This thing called life...and art

Seven sisters 2016
acrylic on linen
Art Gallery NSW
Sydney, Australia
see details below*

Yesterday was one of those surreal days....filled with messages that makes one stop and ponder this thing called life....and art. It was a fabulous day for two it was my birthday and I celebrated it with some very special friends, the ones Mr. H calls my 'heart friends'...those women who I hold near and dear no matter where I am in the world. The second reason for the wealth of 'fabulousness' was all the wonderful birthday messages and responses to my last blog post Pearls of Wisdom...on turning 60. Thank you all! Seek and you shall learn!

Before I continue I should mention that my birthday well and truly started on the 8th of September when my eldest daughter, Miss Christine, cleverly whisked me away for a surprise mother and daughter birthday weekend. The surprise was two days at the Golden Door Health Retreat in the Hunter Valley. A two hour drive from our apartment in Sydney, it was a weekend of wellbeing, pampering and lots of exercise. A reminder that there is no slouching off at sixty....and reminded I was! Thank you Miss Christine! ;)

For my birthday, I  combined one of my favourite spots in the city, the Art Gallery of NSW and a restaurant located within the art gallery, Chiswick  On our way to the restaurant we passed the wonderful painting above, Seven Sisters, a collaborative work by five sisters in the Ken family. 

"The painting is a Seven Sisters story about family protecting and teaching each other. It tells of women being chased by a bad man but being protected by their elder sisters. We have also included the tjala (honey ant), which refers to our country. When we work together as a family we are learning from each other and teaching each other. Our family is strong because we teach all our young women this important Tjukurpa ( the force which unites Anangu with each other and with the landscape).

We know that story so well because the Tjukurpa lives in our minds.

Ken sisters 2016

I love the story behind this painting, the energy and symbolism especially resonated with my 'significant' birthday. If you have read my blog for a while you will know that I pick up on 'signs' wherever I go...for me this was a BIG one...a reminder to appreciate this thing called life... in it's beautiful artistic form.

Speaking of artistic forms...I received the following message from a lovely Australian reader, Maria Bell. An artist and a midwife, she passed on her thoughts to me in my search for pearls of wisdom on turning sixty. I adored her words of wisdom, admit to tearing up more than once and asked if I could share her note as I think there is a message for us all in it. She was happy for me to share...

graceful and giving...a peach tree

From Jeanne 

"Firstly thank you for your blog, l do enjoy reading it, and l loved the recent piece about the artist. l am an artist and l thoroughly agree with her about being in love with the painting as you become one with the painting as you spend time looking at colour, tone, shape and essence of the artwork. It’s the same with life, l remember being very worried about turning thirty as l was not married like all my family and friends. l turned thirty and felt no different to the day before, hence l decided l would only worry about age every ten years. 

 l turned 40 years and then had my second child, l was very fit and walked every day, so l did not find it a problem being an older Mum. Now l am 64 years and l feel the most relaxed, comfortable resilient, patient and at peace that l have ever felt. Still working hard full time, but my down time is very precious. l have many hobbies that I love, and by sixty years of age there is no question as to what you enjoy. 

Nature our greatest teacher shows us that with age there is peace and beauty and grace and aren’t these beautiful attributes to acquire. The many years of your travels will delight your grandchildren if you do eventually have them, and the pleasure on their faces will fill you with great joy. 

l have read many of the books from The Brown Paper Book Club, and they have added to my knowledge and thoughts re life, always a seeker for knowledge of life and other peoples thoughts and discovery’s. Like paintings its the tones, colour essence that make up a life, we cannot have these with youth, youth is like the ripe young peach beautiful to look at, but no nuances, no grace, no signs of resilience and endurance. There are many actresses that show these qualities, Judy Dench, Dianne Keaton,  Meryl Streep, Vanessa Redgrave, Joanna Lumley, and although they are beautiful looking woman, they play parts that show true human nature and different types of woman, and resilient woman, and help us to learn that age can be and is also beautiful. Have you seen Hampstead, my husband and l just loved it. Life is to short to worry about aging, just enjoy every minute of what life gives us.

l am a midwife and l see the new little lives enter the world, and being a nurse l have seen many lives leave this world, l have seen with great sadness both my parents leave this world, but it is with great joy that l now remember them and can talk to them whenever l choose. Our peach tree that l have a photo of my father standing holding a peach that was only a couple of years old, is now 28 years old, blossoming and it is arched over and the branches are very old and the branch that is arched over has so many branches spreading out from it, reaching out, graceful and giving.  This tree teaches me so much about life. 

In my work with Midwifery the one thing that is becoming more apparent is the rise in anxiety that is becoming mammoth, and its so sad to see, many of these women are beautiful looking women but they are anxious about everything. l am sure in your travels in Africa you will have seen some amazing things, but by the look of the women with the photo with your daughter, the women appeared to have a joy of life, a casualness about them, something the women in our culture are loosing very quickly, with so much emphasis on appearance. Your daughter also seems to have that same casual appearance and you must be so proud of her. 

You seem to be having an amazing life, age hasn’t stopped you so far, so why will it in the future.  We have one life to live to the full, that is all we are given. Other discerning things that life teaches us are things like, how ripe does that strawberry taste, picking the best avocado, comfort of a cup of tea, and the delicious taste of that first mouthful of a glass of wine."

