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?”
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.)
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.
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.
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.)
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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. 🙂
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.