Will you still need me when I’m 64?

Photo by Edu Carvalho on Pexels.com

Singing this song as a young person always brought a heartwarming scene of happy elders, together after all these years. With no clue about what was to come! I couldn’t have anticipated the bumps along the road from 24 to 64. But here I am, well into “the new 40” recently thrust into early retirement. Well, there’s another concept I can’t quite identify with! I’m still voraciously curious, wanting to eat up the beauty of the world.

2008_02_26_Evans_CatholicDiocese_ph_ChurchOn the Move

In October I moved from Maryland to central Pennsylvania. Now I live with my longtime friend Mark, who returned to his hometown a few years ago. He welcomed me with 3 cats, an awesome generosity! My new tiny town has no traffic, dozens of mom & pop diners, old wooden houses marching up and down ancient hills. Alas, there is no Trader Joe’s, no Vietnamese restaurant, and not enough Uber business. But it has trains rumbling through the night, and church bells that ring! I am surrounded by forested hills with rocky-toothed crowns, filled with deer and bear and bobcat. And it SNOWS!!!! I can tell this is my new happy place.

Sad Farewell

lilyheadIn the throes of relocation I had to say goodbye to my beloved companion, Lily, the most loving (and the most difficult) dog I’ll ever know. I carry a dog-shaped hole in my heart, and being back in Maryland for a bit, she is everywhere. I love you Lily, and I always will.

So happy birthday to me, who once sang (with gusto) “Hope I die before I get old!” I changed my mind. I’m curious to see what time will bring at 64 and beyond.

A poem for today:

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.

But is there for the night a resting-place?
A roof for when the slow, dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
You cannot miss that inn.

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
They will not keep you waiting at that door.

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
Yea, beds for all who come.

“Up-Hill” by Christina Rossetti.



For a Michigander, summer seems to last forever in the Southern Maryland. Of course, I’ve been preoccupied with the Big Move, but today, a fortnight past Equinox and I’m marveling: suddenly the forest has been glazed with transparent  yellow. Leaves are floating to earth on the steady breeze off the river like a shower of golden coins.

new abode

My new abode is in the same neighborhood, but a world away. As someone who craves wilderness and loves the river I’m in heaven. From my former home I could walk to the bank, library and grocery, and often heard the highway sounds, despite my wooded setting. Now, I hear only the wind (boats and planes too, occasionally).

My former house was a grand home, a generously proportioned and welcoming space. I adored it and enjoyed it to the hilt. As a single woman I managed to create a family home: a place of gathering, shelter and community. I built the most wonderful art workspace I’ve ever had, and I shared my hearth with many beloved friends and fascinating strangers. The house earned many names: Clearwell, School of Witchcraft & Artistry, Home for Wayward Girls, Pet Cemetery and finally, the name that stuck: The Holy Unpredictable Manor.

Alas, in recent years the Holy Unpredictable Manor came to be more of burden than I wanted to carry. More time, more money were needed to keep up the property, and I was changing, moving toward  something new, where my efforts and direction were not based so much in the material world. I see it in my creative life as well. Having just purged and relocated my studio, joyfully selling and giving art to many people and places, I’m struck by the physical load of my painters life.

Writing is occupying more of my attention, as is digital art, and these are so much more portable than the crates of supplies and stacks of canvases I just relocated.

new outdoor studio

I’m not abandoning my painting. My love of that 15th century technology goes on, there are landscapes I long to dwell in on canvas. And I have students now, a new generation curious about the Old Ways. But I see a bigger picture, and a smaller footprint, for my life going forward.

Art Moves Us, and I am Moving Art!

I’m in the throes of moving my household, but more importantly, my studio. This is the part of the house I will miss the most, since my new temporary space doesn’t have such a wonderful workspace. But I’ve discovered treasure buried in the challenge of going through nearly ten years of artistic accumulation.

It’s wonderful to see all my work together.

My helper hung it all over the house, floor to ceiling: recent, older, small, large, figure and landscape, she hung things I would never have considered finished or for public view. I sold some of  those! Maybe my evaluation of my own work isnt always the best evaluation.

Some of my old work is much better than I originally thought.

Chartres Cathedral ©2008 Patrise Henkel

Said helper put stacks of unfinished canvases outside for people to rummage through, and a neighbor appeared at the cashier table with one I was surprised to see. I was selling canvases to be repainted, and this was a heartfelt painting I never finished, as I lost my confidence in it. Seeing it again years later it looked pretty amazing to me, and I had a major pang of regret that I hadn’t completed it. I looked at my neighbor, a fellow artist, and saw how much she admired it, enough to buy it and hang it in her home. I felt the tug of the old ways of thinking, and caught myself making disclaimers and apologies for it not being better. Then I saw her post about it on Facebook. I can let my work move out in the world, making room for the art that’s waiting to come in NOW. Wow.

I can throw out old work.

I used to be afraid I could never recreate something, so I had to hang onto things to prove I’d done them. In a way, that’s true — I’ll never make things that same way again. But I can create new, anytime. I trust my Muse!

Moving on is important, and clearing out the old makes room for the new life and creativity to come. So Out with the Old! If you want a bargain on some art, leave a comment.

Resistance to Change

Henkel Flour Mill, Cleveland OH

I heard it took extra dynamite to destroy the foundations of the old Henkel Flour mills, when the Detroit riverfront docks were being renovated. It pleases me that my great-grandfather’s legacy was so stubborn.

Odd, since I so often want to smash the past and break that rigid shell of pretending we were all shiny happy people. I want to get to the real and painful stories underneath.

This is not to say I don’t grieve the past. When what seemed so solid falls away like so much superfluous skin, I clutch and cling, railing against the tide, imagining I must have done something wrong.

Perhaps it’s not really appropriate to get “comfortable” with “change.” Once I am comfortable, I want things to hold still.