painting by L. Diane Johnson
Last week I noticed an elderly woman in a restaurant in Carmel, California where I was lunching with my Mom. She was dining alone and seemed to be having the most enjoyable, leisurely time of it. She wore khaki capris, a plain white shirt and a straw garden hat with a silver ponytail trailing out from under it. Her lined face was beautiful ... she reminded me a bit of the late Jessica Tandy, actually. I commented to my Mom, "Now there's a typical Carmel lady." Artsy, beachy, unpretentious, maybe on the wealthy side (I mean really, it's Carmel).
My mom and I enjoyed on own leisurely and scrumptious lunch ... big wedges of the most divine deep-dish veggie quiche and gorgeous fruit. (Okay, and coconut cream pie and a latte.) As I watched this Carmel lady, the writer in me immediately launched into conjuring up the details of her life.
She was an artist, of course. (Because it is Carmel, the city of galleries.) She's just taken a break from a gratifying morning of painting in her glorious garden. She's a regular here at this restaurant, dropping in often for lunch or a croissant and cappuccino. There is warmth in her eyes as she smiles at the waitress who brings her salad. She is friendly and welcoming.
Yet she is a loner in many ways. She loves her solitude and her creative time. It feeds and nourishes her soul. She has learned that using her gifts and talents and sharing them with the world is the most powerful connection to God. She is at a point in her life where she doesn't care what other people think. She's over it. She imperfect and worthy and grateful for every blessing that has come into her path. She is overwhelmingly content with her art, her house full of books and memories, her daily stroll on the beach, and her devoted family and friends.
Yes, as I painted the picture of her life I painted my own. This is who I hope to be in my 70s and 80s; I want the Carmel lady's life. Funny thing is, I feel like I'm well on my way. Over the years I've managed to wiggle myself from a place of self-doubt into a place of celebrating being an imperfect person living in an imperfect world and feeling utterly worthy of every day I get to stand on the right side of the grass. And I've recently had a return to painting and writing, two passions I've put aside for years. I've learned you can't turn away from these things .... they will come back after you because they are part of who you are at your core. Writer Mary Jo Putney says, "What one loves in childhood stays in the heart forever." Words that ring so true. And so ........
This is who I was.
This is who I am .
This is who I will be.
(You never know how much you might inspire somebody, just by sitting there eating a salad. Thank you, beautiful Carmel lady.)