Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Resolution 2016

One yellow figure, there among
the piles of yesterday’s ambition,
counting, reconstructing plans
stacked so long ago.

The piles are high but sorted
into like things, femurs here
and there the scapula, here the teeth,
the bones of a fabulous creature.

The yard is on the flats beside
the still-fast-running river,
half a mile of sticks and stones
left piled there in the fall.

Cold and windy, shrouded with fog,
and still the figure moves
and plans to build and sees the future,
there among the parts.

Can I call that future’s bluff?
There beside the river,
mind stiff with the cold
and frosted memory.

I cannot do any less.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

River Bend

Before the slow, wide turning
there is still so much to see:
to learn, to understand,
to use the best of me.

Before this bridge I made my plans
from tumbling misting water
rushing fast across the dam,
what does and does not matter.

From here I see the bend ahead,
and what it means to me,
the time I have before the end,
then flowing to the sea.

The river here seems very broad,
still full of mystery,
mesmerizing in the sun
and sparkling just for me.

The currents that I started
when I broke across that wall
now swirl and curl and draw me in
to swim among them all.

To dive and turn and break the waves
submerged in cool, clear time;
to learn, to understand, to use
the very best of mine.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Forgetting Myself

It is hardly surprising that old people forget who they are. 

Over and over I have experienced the Aha! moment of remembering something I thought I would never forget: peak experiences, insights, knowledge of my inner self, lessons learned. Come to think of it, I am amazed that, after so many years of existence, I can remember myself at all, considering how easy it seems to just leave important information lost in inaccessible memory. So many memories! What is it that does or does not bring each of them back to us?

Perhaps I am tethered to reality a little more loosely than most, but given the opportunity to let my mind roam around an issue or create a dialogue about an event, I am astonished at how often I come across a nugget of myself learning a personal truth that I swore I committed to memory, but apparently did not. Because here I was discovering it all over again – the I knew that! syndrome.   

Personal themes and memes from the past remain salient now and in the future, but very often I seem to start again from the beginning when they come up. Rumination will often find the shortcut to an answer that I had worked out before, but why can’t I just start with the answer and expand on it instead of forgetting I already know where to begin? Why is it that previous realizations are not part of my conscious mental arsenal? And how many other answers will I NOT encounter, NOT bring into the present with me? 

If I can forget these ultimately important insights, it is an easy step to see that it would not be hard to leave behind even my name and address in the confusing fog of so many memories. 

Still, these easily forgotten epiphanies and personal decisions are entirely internal, entirely in my memory only, while the facts of my existence are shared with a large community, verbal and written, a safeguard to forgetfulness. We assume we know who we are and, in the scheme of things, we do. But I think it is important to have interactions that reinforce those assumptions. People call us by name, we get mail at our address, we are listed in the phone book, our children have expectations. 

But what happens when people who we have counted on for years disappear, when our living circumstances change, our children move away, our partners die? Certainly less contact with the pillars of our existence encourages forgetting.

Perhaps more important, it takes energy to sort all those memories and pick out our own thoughts from dreams, lies we have told ourselves, other people's stories, even movies and books. We need to be motivated to spend that energy, to have some purpose for continuing to know ourselves. Such purpose comes from intensities, from passions, from love now and in the future. And from continued reinforcing contact with others.

I am afraid that if you have lived your life for those who have gone or as only a reflection of your culture and your surroundings, it will be more difficult to find that golden thread that is you. Not only will you have less motivation to “find” yourself, you will have less skill at deliberate recall of a “yourself “ that you never were very aware of to begin with.  So easy to get lost.

All this is not to say that collapsing brain cells will not interfere with even the strongest sense of self and passion. Certainly this kind of deterioration is a wicked way to lose your self, a sad and despicable facet of physical decay that confuses, perhaps eliminates our memories. But these are exceptional circumstances and I am only now referring to the exigencies of living a typical life to a typical end – the difficulties in keeping it all straight in our minds.

And once more (for perhaps the hundredth time) I come to the conclusion that first, continued involvement with life is essential. But just as important is the specific practice of rumination, musing. An examined life is the road to retention, no matter how often I astonish myself with my forgetting.  No matter how much longer it takes as experience piles up. No matter how much energy I need to sort those piles. There is no other way.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Definitely Dilettante

I have discovered another third stage joy.

Sampling!  At least, that is what I am calling it now, after years and years of trying so hard to finish what I started. To be an adult about it all. It has always been a chore for me to actually take a project to its end: master's degree instead of a Ph.D., gift quilts not ready to give for years, an unframed painting on my wall for decades because I intended to add the final details. I have worked hard to overcome this disorder, this not finishing what I started, in order to run a viable business, to reap the rewards of whatever I was after, and to feel that I am being taken seriously by other "adults."

