Monday, 9 September 2013

Looking Forward

Last week at school, our technician (I don't know what else to call her, but she's the one who does all the day-to-day stuff like fixing the machines, feeding the cat, and taking care of plants in the greenhouse) said she felt like she had wasted half her life.

Now, I'm sure she's younger than I am, and I haven't hit the halfway mark for my biblical threescore-and-ten yet. So I asked her what she meant. And she said that most of the people she knew didn't do much after they hit 60. I'm afraid I may have snorted a bit disbelievingly, and I told her she must be hanging out with the wrong people.

Done at 60? In this day and age? Most of the people I know who are that age are more active and involved than half their juniors (and could probably run circles around me).

It's not even a modern thing, though. A lot of great ideas and inventions and books and talent have come from people who were seniors. Last week, coincidentally, I was reading a book about Mary Granville Pendarves Delaney that I came across randomly in the library. It was titled 'Mrs. Delaney (begins her life's work) at 72'.

Mrs. Delaney was born in 1700 and lived into her 80's. And when she was 72 or 73, after she had outlived two husbands and a sister, she essentially invented a form of mixed-media collage, making pictures of flowers and plants so detailed and realistic that I had to look closely at the pictures in the book to assure myself they weren't paintings. But no, they were cut from paper in little pieces and glued to a background, and a few have leaves of real plants included. She managed to make close to a thousand of them (which she called Flower Mosaicks) before her eyesight became too bad for her to continue. Plantsmen sent her specimens to copy. The mosaicks were recognized by royalty, some were presented to royals and celebrities, and she herself was mentioned in poems by some of the writers of the age. They are now collected and housed in London, and people can still see them to marvel over.

Think of it. This old lady, in the era of the American Revolution, sitting at her friend's house in Britain and doing all this detailed dissecting of flowers and fine cutting of paper to reproduce their portraits. Think of the fine, sure cutting to get the fringed petals of a passion flower or the tendrils of a pea plant, the tiny pieces required for the spots on a lily (she even cut multiples for those to get realistically raised dots).

Nope, I think our tech's got it backwards. By the time we get to 60, there'll still be a lot of possibilities for beginning.

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