Our farm in Iowa, painted by my dad.

Aug 30, 2023–More and more I am convinced the secret to life, longevity, health, growth, vibrancy, use of endless descriptive nouns… is simply this: Keep doing stuff.

And not just menial stuff. Although you have to do that. Just as we are–again–purging clutter as we move children along on their own life journeys. In this process, I dug out a painting my dad did in what to me seemed like old age, although he was probably half the age I am now.

The painting is a Grandma Moses-style scene of our growing-up farmstead. The stucco house and red barn sit on a Grant Wood hill, atop a quilt of gravel roads and board fences. It is the only art I have hanging in my house. I hang it not for its beauty, but for what it taught me.

Because before my dad painted anything, he was just a dad. When he announced he was taking a painting class, it made me see him as something else–a person.

In the 1960s, parents were like those grownups in Peanuts cartoons–trombone sounds in the background. They left the house, did mysterious things, and brought home groceries and pants for us to grow into.

But now, dad didn’t come home every evening. For the next several weeks we watched as this new person in our family dutifully went to art class. We looked on with interest as he brought home sketchbooks filled with his exercises. He really was quite good at drawing, even though he sold TVs for a living.

The culmination of the class was to complete a landscape in oil. He chose to paint our family farm, a fitting subject that perhaps made his foray into the art world more acceptable to the pragmatic neighbors who believed paint was only for putting on barns.

When he brought home the finished piece, we were duly impressed. It was a painting that looked like our farm. And it was painted by our dad. The old dog had learned a new trick. Which allowed 10-year-old me to believe that we could learn new things even behond the age of 40.

For 50 years, the painting hung at the farmstead above the Lowry organ, which represented another new skill our dad picked up in middle age. After my parents died and siblings purged a farm-full of memories, that painting was the one artifact I wanted. It now hangs in our living room.

It inspires me to keep “doing stuff.” Stuff like clogging, tapping, and tweeting, learning violin, acting, and writing. Always writing.

So if you have always wanted to learn to dance, or sing, or weld, or write a song, but just haven’t got around to it, consider taking a class. Paint a picture of your house. Paint a picture of yourself. Heck, paint your barn. Do something.

Do it for yourself. And do it for that 10-year-old kid still inside all of us.