Monthly Archives: September 2016

Live More Creatively After 60



The word pings into my mind in blue and gold. It sparkles and has curlicues. It’s rather alarming.

For a long time I gave creativity a very constrained meaning. ‘Creative’ people published novels, had exhibitions, renovated houses from top to bottom. If you’d asked, I’d have said I wasn’t creative at all. I was too busy marshalling my family’s everyday life.

Time to Live Creatively

It’s different, now that there’s time to reflect and explore. Creativity can become a way to live.

At times it can even give that start of blue, gold and glittery joy, but more often it’s a quiet glow of pleasure and satisfaction. What I know now, is that it’s a creative act to:

creativity**pick a flower from the garden and stick it in a wine bottle
**take a few minutes to compose a funny, kind or interesting text
**arrange ordinary objects in a way that catches the eye

Little acts of creativity weave a slender thread of delight through life, and make it more colourful, fun and interesting.

Bigger acts – hell, they are creative too. Raising a child. Pursuing a career. These are missions which call on us to troubleshoot, respond, decide, control – on the hoof and often with no experience.

So Many Ways to be Creative

Now that everyday life is less frantic, there are endless opportunities to bring your ingenious mind into play. Over just the last few weeks, thanks to friends who are embracing their creativity, I’ve eaten a still life of a tomato/mozzarella/basil salad; perused the draft of a novel; enjoyed a short story; heard a poem; played a duet; sat in a garden with swathes of late flowering plants tumbling over each other in a riot of colour. There is nowhere in life where creativity can’t burst out.

You can even tackle the most mundane household tasks in creative fashion. Revered Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh suggests we become fully alive even to tasks such as cleaning the loo with the advice to: ‘invest of yourself into the cleaning and make it a joyful practice’. Try it!  With this mindset there really is a pleasure to brushing and
swishing, and leaving the porcelain fragrant and glistening.

Once you’re alive to it, there are creativity chances everywhere, tiny ways to add beauty or a smile to everyday life.

Notice too how one small act of creativity leads to another, and how a string of mini creativities lead to something bigger.

Fear of Creativity

There’s a lot that can hold us back in the quest to be more creative. The anti-fun gremlins will be out in force.

What will people think? They won’t approve. I’ll look stupid. I won’t be able to do it. I never finish things. It’s a bad idea. I’m no good at….

If you’re scared of flexing your creativity muscles, remember that inventiveness can be minuscule and for your eyes only. It needn’t be enormous and out there in the world unless you want it to be. The choice is always yours.

So if you’re not yet ready to embark on the novel, just make a decision to relax, and write a couple of paragraphs every day, about anything.

Take the first small step. Take the next. That’s all there is to it. But take that first step.

Creative Choices

There are so many things to do and explore for us who are privileged to have arrived at a time of more freedom.

Sit awhile now, and think about a creative desire or two that you have.

Today, mine are to:
find a pattern to knit a pair of alpaca fingerless mitts for winter flute-playing
start a Dropbox file ‘family memories’ to share with my children
choose new colours for my kitchen that remind me of Cornwall

What are yours? Now’s the time. Please leave a comment by clicking on Leave a Reply at the top of this page, and share your creative desires.

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The Joy of Mindful Deadheading

deadheading marigolds

I am no gardener but I found a new way to tend my plot this morning which has left me feeling calm, and looking forward to doing some more. This is not the norm.

On my ‘essential’ list for the day were ‘meditate’ and ‘sort out pots’ –  the pots being my few containers of marigolds which have been horribly neglected.

There was less than an hour before I had to go out and say goodbye to any possible pot and meditation time. That didn’t feel like long enough to do either of them properly.

A Helpful Gift

Then I remembered a gift I’d been given by K, in my meditation group. She’d presented us all with a copy of Exercise 6: A Deadheading Meditation from a lovely book, The Art of Mindful Gardening by Ark Redwood. I had stuffed my copy into the back of a notebook, thinking quietly, ‘…this isn’t for me’.

And now I was being offered a chance to multi-task in a mindful and productive way. I read the instructions: ‘…stand in front of the plant you wish to work on…bring your awareness to your breath and posture…when you feel centred and calm…mindfully pick up your secateurs…regard the plant…this is a process in which the two of you are involved…’

Okay… This would be quite a change from dashing out, snipping furiously and rushing off to do something less garden-y.

Take Time to Breathe

I stood by my marigold pot, breathed and gradually became aware of the flowers. The richness of gold, orange and garnet petals with their serrated edges, the feathery leaves. How gorgeous, what a cheerful splash of vibrancy.

I snipped a few deadheads and noticed the sharp, sappy smell wafting up. Snipped a few more. Was it my imagination, or was the little cluster starting to look more relaxed, freer?

The cat came to join me, rubbing my hand as I manoeuvred my snippers. Instead of pushing her away, I took a moment to tickle her ears. Satisfied, she plopped down in the shade.

The thought came: ‘This is pure enjoyment.’ The whole process had a truly meditative quality.

First Start, then Follow your Inspiration

Inspired, I moved on to a rambling rose entangled in a mass of honeysuckle and purple clematis hanging over the neighbour’s fence. Generally, I’d look at that morass of greenery, shake my head and leave it.

Today, I wriggled my way in among the branches and pulled down a twisting stem of late roses. Face to face with the tiny flowers, I could see the detail I’d never notice from a distance – the intense apricot in the bud, which is no bigger than a pea, and which turns to creamy off-white when the tiny frilled medallion of a flower opens. Subtle fragrance was all around me.

