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Creating stuff and talking to old people


Yesterday I responded to a Facebook post from a woman facing a set back. She was taking a short break away, and asked what people recommended that lifted their mood when they were in a slump. Straight away I replied that "creating stuff and talking to old people" were my things. My favourite things, that always make me feel good. And once I had typed it I sat back and thought, now where did that come from?

Creating stuff, yes. Art is my passion, but talking to old people?...

A few Fridays ago I went out to the Currabubula Show. This trip was planned to nourish my soul with the goodness of all things arty, and for a very modestly sized village, one thing that Currabubula knows how to do is deliver. The first paintings you saw when you walked in the door were full of beautiful light and deep shadows, amazing landscapes ready to whisk you away to another place. And the gems kept coming around every corner.

But one thing about visiting an art show on a week day is that almost the entire patronage is over 60. Perhaps 70. Which made me one of the youngest people through the door at the time. And I just love it. Old people are, almost without exception, so friendly and un-intimidating. They are almost always up for a chat about anything, and you don't have to be profound or intelligent or impressive. No pressure, just be interested.

I loved listening to them whisper solemnly about the choices of the judges, especially the "controversial" calls, and ooh and ahh over their favourite artists, styles and techniques.

I also had a lovely conversation with one of the artists-in-residence, an older man from Quirindi-way who was painting small oils and showing off his very accomplished technique. He spoke enthusiastically about wonderful familiar landmarks, current and long-gone, all subjects remembered in his paintings.

And then I sat down and had a proper CWA morning tea with an old lady sitting on her own outside, and we chatted about this and that, the weather and art and how many of what kind of children we had. And despite the intention to go to the show to absorb some arty beauty, it turned out that the beauty of meeting these oldies was the highlight of my day.

I guess I do know where it came from... my early years were spent living with my grandparents and great-grandma along with my parents, two aunts and my cousin. It was such a nurturing start to life to have so many relatives around me, loving me, teaching me and influencing my interests.

When I turned 16 I took a job in a retirement village, relishing the fact that almost every old duck and drake took me under their wing and treated me like family. And since then I have been lucky enough to work in Aboriginal communities where every Elder, Auntie and Uncle is eager to adopt (conscript) you into their own philosophies of life, the universe and everything.

What is it about old people having gotten past all of the false pretences that so many others are swept along by? I am grounded by their quiet wisdom and the sense that nothing matters so much as people.

So it turns out that creating stuff and talking to old people makes me happy. And what a wonderful place that is to be.


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