Meandering as an art form


I want to recommend artistic creation as a way to change your life rhythm and enhance your quality time with anyone who interacts at a different pace than you.

The rings pictured here were all created as I sat patiently with someone I love who suffers with Parkinson’s Disease and Lewy Body Dementia (LBD). For my loved one movement is very slow… and self-expression even slower. Frequently the complete thought never makes it into the world. Lots of partial thoughts, and lots of guessing: “was this what you were trying to say?” Frequently the guesses are wrong. So frustrating for both of us.

It is tempting to want to rush him through things, or help him with his movements or his thoughts in order to reach the goal more quickly. Generally speaking, I think this is a very bad idea. During this visit I learned to quietly allow him to go at his own pace and do most things himself, as I read his body language to determine when he needed or wanted some assistance.

One of my best strategies for living comfortably within his life rhythm during this visit was bead weaving. It would go something like this:

– Pick up a bead, skip a bead, thread the needle through a bead and pull the string through…

– “So, did you ever live on a farm?”

– …feel the bead click into place. Pick up a bead, skip a bead, thread the needle through a bead…

– “Well, in Wyoming….. we lived near farms.”

– Pull the thread through until the bead clicks into place, pick up a bead…

– “So there were farms near where you lived as a kid in Wyoming?”

– Skip a bead, thread the needle through a bead…

– “Yes, that’s right. The people were….  like those three little girls….”

– Pull the thread through until the bead clicks into place… Pick up a bead…

– “You mean the farmers were Korean, like the little girls from your old neighborhood?”

– Skip a bead, thread the needle through a bead, pull the thread through…

– “Yes, they were Korean.” (grateful look and a nod – glad I was able to make the connection.) “After the war…. ”

– …feel the bead click into place, turn the beadwork to begin the next row, pick up a bead…

– “They were gone.”

– “You mean their land was taken from them, like the Japanese who were put in the internment camps?”

– Skip a bead, thread the needle through a bead…

– “Yes, it was a terrible thing.”

– Pull the thread through…


Through conversations like this, I have learned a few things about my loved one that I never knew before, and I’m not sure I would have been able to carry on the conversation as effectively if I were trying to “drive toward” some knowledge, or had a goal in mind. I was simply meandering with him, starting with a random question, and trusting that it would take us somewhere… much like a thread weaves its way through the beads, eventually creating a fabric that can be shaped to form something useful. I’m still not sure I have the facts of the story entirely correct. His memory might have been hazy – perhaps his long-ago neighbors were actually Japanese; it would match American history a bit better – but what matters is the quality of the moment we shared, when he recalled his feeling of sadness for neighbors who were lost.


10 thoughts on “Meandering as an art form

  1. Beautiful post! Life ebbs and flows within its own rhythm. Rather than being judgmental about someone else being too slow (or too fast!), you’ve adjusted your pace so the rhythms match, like breathing in tandem.

  2. I love this post — a great reminder to take it slower (and how to do it) with people who need more of our time. Sometimes, when I am talking to someone who needs more time (and I don’t have handwork to keep me busy) I start counting my breaths — 1, in; 2, out; 3, in … it slows me down and keeps me grounded — and I have something to occupy me while my conversation partner thinks.

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