Posted in Books, Change, Earth, Eastern Shore, Exploring, Fire, Garden, Gifts, Gratitude, Life, Listening, Maryland, Mindfulness, Nature, Photography, Quotes, Spirit, Summer, Walking & Wandering, Weather, Wonder, Word/Theme for the Year

A Monday meander: Elderhood

Sunrise clouds painted acros a morning sky.

It annoys me when people say, ‘Even if you’re old, you can be young at heart!’ Hiding inside this well-meaning phrase is a deep cultural assumption that old is bad and young is good. What’s wrong with being old at heart, I’d like to know? Wouldn’t you like to be loved by people whose hearts have practiced loving for a long time?”

~Susan Moon

Morning walk, just before sunrise.

I started this post during the last heatwave.  I was going to change the beginning, but decided to leave it in because we’re at the beginning of another heatwave that won’t be quite as bad, but still, it’s hot.  Here is where I started:  It is dreadfully hot here today, dreadfully hot in a lot of places across the U.S.  Our weather maps are showing heat indices of up to 113°F for today.  This weekend is supposed to be worse.  We are also in need of rain again.  We had a wind storm with lightning and thunder come through on Tuesday evening without a drop of rain.  It was strange.  Pine needles from the loblollies fell like crazy.  I’m never sure if that’s from the lack of rain or if the trees tend to shed every year.  Maybe a bit of both.  In the beginning hours of Thursday morning, in the 2:00 AM range, we did get a bit of rain with more wind, lightning, and thunder, but it still seems dry.  We’re in need of a good drenching.

Since it’s too hot to be outside, I thought I’d post another ramble.  The photos are a hodgepodge from the past few weeks.

(We did eventually get the good drenching.  All day rain that was able to slowly sink in.  However, we have also gone through another dry spell and could use some more rain.  That’s typical for this time of year.  Drought/deluge.  Next month we’ll probably be relying on tropical systems to bring us rain.)

In the woods on a day that wasn’t too hot.

I am reading the book Come of Age: The Case for Elderhood in a Time of Trouble by Stephen Jenkinson.  I found the book through a long and convoluted story that begins and ends with hearing about the Nights of Grief & Mystery Tour.  (You can read about it, and watch the trailer, here.)  They will be in Pittsburgh in October and I’m thinking about going.  I can combine it with a trip to the Bogs to visit with the kids since Pittsburgh is on the way from here to there.

Togetherness.

I have only just begun reading the book so I can’t offer any recommendations.  I am slowly reading it.  Very slowly.  In the first chapter, Jenkinson writes about how, in North America at least, we are an aging population (“the Baby Boomer Bulge”).  Having worked in the end-of-life-care industry, he writes about dying with some knowledge of how it’s being done in our society.  When I read about how dying people fear that they will disappear completely, I wonder if that is what is driving the people who brought us the current occupant of the White House.  Well, there are numerous stories about that all over the news so the answer is, of course, that is part of it.  Their fear is the loss of a way of life that never really existed other than in their minds and stories, and we all know that stories can be potent and memories can be faulty.  I can think of no other explanation for all the “remember when” memes that all-to-frequently pop up on Facebook extolling the virtues of growing up in a time when you were allowed to drink from the hose, ride around in cars without seat belts (or better yet, in the back of a pick-up truck, speeding down the highway), say prayers in school, play outside until dark without adult supervision, and drink Tang for breakfast.  It’s not just the memes.  It’s an attitude some carry around with them, as if their glory days were long ago during a golden age.

Posing for the camera.

I sometimes think memories, or at least this type of nostalgia, is akin to addictive substances in that we humans often romanticize the past.  (If you’ve ever quit smoking or some other addiction, you’ll know what I mean. Early ex-smokers tend to look back on cigarettes as having provided them with all sorts of good things, forgetting about how smelly they are or how awful they are for one’s health.  When the craving for a cigarette hits, it’s not uncommon to “romance the cigarette” or the habit itself, looking back fondly on those glory days of smoking.)

Aging in place.

Something has drawn our attention towards expertise and familiarity and comfort and away from mystery, and we’re missing something fundamental about what it means to be human and to be coming to the end of our lives in a way that traces our humanity, that leaves the rumour that it is good to be alive, even still, in the air, that makes of us ancestors worth claiming in the times of trouble that are surely coming.

~ Stephen Jenkinson

Near sunset.

Mr. Jenkinson asks the question:  “When did a plurality of old people turn into a burden for the culture?  Who voted for that?”  He’s asking not just about the monetary burden of health care and the costs of dying, but about the consequences of this aging population that is failing to accept aging in a culture of youth-worship, failing to accept death and dying, failing to accept even the idea of being old, failing to come of age with wisdom based on heart and life experience, and failing to be held in esteem by the culture we live in.  Instead, older people are tucked aside into various facilities (senior centers, assisted living, nursing homes, retirement communities) where parts are replaced and everything possible is done to keep them (us) living longer.  There is an entire industry built around this, and the price of elder care is very expensive.

