The weather has been grey, with a steady, smart breeze, for three days now. Something large hangs off the coast: you can smell the sea. We need some sunshine.
Yesterday afternoon I taught my Alzheimer's painting class. A full house, new and old faces. Favorite students ares slipping away; new ones have joined us. One woman, once so calm, frets and repeatedly asks, what are we doing? I don't know why I'm here. Another, a former engineer, still smiles and enjoys the painting but the images he produces are much more simple than two months ago. A third, lovely, genteel woman, now has visible trouble making the brush go where her mind would will it. I rest my hand lightly on her frail one; we draw together. She smiles.
Yesterday, for some reason, the class was full of energy. The work spilled out so fast I was running around the table. Perhaps they've learned, about simplifying the image, about being free to make any mark. Perhaps there was a group activity in the morning. Perhaps everyone had a good night's sleep. Who knows?
One student put little dots, like a horizon, across her painting. I was so charmed, I had everyone do the same. I love the rhythm of those marks. Another spent considerable time painting the horizontal stripes made by the ripples in the glass that held the flowers. I showed him how to paint little marks that say "birds" to the viewer. "It's all magic tricks," I tell them, "It's like writing. These are symbols. Not the real thing. No one can paint the real thing. But with your paint, you tell someone else about what you saw, and how it made you feel."
Most of all I love how they unwind and focus during our hour together. Breath relaxes. Trouble floats away. Each person comes into the moment: Paint, color, line. At the end, I thank each one for coming. From the heart, I mean it. They are a highlight in my week, and put so much into perspective for me.