Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Georgia O'Keeffe: childless artist

Georgia O'Keeffe never had children. A famous artist of the 20th century, she started painting in her teens and continued into her 90s. She lived a fascinating life. Married to Alfred Steiglitz, an art patron and her mentor, she wanted to have children but agreed with him that motherhood was incompatible with her art. She needed to focus all of her attention on her painting, and that's what she did.

Okeeffe was a strange woman who dressed in black and shunned the company of other people. She spent most of her life living alone in an adobe house in the desert. She became known at first for painting huge vivid flowers that seemed to some to be loaded with sexual imagery. Later she fell in love with the American Southwest and painted many scenes of the desert and of the bones and rocks she found there. Steiglitz proclaimed that she was the first to present a woman's view of things.

Did she wish she'd had children? Perhaps, but her art was everything.

I just finished reading a fascinating biography of O'Keeffe. Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O'Keeffe by Laurie Lisle tells the story very well. One can find more information about the artist and her work at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum website and at the PBS American Masters site. A Lifetime TV movie about O'Keeffe also tells her story.

This raises the perpetual question: Can a woman be a mother and an artist (writer, dancer, CEO) at the same time?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Let's Count Our Blessings

I pause at a rest stop on the way to Albany and see a young couple playing with an adorable curly-haired baby. I think, oh, I should have had that, but other visions make me glad I missed that stage of life.

I see a pregnant woman walking with difficulty to the restroom, a squalling baby in her arms. I see another pregnant woman in town, pushing her one-year-old in a stroller. She walks heavily, her face bearing the weight of the world. Is she wondering how she got herself into this?

At Fred Meyer, I get in line behind this attractive white-haired woman who has a child somewhere between 18 months and two years old her stroller. The kid is grabbing everything as she tries to put it on the conveyer belt. Grandma is flummoxed. She leaves stuff in the cart and forgets to pay for it, seems totally confused. She sends a bagger off to get her a Coke. He brings regular and caffeine-free, not sure what she wants. She says, "Oh I need the caffeine; I'm taking care of three grandchildren."

I plunk my light bulbs, tea and moisturizer on the conveyer belt, glad I don't have to deal with any of this. Sometimes I feel bad about not having children, but other times, I think, "Oh, thank you, Lord."

Think about it. As much as we might mourn our loss of children, there are some good things about not having children. Let's make a list.

I'll start:

1)I'm not wrestling a child at the grocery store.
2I can go to the bathroom in peace.
3)I'm not exhausted from being pregnant and taking care of a one-year-old at the same time.

What else should be on the list?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Joy of Little Voices

I have been leading the children in song at our Vacation Bible School this week. I'm finding that it's fun. Somewhere along the way, I moved from seeing every child as a reminder of what I don't have to simply enjoying children wherever I find them. They're delightful, all jammed into the pews singing in their high voices, doing all the gestures, up, down, turn around, hands in the sky, hands to the ground, etc. Their young brains learn the songs far quickly than we can. Singing with them allows me to feel young and be goofy, too.

These little guys and girls have boundless energy, so I'm not sorry when they run off to their lessons and someone has else has to worry about keeping them from tearing the place apart. My music gives me a way to interact with them that fits my abilities and my temperament.

If you're grieving over not having children, I understand. I have cried so many tears over this issue, but believe me, it really does get easier. Meanwhile, love the kids around you and know that while you are not a mother, you can play a role in their lives, even if it's singing "Pharoh, Pharoh" to the tune of "Louie, Louie."