But now, as lately I have taken my own advice and started trying out things I used like to see how they might fit me now, I find it is to my advantage to be able to let go. I am only sampling, I don't need to finish anything!  And so the return to classwork to finish a degree ended almost immediately with a very specific dream about driving too fast in the wrong direction; and I have spent a semester singing with a choir that was fun but not perfect, and so I am done. Just like that. It is an amazing freedom!

Sampling things in my stage of life is all about pleasure. I like the singing but will find another venue. I discovered I am a faux academic. These new insights can only help me waste less time in finding what is right for me, what most gives me pleasure. I take to heart the old saw that these are my golden years, and I will make them shine!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Ritual Dancing

Tradition is not the worship of ashes but the preservation of fire.” Gustav Mahler
(With thanks  to my friend Dawn for the quote)

The holiday season always gets me thinking about rituals and how we use them. I have seen that the role of ritual in my own life has been to help me order and arrange my perceptions - a way to sort. I also see that rituals, especially theatrical ones, have been used for millennia to order and arrange people, congregations - a way to impress and enthrall, usually to persuade toward some belief.  But in either case, there is nothing magic in it beyond our own perceptions, so that I can only call ritual a tool, useful for organizing myself and sharing experiences with friends and family, useful for creating context and invoking memory.

For example, several years ago I put a great deal of energy into using traditional Advent sensibilities toward a better personal understanding of the transition that I felt was taking place in my life. I set four gold candles on my dining room sideboard, lighting each one singly on each of the four Sundays before Solstice, which was on a Monday. On each of those Sundays I celebrated an Occasion. I had no set idea of how I would handle these celebrations, or what they would mean to me, but instead I hoped that they would serve as reminders of whatever I was supposed to be learning. 

The first candle was at our late Thanksgiving, family and friends using a table artfully set with dishes I have inherited, beautiful and sentimental. I announced that we were deliberately calling up the past in order to honor the future and made a small to-do about lighting the candle. The day went perfectly and the vibes were great and I later came to think of this as Invocation. The specific things I learned were that all future is built on the past, and, as my partner was injured and unable to help with the preparations, that I should never bite off more than I can chew by myself!

 The second Sunday was a family birthday celebration, and chaos reigned with kids and dogs so much that I forgot about lighting the candle at all until late in the evening. I have labeled the second candle Family, and the specific things I learned were that family commitments can be so consuming they make you shortsighted, and, secondly, that planning to the smallest detail inhibits creativity, as I cooked this meal and birthday cake ad hoc, mostly making it up as I went along.  It was delicious and fun and it reminded me that dancing is the right metaphor for living in this universe.

The third Sunday we had two old friends for dinner, and I set the table simply but elegantly with dinnerware handed down from my grandmother and cooked an easy roast with sides. I labeled this candle Friends, and the specific things I learned were that friends make up our larger context, and old friends keep us from moving too far off the track, kind of working as regulators; second, familiarity and trust are comfortable and without stress, restful and refreshing for our souls.

The fourth candle was lighted for Silver Fox and I alone, to talk about our dreams for the Future. We had a favorite meal and we spun dreams out loud.  I was reminded that sending double desires into the universe is more effective than sending single ones: thoughts have mass, as we learned from our early years planning together.  So the lesson from this candle was to revisit lessons learned earlier in life about getting results in the real world.

On Solstice I lighted all four candles and went through the above learned lessons in my mind, and then I abandoned all thought to the fire.

This would be the time to dance. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Lost in the Game

(Written in 2010 but no less true today)

Like towering leaves of grass 
each experience overwhelms,
requires every moving quark, 
desires full complicity
and totally inhabits 
my most laserlike attentions. 

I am nervous to have run 
so far from my familiar,
never free to even raise 
my thumb to take my measure,
think of cats in boxes, 
or stack myself for treasure.

At my first chance I quickly try 
to sit and watch and think
to find that I just cannot do it, 
slow the red to pink.

Greet it as it comes 
and on my feet with jubilation,
time expanding with the sense 
of total saturation,
lost completely to myself 
until the game is called.

After all, this is the point. 
Play until you fall.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sleeping with the Enemy

We hear an awful lot about how important sleep is lately, something those of us past 50 probably all know. I slept like a trouper most of my life, oblivious to anything except the slightest sound from a child, when I was on my feet and moving before I knew what I was doing. Funny that - Silver Fox never did hear them.

