Forget Memory – Try Imagination

Where did you goI sit and watch as my mother desperately tries to remember my name. She sighs with frustration and then smiles saying, “We are related, aren’t we dear?” For several years, my responses as I see her mounting frustration and self-criticism are either “Memory is overrated” or “I can keep that memory for you mum.” Intuitively, I knew that there needed to be another way to communicate that didn’t rely on memory, that honoured the way my mum strung together disparate thoughts to explain her experience, but I didn’t have a vocabulary or framework for what I was sensing. Then I learned about the  Imagination Network. If memory is deteriorating, there is imagination. And how to foster imagination? Start with creativity, the arts, storytelling. My heart is singing.

One of the processes that the Imagination Network is using is called Time Slips, based on the work of Anne Basting. In 1996, Anne wondered if the improvisation and creative drama techniques would be helpful for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. After trying many reminiscence-based techniques, Basting shifted toward imagination – and the improvisation sessions took off. With pressure to remember removed, imagination took flight. Using an evocative photograph as a starting point, a facilitator guides people with dementia through a process to create a story. Then, a team of professional media and theatre artists, a group of community members—consisting of caregivers, family, seniors and volunteers—will design, create and produce new media and theatre works that reflect the original responses to the photographs. It is exciting to have this project underway here at the Good Samaritan Christenson Village. (I am looking forward to participating in a TimeSlips session. Look for the results during the Sunshine Coast Arts Crawl this fall.)

This is the (r)evolution in eldercare that I am seeking. I know in my bones that creativity and the arts have the power to transform lives. I know in my heart that our elders deserve better care, especially those with dementia. The arts in care facilities can be much more than a craft session. Using tools such as TimeSlips we can value our elders’ experiences and allow them to gift us with their expression. A deep bow of gratitude to all who are involved in this work. Now, to find some photos to show my mum. I wonder what stories she will create?

Watering the Seeds of Beauty

Restorying WEBSpring Equinox has arrived on the west coast with a heavy rainfall warning and I am delighted. The grey light is a sharp contrast to the  bright yellow of forsythia and the soft pinks of magnolia and cherry blossoms. This is a highly charged Equinox as it occurs at the same time as a New Super Moon and a Solar Eclipse. We are in the cosmic balance point that is crying to us to shed the our heavy coats and into Spring with new life and a fresh vision. It is the time to plant seeds in the moist, dark soil.

So I ask myself, what will I shed and what seeds will I plant? Winter was full of self-doubt and a sense of having lost my direction. So full of “I don’t know”. I would like to leave the self-doubt and confusion behind. Curiously, I find myself wanting to plant the seed of “I don’t know” and see what happens if I water it with love, patience and presence, rather than trying to figure things out or avoiding the inquiry all together.

Thank Goddess for the canvas, the portal to my soul’s wisdom. So I stand before a canvas, having painted a cosmos as a portal of possibility and I pose the question “How may I serve?” How may I serve the “I don’t know” of these times? How may I serve the planet, our beloved Pachamma? What is this calling to paint asking of me?

The answer surprises me. Receive. Learn to Receive. Receive deeply and honestly. What would happen if I learned to receive the beauty that surrounds me? If I learned to receive my own beauty? What if I started to water the seeds of beauty that lie hidden in the I don’t know? What would our world look like if we fully received each other and the beauty inherent in each day? I wonder.

So I wonder, what seeds will you plant, water and tend this Spring?