Saturday, January 30, 2010

Lessons not to be brushed off

Today at my watercolor lesson (a six-week course from the local community college) I learned to do something that—if I ever knew—I’d forgotten: How to almost start over with a watercolor painting you don’t like. Run it under water until the color has washed down the drain. The remaining picture is a faint color-patch of your first, less than successful, attempt. You can start all over again using its outline. That exercise got me to thinking about life.

If we’re lucky, we can wash away our mistakes so they fade to a faint memory. But the residue of them never completely disappears. Whether or not we still remember our booboos, they carpet each day’s overlay of activities. Hopefully, we benefit from that foundation and choose good and enduring actions because of them.

Another exercise in class today was painting upside down. First we drew the subject. Then we turned our drawings upside down and filled in colors using only shapes—not our pre-conceived notions of what the lemons, vase, pears, or flowers looked like. That got me to thinking about how helpful it could be to try doing a routine task “upside down.” I get in such a rut, always doing things the same way.

Take housecleaning, for instance. Last week I vacuumed the family room using a different electrical outlet from the one I usually select for the vacuum. I found myself thinking, Wow, after twenty-years of doing it one way, how come I never tried using this plug before? That experience made me look around for other fresh ways to do chores—or maybe not do them at all.

I don’t mean to suggest that “all I really need to know I learned in my watercolor class,” but I’m sure there are more life lessons to be had. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, try doing a routine task “upside down,” like brushing your teeth while holding your toothbrush with your 'other' hand. Shaking it up can be invigorating.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sally---I'm glad you tried using a different outlet! That was hilarious, not sure that you meant it to be, but that outlet scenario really got me laughing. Here's another exercise to build some new neuro pathways: shower with your eyes closed.