Wide open.

Somehow tied in with the reading about elderhood (because everything feels connected lately, even if I can’t explain how) are my outside forays into the early morning hours when the temperature is somewhat bearable.  I listen to the summer sunrise chorus of birds, cicadas, tree frogs, crickets, and the neighbor’s rooster.  It’s so steamy that my camera lens fogs up.  I like the soft, hazy look this gives the photos, and I take pictures, through the fogged up lens, of the hydrangea by the side of the house as the sunlight pours across the tops of the trees that make up the Mystery Woods.  The mosquitoes eventually and always find me.  Summer days warm up rapidly.  I end up retreating back into the house, to the coolness of conditioned air.  One morning, while it was still early and I was not yet ready to start the chores of the day, I sat down at the computer and listened to a podcast from Emergence Magazine, The Voices of Birds and the Language of Belonging and there was this:

In coming years, our children, students, and friends will need our stories. In our listening to birds, we might gain something worth telling the future, tales whose meanings are now unforeseen: That ravens fell silent in the late summer heat, sandhill cranes passed in March but did not linger, orioles and flycatchers wove their summer songs into the tops of cottonwood trees, and warblers departed suburban fir boughs in December. These will be stories of continuity, of extinction, of blossoming, of changed tempo and texture. Coming generations depend on us to convey these living memories. We start in the present, by listening.

~ David G. Haskell

Hydrangea at sunrise.

The story (podcast) and quote feel like another connection, to the morning and the listening to the sounds of summer, to the reading and thinking about what it is I might have that’s worth passing on, to the seasons of life.  It keeps circling back around to stories, the telling and the listening.  This year it’s been about mostly listening for me, but you already know that because you know that my word for the year is Listening.  It is a word that I could study and learn from for the rest of my life.

In the flower box on the deck.

This, too, (from the podcast) struck me:

Every species has its own tempo of sound-making through the year, tuned to the particularities of food plants and insects, refined by local weather. In these sounds we learn that there are not just four seasons, but dozens or hundreds. Bird sounds reveal the polyrhythms of a living Earth.

~ David G. Haskell

Child and mother. Do the deer pass on their stories to their children?

I’ve often thought that there are seasons within seasons.  I sometimes define them by color, the purples and greens of early spring, the oranges and blues of mid-summer, the reds and browns of late autumn, just to name a few.  Perhaps I am better at the visual than I am at the aural.  I have a hard time learning different languages or recognizing and remembering the different songs and sounds of the birds.  Picking the word “listening” for this year’s word/theme has made me more aware of the myriad of sounds and voices that are all around, all the time.  Even silence has a voice, or voices.  There are hums, vibrations, tones, melodies, and more within the sound of what we think of as silence.

Laughing gull in flight.

This is the year I’ve noticed how the early morning birdsong differs as the season deepens and changes.  The birds I heard at the beginning of summer are silent now.  The red-winged blackbirds have been replaced by bobwhite quail and goldfinches.  The neighbor’s rooster, who was young in spring, has finally found his grown-up voice.  Peepers and tree frogs are drowned out by the almost constant buzz of cicadas.

What stories do the sunflowers have to tell?

Just as each “species has its own tempo of sound-making through the year,” I wonder if we humans have something similar going on throughout the year and throughout our lives.  Although I’m young to some, I do feel my own tempo beginning to slow.  It’s not about being active.  I am that.  It’s about allowing myself the time to take things in.  Slowing down my reaction time has, in some weird way, slowed down time.  I don’t feel it rushing past like I did in my 40’s and 50’s.

Spilling pollen.

Well, I’ve meandered and rambled enough for one post.  I have other thoughts on elderhood and telling new stories, but they’ll have to wait for another day.  Perhaps as I get farther into the book.  Thank you so much for stopping by today.  Let’s head out to the Point for sunset this evening.  There is a haziness to the air that might make things interesting.  Sunset this evening is at 8:17 PM.  I’ll be there a little early to wander around and pick up litter.  Summertime brings out the litterbugs, but I can’t blame it entirely on them.  The trash cans at the park don’t have lids.  The critters are probably partially to blame for some of the litter we find.

Be good, be kind, be Love.  🙂

Bright.

A few of the 10,000 reasons to be happy:  1,111)  Interesting insights about compassion, connection, heartbreak, letting go and letting in, and the state of the world.  1,112)  This day, the breeze, the sun.  1,113)  A good morning filled with good activity.  1,114)  Sunflowers, zinnias, and all the flowers.  1,115)  Fledgling bluebirds playing outside the window.  Children, no matter what species, will be children, and that always makes me smile.

