A life well-lived

painting of tomatoes on the vine with haiku

“heirloom tomato” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper. It is available as a greeting card reading, “may you find life so sweet and juicy it drips off your elbows.” © Annette Makino 2016

My pioneering great-aunt, Helli Stehle, died in Basel, Switzerland this past Sunday at age 109. As I described in “A trail-blazing woman” last November, she was a well-known stage actor who then became Switzerland’s first female newscaster, serving as a mentor and role model to many younger journalists.

She was a spirited, smart and funny woman, generous and deeply loyal to her extended family. We miss her already. But what a full life she got to lead!

The end of her reign as Switzerland’s oldest living citizen has made me think anew about the trials and rewards of aging. At 54, I am encountering many unexpected details of getting older. For instance, who knew that you could get wrinkles on your earlobes? Or down the bridge of your nose?

I used to have such sharp hearing that I would often hear other people talking about me (typically speculating on my ethnic background; sometimes just wondering where I got my ice cream cone). But when I wash dishes these days, I have to remind my kids,“I can’t hear what you’re saying when the faucet is running,” just as my exasperated mother repeatedly told my sisters and me.

At the same time, what freedom comes with age! Freedom from caring what other people think of me; from trying to meet external measures of success; from judgment about myself or others. As a result, I am taking more risks and trying new things.

Earlier this year, I joined five other women in my choir to perform a hip hop dance during a concert for about 800 people. Even though the choreography did not involve spinning on our heads or landing in a split, it was a real physical and mental stretch to learn. But what fun to perform a dance for the first time since I was 17—and to find it was still possible!

Overall, I find a richness and ease in these so-called “golden years” worth far more than a flat belly and the ability to remember names. I wouldn’t choose to go back even one year. And considering I am less than half of Helli’s age when she died, who knows what adventures still lie ahead. I owe it to her to find out!

Photo of Helli Stehle smiling, at 100

In 2008, a few months after Helli Stehle’s 100th birthday, the Basler Beobachter ran a feature about her pioneering role in Swiss radio.

heirloom tomato
finally comfortable
in my own skin

Makino Studios News

Free shipping for Labor Day weekend: Get free shipping on any US order of $5 or more in my Etsy shop with code LABOR17. Sale runs Saturday through Monday, September 2-4.

New cards: I have five new card designs coming off the press tomorrow! You can check them out in the MakinoStudios Etsy shop. Choose any six designs for $19.99 plus tax and shipping.

2018 calendars: For the fifth year in a row, I’ve designed a mini-calendar of art and haiku. This year’s features local landscapes, dogs, cats and flowers, and I think it’s my best yet! It’s currently being printed and will be available starting in mid-September.

Food Art Show Reception: As part of Local Food Month, the Humboldt Food Policy Council is hosting a Food Art Show. Stop by the Redwood Arts Association Gallery in Eureka (603 F Street) through September to enjoy the food-inspired paintings and drawings of over a dozen local artists, myself included. An artists’ reception will be held during Arts Alive! this Saturday, September 2, from 6-9 p.m.

North Country Fair: Celebrate the fall equinox at the 44th annual North Country Fair in Arcata the weekend of Sept. 16-17! This festive event features 200 booths, live music on two stages, and two parades. I’ll have the new cards and calendars at the Makino Studios booth on G Street near 9th.

Instagram et cetera: I am now on Instagram as annettemakino. Follow me as I figure out this newfangled platform that all the youngsters are into! You can also get news, fresh art and haiku on my Makino Studios Facebook page and my Twitter feed.

The haiku “heirloom tomato” was first published in Frogpond, Issue 40.2, Spring-Summer 2017.

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