Maria Bell

I want to thank Maria again for sharing her thoughts with us, her pearls of wisdom are precious. A reminder to stop and appreciate the little the ripeness of strawberries, the heavy weight of deep hanging peach tree branches, so graceful and giving... and the beauty in art. As I looked at Seven sisters and stood before it with my girlfriends for a photo I counted my blessings for this beautiful thing called life....and art.

Thank you again for making my life such a special one...I am deeply grateful to you all for reading along.

Jeanne xx


The path before me....a light and shadow sign

*More about the painting~ Seven sisters

Ken Family Collaborative
Tjungkara Ken b1969
Yaritji Young bc1954
Maringka Tunkin b1959
Freda Brady bc1961
Sandra Ken bc1968

Pitjantjatjara, Amata, 
Southern Desert region, Australia

Ken sisters 2016

"The Ken sisters were awarded the 2016 Wynne Prize for this painting, transforming the genre of landscape painting in the minds of many Australians."


  1. Jeanne, so happy to know your birthday celebration was such fun! For me, just seeing you take time to continue updating your blog is a gift to all of us who enjoy following you. Blogging seems to be on a downhill slope lately - especially our type without advertising. I will never go that route. Just continue sharing the things in my own life which I hope will remain available to my family at a later time when they may want look back at my life adventures etc.

    The art is fabulous and I'm thinking this is an Aboriginal family. I was not aware of the Southern Desert (but have visited the Aboriginals in the NT and was astonished by their art and their culture) so just read up about it online - so interesting as is all the history of Australia!

    Maria's letter is so beautiful - thanks for sharing with us.
    Looking forward to your stories to come - stay well and happy.
    Love, Mary

    1. Thank you Mary, you are very kind and it is much appreciated. It is interesting to see how we each evolve though this blogging process. I sort of feel like I have taken the 'slow' route...waiting to see which path I will follow and I while I you, it is just nice to share the things that are meaningful in life and hope that like minds find their way. They abundance and we both are so very we both enjoy this thing called life..and art. xx

  2. WELL, MARIA NAILED IT!!!!!!!!!!!
    HAPPY MONTH!!!!!!!!!Pave the way for me and others................
    I do STOP and smell the ROSES and find beauty in the Details.This definitely came later in life for me.Maria's observation on the AFRICAN women was spot on as I had a similar thought about how HAPPY they were with SO LITTLE!
    You were spoken about yesterday between Cindy and myself..........little did we remember it was your BIRTHDAY!We have an OFFER for YOU!CINDY will be in TOUCH!!!!!!!

    1. Thank you Elizabeth....and you are so right, Maria nailed it! I received Cindy's note...still thinking. ;) Will be in touch soon! xx

  3. Such a beautiful thoughtful note you have shared; I was deeply touched by the inner thread of the story. The painting I have saved...put a copy in my journal --to gaze at, to take in the stories held there in the images...and to write, free verse and poems and perhaps just some stream of consciousness. At soon to be 74 I find so much nourishment in the seeing of images, holding them and breathing...and writing and walking and being in the garden, always carrying along the words and images that have come into my small universe in that day, week, month. Always, Jeanne, I am deeply touched by your writing, sharing of thoughts and the photos you share.

    1. I love that you have taken note of this wonderful painting Kristin, it is the sort of painting that would be fun to create in your own any number of materials. Mr. H and I are going back to see it again next has that kind of pull on you, wanting to see it over and over big as life if not bigger! I was thinkng of my free verse post the other day...and the others that flowed from it. I think it is time to take another creative journey...stay tuned, you will know it when you see it. Thank you so much for following along Kristin and I deeply apprecaite your words of wisdom and inspiration these past years.... xx

  4. Love Maria's words. Isn't it nice when someone can articulate like this. Guidance and truth. Easy to relate to. Sounds like your B-Day celebrations were wonderful. I see 60 is just a number. No big deal. Living life to the fullest, one at a time, and enjoying each day. You have a full wonderful life and a great family with friends worldwide! Sounds pretty spectacular to me. Enjoy - Susan

    1. Thank you Susan...Maria's words resonated and I thought they would with a few readers too. So glad you enjoyed them. I like your really is just a number. ;) xx

  5. Jeanne,

    Your blog is a magnet for intelligent, adventurous and intersting women form all walks of life. I love to read your posts and the comments that they illicit.

    Maria's words were beautiful. Enjoy life for at the end of the day its all we have.

    Take care, looking forward to more wonderful posts, photos and adventures.

    A big hug and a virtual piece of cake to you!

  6. Jeanne you nurture all of us with your inspiring posts. I am not surprised you have a reader with such wisdom. Thank you for sharing her comments and a happy belated 60th.

    1. Thank you Cindy! I owe you a note in is coming! xxx

  7. That was a very beautiful post. Thanks for sharing Maria's note. It was a pleasure to read and full of wonderful insights that we all need to remember.

    1. So true Loree...and glad that you enjoyed it too. I thought you might... ;) xx

  8. With all the challenges you have of living in and having family in so many different places, I cannot imagine each one not contributing to an acquired wisdom. It gives me pleasure to share your experiences that you capture so beautifully in your writing. It’s amazing how one can feel a kinship through sharing words.

    1. Agree Linda...and for us it is even better that we met in Ho Chi Minh City.....felt like I had met up witn a dear friend. The next big question is where will we meet up next??? xx


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