A grey-green clematis creeper twined its way through the brighter leaves, and I found myself entranced by the head of a climbing hydrangea, a mix of seed heads and tiny open green flowers, trembling slightly as I reached round them to snip away at the roses.

Who would think that a numinous moment awaited in the shrubbery?

All you gardeners know this already. But for someone whose usual feeling about the garden is that I like sitting in it, but nothing grows for me, and keeping it tidy is just another chore, this was an unlooked for delight.

Respect to Marigolds

The final instruction of the Deadheading Meditation is the bit I like best: ‘When you feel satisfied that you have accomplished this practice, gently bow to the flower, and smile.’

How pleasurable to take a brief moment to make that communication with nature.

Half an hour had passed. Pots sorted. Meditation accomplished. And this is how mindfulness enters into daily life.

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New Creativity Beyond 60 – Learn Upholstery

A chair in need of re-upholstery

This chair had bugged me for years. Threadbare, the stuffing hanging out, it looked pathetic. But it had a lovely shape and was so comfortable. All it needed was a spot of loving care.

‘I’ll re-cover it,’ I said.

I didn’t.

20+ years passed. The chair lived in the spare room, and then as the children grew it took refuge in a teenager’s bedroom,  buried under a sea of discarded clothing.

Even when the child was long gone, the chair stayed in her room, dusty and unloved, a reproachful un-begun project.

Impulsively one day I dragged it downstairs, tucked a blanket over to hide its shameful state, and placed it by a window in a perfect spot for a morning coffee. And there it stood, for another 18 months.

Somehow I couldn’t bring myself to start the rescue job. I was game to tackle it, but doing it alone? In the quiet house? Not fun.

YouTube? Or a teacher?

And that’s how my chair and I came to spend a morning down among the cornfields, in a warehouse near Bungay in deepest Suffolk, where upholstery happens under the expert guidance of Libby and Tam, two young professionals who met at upholstery school and set up business together as Perkins & Gibbs.

Giving it some welly with the tack-lifter

Giving it some welly with the tack-lifter

I’m set to work by Libby. ‘Get that old cover off, and let’s see what we’ve got.’

To my surprise, I love the hammering. It’s great to use my body, feel the strength of my hands, and give full concentration to prising those stubborn gimp pins OUT.

Assured and confident, Libby has a passion for bringing dishevelled chairs and sofas out of ruination and back to a state of beauty.  She peers at my chair frame, runs an expert thumb over it – I’ve missed a tack.

‘Get him out. Put the tack lifter just there, get it well under…push, push, push…use the mallet…if it doesn’t just lift out, tap down… There!’

It is so much more enjoyable to be guided, taught and inspired by a real live teacher, than to follow a video on YouTube. To share the pleasure of a tack well-lifted, and the careful process of restoration. And it’s stimulating to work with people who love their craft.

Making a thing of beauty

With a firm hand Libby smooths the calico firmly over the underlying wadding, caressing it into shape over the edge of the seat. ‘We’re going to add a lovely billowy layer of polyester wadding, like collagen under the skin [she was a beautician in a former life]. It’ll give the corners a beautiful rounded shape.’

Collagen may be seriously lacking under my corners these days, but at least I can make my chair invitingly plumptious.

There are 3 students in today, and with all of us working away there’s a good feeling of warmth and friendliness, coupled with a strong sense of purpose and creativity. I feel relaxed, at home. Nearby a puppy snoozes in a basket as its owner stretches an embroidered cloth on to the seat of the delicate bedroom chair she’s restoring. Each step is discussed and considered, and we offer opinions on each others’ work as we progress through the morning.

I’m brought tea, offered biscuits.  There’s a bit of chat, but never at the expense of the tasks in hand. Outside, seen across of the stable door, a peaceful cornfield stretches away in the sunshine.

Fabrics, with their glorious colours and textures, are exclaimed over and fondled like newborn babies . My chair will be resplendent in a bold choice of rich purple velvet trimmed with a soft orange braid. Both these colours echo shades in curtains and pictures in the room where the chair will live, which I’ve decorated freshly for this stage of my life.

‘I love the care you’ve taken to think this colour scheme through,’ says Libby and I feel as proud as if teacher had given me a gold star.

It’s about being inspired

I could have done this alone with YouTube and even made a passable job. Working here, I’m inspired and encouraged. It has cost me some money, but it’s saved me having to buy materials and tools, so the outlay is offset.

The real gain though, is in my mood of excitement and satisfaction as I drive away from the warehouse in the cornfield, until my next session when we are going to ‘tackle the back’!

And that is what exploring new interests is about now that I’m beyond 60 and am not in a rush.

It’s not just in the doing. It’s in the sharing.

Beyond 60 is born today

I am so excited, because today, 1 September 2016, is the birthday of my blog – Beyond 60.

I’ve been pregnant with it for a good six months. My notebook of ideas is burgeoning fit to burst, those sudden thrilling twinges of inspiration are getting closer and closer together – and now we’ve reached the planned due date and I’m in labour!

All I’ve got to do is focus. Forget all the stuff that gets in the way of creativity, drop the texting, list-making, life-admin and other distractions, and put every ounce of energy into getting this creation out of my head, and into the world.

It’s time right now to take a mighty gulp of gas and air, give one eye-watering push and and deliver Beyond 60, live and kicking.

Ooph, Ouch…and with one breathtaking click of the Publish button, Wow…here it is! A beautiful newborn blog.

Welcome, Beyond 60. You may not be big or perfect just yet, but with a good dash of hard work, love and hope we’ll soon have you bonny, bouncing and starting to grow.

Happy Birthday!