As evening settles.
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Author:

Robin is a photographer, artist, writer, wife, sometime poet, mom, grandma, daughter, sister, friend, and occasional traveler currently living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. She finished a 365 commitment to get outside every day in 2011, and has turned it into a lifelong commitment taking one or more walks each day. Robin will continue to share her walks through her words and images on Breezes at Dawn. Older posts can be found at Life in the Bogs, her previous blog. Robin and her husband are in the midst of renovating the house and property they refer to as the Wabi-Sabi Ranch, 35 acres that include marsh, a dock on a tidal creek, meadows, and woodlands. Every day brings new discoveries.

21 thoughts on “A Monday meander: Elderhood

  1. I agree with much of what you said. I love being old. This is my best age yet, and I’m in my eighties. I don’t use the cover words. My motto is: Old is not a four letter word.

    Some of your thoughts I’m not sure about. I think “the good old days” were good or we wouldn’t remember them with fondness. Mind you this tendency cuts across all ages, and the good old days memories are from many different days. I chuckle to hear my younger friends romanticize the eighties–and even nineties. To me it means the times were good for them. Maybe it’s our early years of growth and discovery we long for. Not that we can’t continue with growth and discovery. In fact, that may be the answer to “good OLD days.” Beda Kantarjian Co-coordinator Seminole County Writers Florida Writers Association Published Author-Short Stories Royal Palms Literary Award Winner DreadFest Finalist Presidio, Vol. I, 2nd Place Short Story https://anhinga.wordpress.com/

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    1. That’s true, Beda, about the good old days and how it cuts across generations, and I see what you mean about the times being good for them. I have my own good times that I like to recall once in a while. I wonder how much of that stems from a sense of innocence. I was going to write “innocence of childhood,” but many of us were exposed to things that made us lose that long before we were out of our childhood. Maybe it’s an innocence as in “not knowing.” Since I used it as an example in this post and I’ve seen some kind of meme about it on Facebook, let’s use drinking out of the hose as an example. I certainly did, with no idea that there could be anything wrong or dangerous or unhealthy about it. I didn’t know that the hose might contain bacteria, mold, and (some say) possibly the odd frog, as well as a host of toxic chemicals. The not knowing about those things, not knowing about many of the dangers we learn of as we grow up or as the scientists figure things out, made us somewhat innocent, I think. Maybe that’s what gives those times part of their rosy glow.

      The other thing I’m referring to is that sense of nostalgia that I see in friends who believe that the time period they grew up in was so much better than this one, as if there were no troubles back in those days. They seem to embody the meaning of the word nostalgia in its original sense as a painful longing to return home (“home” in this case being what they perceive as a better time period), so severe that it was once considered a disease. It’s almost a kind of bitterness, as if life didn’t turn out the way they were promised it would. In many cases, that’s probably true.

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  2. I look back on the 50s with undoubtedly romanticized memories, although I really do believe the emphasis on being outside and active was a good thing for those of us growing up at that time, and I love the memories of the freedom to go riding a bike with girlfriends all day long – the only requirement being that we be home for dinner. But this age also has some things I would not want to give up – technology has brought us far – how did we manage without Google to answer our questions the instant they occur to us? I do not look to the future with a lot of hope though, the anger and hatred that seems so prevalent in our society makes me feel like we’re headed into the black hole of doom.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think those were good things, too, Carol, and it would be wonderful if there was more emphasis on being outside and active now. M the Younger and his wife are raising our grandsons that way. Those boys spend much more time outside than inside, and the three year old has only recently been allowed some screen time (TV, computer, etc.). I do hope we’re not headed towards a black hole of doom, but there are days I might agree with you.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is so interesting. I like hearing this kind of reflection. It does seem some people look more to the past than the future or even the present. That isn’t me. I have good and bad memories, lots of learning and want to move forward and enjoy now.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I had just finished watching the little film about Stephen Jenkinson and his grief and mystery tour before popping in to see you Robin. I very nearly didn’t come as I saw the word ‘elderhood’ which I just thoroughly dislike as I do all politically correct appellations – but I bit the bullet 🙂 And of course I’m glad I did.

    I don’t agree with all SJ had to say – his world view is a tad materialistic for me, but he understands the morass that materialism has engulfed the western world in. I kind of understand those with no spiritual leanings having a fear of death. To them it is the end, utter annihilation, very bleak and scary. But I have long been fascinated by the fear of death held by those who announce their Christianity, whether born into or born again, at first opportunity. The Sunday church going faithful also seem to exhibit a deep divide between their faith and their mortality and I do wonder how much it has to do with the materialistic worldview of life, the lack of a spiritual perspective of unity and consciousness and also the medical professions drive to keep life going at all costs. They see death as the enemy and life, any how it can be kept going, is better than death.

