Monday, February 6, 2012
I must tell you about a book that has been entrancing me for several months. "The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins her Life Work at Age 72" by Molly Peacock has been on my nightstand since summer. I have not found the words to describe it until now and even so, I am still not sure I can do it justice.
The title tells us that Mrs. Delany did not get going until age 72 and we learn what a remarkable feat it was for a widow who should have been in the dotage of her life, to create art in the form of paper flower "mosaicks" that are still intriguing us more than 200 years later. As Molly Peacock draws parallels with her own life and Mrs. Delany's, I draw them with mine, Mrs. Delany's AND Ms. Peacock's.
So many women give up at a certain age, often well before the age Mrs. Delany began cutting her flower mosaicks. They stop going to movies, reading books, connecting with friends, creating loveliness. In all fairness, physical ailments may be the cause of some of this but certainly Mrs. Delany must have had arthritic fingers as she snipped at her colorful papers. Certainly her eyesight had deteriorated a bit by age 72. Yet this heartbroken widow, at the home of her best friend one morning, saw a red geranium petal fall to the floor and upon studying it began to replicate it with scissors and paper. The work consumed her until over 1000 mosaicks were created.
My interest in Mrs. Delany was piqued enough that I read three other books about her, including a book of excerpts from her letters where she pontificated on all manner of things from fashion and dining to how to properly discipline children. Her fascinating life still fascinates as I pluck her message of second chances and never giving up. That there is life after deep sorrow, that the human spirit can continue despite physical limitations, that one can pick up scissors, needle, pen, and begin anew. That craft heals and that we as women, can be vital, happy and productive well into our golden years. The best is yet to be....
(More about Mrs. Delany in subsequent posts)