Coloring Books

My friend Roseann is back at Orchard Creek—you may remember she’s the one who got me addicted to ‘trash’ magazines where I read about Britney’s bipolar disorder, Madonna’s sex life, and George Clooney’s inability to maintain a relationship. Geese! I don’t even CARE about these people and I deplore most of their ‘artistic’ endeavors—but I love to window-peek on their trivial little lives!

I’ve developed other addictions at Orchard Creek: one is my daily visit to the Ice Cream Parlor at 2 PM in the afternoon. Before you say it—I’ve lost about 20 pounds during this whole ordeal, and one of the secrets is the unavailability of food except at regular times, the daily Ice Cream Parlor being one. Bring on the black cherry in the waffle cone!

And the other addiction is adult coloring books. Not the nudes splashing at the beach type, but the intricate shapes in books of Celtic patterns, Oriental design, Italian tile, and so on. Bethany the Physical Therapist brought this coloring project to OC to divert my attention while I am standing and practicing balance—the theory is that if I am busy with some other project, I won’t realize how long I’ve been balancing on one leg.

Bethany purchased an Oriental Design book, complete with fiery dragons and cherry blossoms, and 50 colored marking pens in lovely colors. Well, that did it. I wheedled the stuff out of the therapy department for the weekend and colored for hours. Then, when I went home, I ordered my own markers and gel pens, and went to Amazon dot com and typed in “Coloring books Adult” and got 25-30 wonderful matches. All the time I was at home, I kept a table close by with the ‘art’ supplies on it, and if I had even just a few moments, I’d color a little more of a design.

As I color, my mind poses some questions for me: why do I like doing this? What’s the source of pleasure? Can I do anything with the finished product, or is it just a transient experience?

There are a few answers. One of the things I keep remembering was my childhood playmate, Connie Wilson, and how much I HATED to color with her. Connie was a perfect color-er, and was ALWAYS between the lines. She delighted in pointing out my mistakes, and we would fight over them—if she made a mistake, it was artistic license, and if I made one it was sheer incompetence. I was very competitive with her, because she was so perfect and tiny and smart. I even threw her in the watercress pond because she told me how well she could swim. The only problem with my plan to hold her to the truth was that she and I were dressed in wool coats and leggings which even Weissmuller would have a hard time managing…. but as she was floundering around, she taunted, “See! I am swimming!”

So now, the coloring compliments mean much to me: “Oh, how minute! How intricate! How painstaking!” Normally, I wouldn’t care if people thought me minute, intricate, or painstaking. These are not attributes I cherish. But thanks to Connie Wilson, now I do, I do.

I also enjoy solving the puzzle of a detailed, black and white design. As I ad the colors, the design appears and takes on life. Of course when I make a mistake, like a wrong color which spoils everything, it’s really torture to finish it, but I do, thinking all the time: “Peach was a dumb color to use as background. Why didn’t I select orange?” So yes, there is a learning experience here, and an identification of successful and unsuccessful choices.

But most of all, I enjoy the simple mindlessness of the task. The design has been completed for me, and many cases I am familiar enough with the traditional colors (I have a great book that uses designs from the Irish Book of Kells), or I can do a little studying of the history of the designs and try to remain true to the genre. But as I color I am thinking about the personal issues lurking in the back of my mind, and I find myself discovering solutions that a relaxed intelligence can create.

If you come to Orchard Creek, my room is the one of 24 that has a doorway with a permanent art exhibit. I just finished a tessellation of lions, and there are Persian tile designs, Celtic illuminations, Chinese dragons, and stained glass patterns. I often hear people outside my door as they visit my gallery, and many, many folks say things like “Wow. Coloring! I used to love to color.” And I think, “Well, you didn’t know Connie Wilson, so coloring will be even more fun for you because you don’t have a ghost from your past which keeps whispering, “You moron! You’ve gone outside the lines again!” Just pick up a set of colored markers and an ‘adult’ coloring book at Michaels, or Amazon dot com, and go for it. Even morons can have fun….

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