    I could go on, so much good stuff here to chat about, but that’s enough from me today. Have a good week Robin.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Elderhood” is a strange word to me, Pauline, and I guess I didn’t see it as politically correct since it’s one I don’t think I’ve heard used before (but it wouldn’t surprise me if it IS used as a politically correct term). Another strange thing is that those I know who are either agnostic or atheist seem to have little or no fear of death, but maybe they’re faking it for now. 🙂 I agree about the Christians who fear death. To overuse the word in one comment, it’s strange. If your reward is in the afterlife, wouldn’t you be thrilled to be going?

      I listened to a podcast with Richard Rohr and his take on Christianity as it is today was interesting. I think he referred to it as being in the kindergarten stage, and that it was men who kept it in that state rather than letting evolve with the teachings of the mystics. Had I been taught the form of Christianity that he teaches, I might be Christian today. Too much baggage for that now although I must admit that I’ve dropped some of it, having read or listened to the words of some of the wiser people who practice that brand of religion.

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  5. A lovely, thoughtful post, Robin. I thought of you when I saw MY deer family on Sunday morning. 🙂
    Sunflowers make me smile. They look like smiling faces to me.

    The “good old days memes” always bug me. I understand about enjoying one’s own youthful memories, but the idea that times were “better” that included restrictions on women and people of color, McCarthyism, etc. just really annoys me. And yeah, that’s related to certain political things going on now.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The flower photos are beautiful as always. The cicadas you speak of have their cousins near me making such loud noise as I read this. A harbinger of summer’s demise… …. ….

    In a totally unscientific scientific study I’ve got going on, I find that people who are older and get lost in nostalgia are the fear-based people I know. They’re afraid of what’s next. They’re afraid of what could be/how the world is changing (good and bad). So looking back, I think, for them is a reaching for some kind of safety they thought they felt back then. As I said, it’s unscientific. More said study is needed. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Tara. 🙂 I hadn’t thought of cicadas that way, but I like them all the more now that you have me thinking of them as the end of summer (not my favorite season). I think you might be right about the fear-based people. It’s hard, I suppose, to see the world maybe moving on with you (“you” in a general sense) and maybe realizing that you don’t fit anymore.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. A beautiful post from beginning to end, dotted with your per usual fabulous photos.
    Thank you so much for the link to Nights of Grief and Mystery. They are coming to Montreal in September and I am planning on going to see them. Just checking if any of my peeps want to join me or not. And if they don’t, I am old enough to enjoy things on my own 😉
    Yes, nostalgia and looking back at things, we do romanticize them, don’t we? There were lovely moments. Is today better? In many ways. Does getting older scare most of us? I think so. That unknown part that lays ahead. For my part, I am very much a smile at the memories, live for today, type. I’ve no control over tomorrow or when my end is coming so I don’t bother worrying about it. And I grab what shows up, whether I will enjoy it with or without someone. That is what I get from accepting my getting older. And ignoring all the bombastic articles out there trying to convince me I’m wrong to accept it in the first place!

    Have a fabulous week, Robin. I hope you get some rain (we are in desperate need as well and it is hotter than Hades so ugh.)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Robin, a most wonderful meander. As always, the pictures are so wonderful! I’m so glad you posted this. When you mentioned it last week, I started looking forward to it! There is so much fear when we do not know who we are…as spiritual beings having a human experience. We sure do see a lot of it on display every single day, in myriad forms. Just last week, I visited a funeral home to do what is called, “pre-need planning.” I’m probably one of the few that actually enjoyed the experience. I got a full education about cremation and made decisions about such things as no obituary, and choosing a cheap scatter urn among a few other small things. I realize that ageism is one more “ism” in our collective experience that perpetuates the fear that grabs and holds onto so many people. I for one am grateful for my life, my health (which I take very seriously and care for) and for all of my experiences! I am and have grown through and been shaped (still evolving) by them all – even the most ugly, difficult and painful.

    Thank you for posting this thought provoking and beautiful piece!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh I so agree with your take on aging. I love that I’m getting older, enjoying life more now. I adore what anhinga said above. “Age is not a four letter word” is my new go-to line for when friends go down nostalgia lane. Again.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Interesting reflections Robin, I think I’ve always been ‘old at heart’, so I quite like getting older. Interesting what you say about the nostalgia for the old days – my ‘old days’ certainly weren’t perfect and they weren’t so long ago in the scheme of things, but I think it’s the sense of greater innocence that I yearn for – an innocence older than my childhood, when it was easier to be awed because we didn’t know so much about the world.

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are delightful and always appreciated. I will respond when I can (life is keeping me busy!), and/or come around to visit you at your place soon. Thank you!

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