At a recent conference for writers over 50 at the Loft Literary Center here in Minneapolis, I had the great pleasure of hearing Toronto poet and writer, Molly Peacock speak eloquently about Mary Delany (1700-1788), whose life is the focus of Ms. Peacock’s recent book, The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life’s Work at 72. After losing her husband of 23 years, Mrs. Delany picked up a pair of scissors and, at age 72, in “a mesmerized state induced by close observation,” created a new art form, mixed-media collage, depicting botanically correct cut flowers. Over the next decade, she dyed and colored her own papers to create these intricate flowers, now housed in the British Museum and referred to as the Botanica Delanica.
During her talk, Ms. Peacock explored the theme of late-life creativity. “Our life’s work is never finished,” she said. “[Mrs. Delany’s] life shows us that some things just take living long enough to do.”
My mother, Ruth Hodges who died on June 23, 2012, at age 95, was also a mixed-media artist, who in the last years of her life created amazing abstractions of paper, paint, and even charcoal powder. The week before she died, she was carefully painting the ocean in a huge mural to be hung during Aloha Week at Trinity Grove, the nursing home in Wilmington, N. C., where she had lived the last four months of her life. She was as interested and involved and as engaged in the careful application of blue-green paint as she was when she created her wonderful paintings in her fifties and sixties—and seventies and eighties. The application of paint to paper was a joy. Just as for us writers, the application of words to paper gives pleasure.Ruth Hodges
Ruth kept painting, just as Lenore Latimer in Carol’s blog never stopped dancing.
We can gain inspiration from the creativity of others who continue with their art to the end of their lives. Why should we stop? As long as the work we are doing gives us pleasure and engages our senses and our minds, why not continue?
Perhaps, like Mrs. Deleny and my mother, we will discover what it is we have been wanting, or destined, to create, to write, in these later years because truly “some things just take living long enough to do.”