
As I sit at my battered old desk, piled high with papers, notebooks, reference books, fiction novels, pencils, – just the way I like it, the mess fades as I get lost in the words as they flow through my fingers to the computer screen.
I imagine. I type. I print. I get my pencil and edit. I don’t see the pictures I lovingly covered my office walls with. The colorful one from The Georgia Artist Series, the pen and ink of the Georgia state capitol and a caricature of me, both drawn by my good friend, Huey Theus, who died this year.
I don’t see the picture taken with Governor Zell Miller as he signed a bill into law that I had worked hard to get passed. I don’t see the diplomas of my BS or my MS degrees. I don’t see the bookcase with the publications containing my published works.
But, I do see the small window to the left of my computer screen. It is always open so that I can see the hanging basket,the red geraniums flowing over the sides. The Japanese maple tree, its fragile green leaves tinged red where the sun kisses it ever so gently, stands next to the soothing fountain, listening to its bubbling secrets.
I lose myself even from these things. But the one thing I always see are the two hummingbirds as they come each day to visit. They are so beautiful, their dark green bodies floating in their gentle activity, never stopping while getting nourishment and rewarding me with their whispers, reminding me to be still for that moment.
When they buzz away, my eyes are drawn to the scroll work of the metal cross that hangs by the window, just right of where the birds greet me with their gentle, relentless lesson.
I go still. I smile and say with great joy, “Thank you God for the learning.”
“Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance,”
Proverbs 1:5 ESV