Sunday, May 13, 2012

Honoring my favorite mother

"There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. ~ Martha Graham

My mother, Dorothy Treitmanis an example for us all.  In the photo to the left, she is relaxing at the beach club two months ago after the opening of Pelican Bay's annual Art Exhibition, in which she exhibited two astonishing paintings. To me, she looks 65 in this photo, as she often does lately. Look at her radiant skin, her glossy hair and her sense of serenity.

The truth is that when I came back from Italy 3.5 years ago to be close to her, I was disturbed to see my mom frail, elderly, and withdrawn, adjusting to widowhood two years after my dad left us. Though her recent hip replacement surgery had been a great success, restoring her mobility, I found her in so-so health, often retreating to her room to watch TV.  What I witnessed in her behavior was no reflection of the inner light she had shared with me in frequent emails and monthly overseas phone calls, the inner light that had pulled me back to the U.S. after 20 years in Italy.

My brother Rich and I began urging Mom to improve her diet, purchasing healthy alternatives and showing her how to prepare them. My brother especially urged her to go out and do things she enjoyed, like visit art museums and attend concerts and lectures, and in particular, to start painting again.  I'd say instead that she needed a few years to heal from Dad's passing, and when she was ready she'd rally naturally.  I still  recognized her positive attitude and her life force that was always present underneath, though her apparent frailty made me sad.  I practiced gratitude for her reasonably good health and positive attitude, "stretching it" a bit in my silent words of thanks. 

I don't know whether it was my brother's emphatic encouragement or my patience, prayers and visualizations, in combination with our emphatic recommendations about lifestyle changes, . . . or Mom's natural turnaround that would have occured anyway . . . but she did begin to rally, slowly at first. Then her energy and lust for life rapidly increased, and she dove deeper and deeper into her autonomous art studies.

It seemed to me Mom had always felt the gap in her art education, having interrupted her professional training when she married. She loved fine art as much as she loved design. When she retired from her long career as a textile designer, originally having worked part-time as designer for my father's embroidery business while raising four kids, she created her own "university", attending lectures at art museums, watching DVD's and TV documentaries on great artists, and finally reading the art books she had collected and kept acquiring over a lifetime. She even learned to do research on the internet, and watched interviews with great artists and architects on Youtube.  Gradually she began painting again, as she had throughout her retirement.  Now, when she worked, bent over a table on the lanai, her entire home reverberated with her palpable creative energy. 

A turning point came around her 80th birthday, almost two years ago, when I saw my mother experience an artistic renaissance!  All of her high expertise as a textile designer seemed to integrate with her increasingly empassioned fine art studies. That summer we witnessed what I felt was the birth of a uniquely original masterpiece, the result of her genuine, curious exploration based on solid knowledge, and total faith in herself. I remember one day when I saw the half-finished painting; I was alone and burst out crying because the piece had achieved a life of its own, and I felt its powerful vibration - I was experiencing my mother's life force through her original and unselfconscious work.  

Today I sometimes enjoy standing in front of the framed painting to get myself charged-up! A viewer at the 2012 Pelican Bay Art Exhibition asked her for the rights to use this painting for the cover of her company's annual psychology book, and Mom just signed a contract giving them 15 year rights to use the image (while retaining ownership of the painting and the right to use the image differently).

The story of my mother's renaissance now seems old.  Her health is great and she often looks 15 years younger.  Since her 80th birthday, she has produced a number of remarkable paintings, each one a new and original exploration, an authentic expression of her deep knowledge and her soul's vision.  She is sometimes so obsessed with a painting that she gets up well before sunrise to work on a piece, and there have been days when she's worked 12 hours or more, stopping for a nap or taking a movie break to get recharged. She just had framed a breathtaking largish piece painted on wood panel, possibly her best work to date.  I trust that everything she produces now comes with clarity from her deepest self, as a result of honest and genuine creative research.

In the photo, Mom at Brambles Tea Room last month, thoroughly enjoying scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserves, and English tea.

My mother is fulfilled and happy, knowing how to "turn herself on" through expressing her creativity. At almost 82, she looks forward to many years of artistic productivity and enriching life experiences. Mom has achieved the ability to fully express herself, and by doing so she lives joyfully.  She has become a model for me, and I trust she is a model for you as well.  

I hope you'll remember what I learned from a yoga master in Italy:  "A cherry tree fulfills itself by producing cherries, even if it resides in a remote little cleft of a valley on a mountaintop, where no one ever passes to eat the fruit or enjoy the beauty of its springtime blossoms.  (And by the way, the cherry tree produces cherries without effort.  Making cherries is it's way of being.)  It is essential for us to do what we were each put on earth to do.  Denying the full expression of one's individual talents and gifts, whether or not they produce any measurable gains, inevitably causes illness." (From my article "Tango and Masculinity".)

Now please look at the Martha Graham quote again: "There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost."  

Mom, you're doin' it!  Thank you for inspiring me and everyone who knows you and your work.  Happy Mother's Day!  I love and admire you.

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