But that is another story. I want to talk about menopause and night sweats. Hundreds of them daily for years, or at least it seemed that way. The best broken sleep I could get from age 50 to 55 was perhaps four hours totaled, and I was beginning to be waked by aches and pains as well. Some nights it felt like no sleep at all, and I am sure that I am not the only one. My own body had become my worst enemy.

Eventually I broke down and went to my doctor for Ambien, a way to stay asleep through the discomfort. She gave me the prescription, but at my next checkup I noticed that one of the symptoms they listed in my records was insomnia. Now, I never in my life was unable to fall asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow - two or three minutes max. (This perhaps from a lifetime of deadline work and the all-nighters that come with it, especially for procrastinators such as myself.) A little put out, I brought it up with the Doc, and she said I had told her I had insomnia when I asked for the Ambien. I replied that I had not, that I have never had insomnia, that I went to sleep only to be waked over and over by discomfort. This surprised her. In fact, she said she had not considered this condition and asked if I thought it was common with menopausal women. YES I said. YES YES YES!!

This made me wonder about the endless sleep studies, especially surveys, that I had been reading about how older women can't sleep any more. There is obviously confusion about why we don't sleep. I read deeper, looking directly at the studies instead of the journalists' interpretations and I came up with some very useful information about the aches and pains I was developing.

Human growth hormone (HGH) is a natural pain killer that we make in our bodies. It turns out that we secrete this after a rousing bout of exercise AND at the end of each sleep cycle. Well, damn, I had not had a complete sleep cycle for years! No wonder any joint or muscle I used screamed at me, particularly when I was not distracted by daytime activity. I used the Ambien to enable a slightly longer and uninterrupted sleep, and gradually over time, the aches and pains diminished. (To be fair, I also worked through a little yoga stretching.) Once the flashing stopped, I stopped the supplement and tried to make sure I had a complete cycle just before I woke, timing myself by waking between cycles to look at the clock. It took several years to retrain myself to a deeper sleep where I don't wake between each cycle, and I don't wake hardly ever for random aches and pains, and I have only one instance of flashing a night. I am almost back to myself after only 10 years of effort and attention on this front. Anyone can do it:)  Human growth hormone - Google it.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Rainbow Diffraction

Lately when I meditate, I sometimes notice a little choppiness in my vision, almost like a stop-second film.  Not much, but there is a ripple between actions, a shimmering diffraction in my smooth perception of the world around me; a disjoint. I have come to think of this as the product of my late angle on the arc of life, the ability to see between actions.

How I understand this depends on my connection to that world around me. Most of us would feel that if things are breaking apart, we are losing our grip, fading, deteriorating in our ability to focus on our environment. This is unhappy, although it is true. 

If we are attending to our spirit, however, the phenomenon takes on a whole different meaning. If we believe there are other environments than the one we jointly see and that our participation in the visible world is only one aspect of our larger lives, then the ability to see between actions becomes a blessing, a chance to put those actions in a larger perspective that is connected to our larger existence. It becomes more about HOW we relate here than IF we relate here.  The visible world is not the only game in town.

Nevertheless I have been watching my reaction to this (and other signs of aging) and like most everyone else, I want to stay connected.  The diffraction is alarming, even if I find it useful.  We spend most of our lives working like radar, taking in signals to which we must react from every direction and in every intensity. That is how we manage diverse and busy lives, family and career, relationships and socialization, basic human survival needs, and everything in between. It is no wonder the signals begin to break apart as we age and our energies begin to flag.  

My answer has been to refine my focus and institute a project large enough to maintain my interest through hopefully all of my coming years. I am trying to change my filters to mute signals that are not specifically related to the foci I have chosen. That is, I am trying to phase out some of the business of my life and dedicate myself to fewer endeavors. For me, I find that I need at least one large and encompassing interest where I can channel my energy into accomplishment and learning. For many, it might mean simply that you pay for someone else to clean and maintain your home – not only because it is physically harder now but because then you can FORGET IT!  For me, the domestic and everything in that realm except my family relationships has become a real bore and is nothing but an energy drain. For others, particularly if they have been involved in career or other outside activity most of their lives, dedication to the domestic might be an optimal main focus. Maybe it is time to grow and put up vegetables, for example. Or start on the long remodel. Or take up gustatory excellence in the kitchen.

What you choose will not matter if it excites you and keeps you focused.  Rainbow diffraction invites less distraction and more single-mindedness as we pursue the years into our futures.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Eldertime Zone

I notice these days that when I think about things in my distant past, when I think about being 20 or 30, that so many memories that seemed very long and are important to me were actually very short in terms of time spent. That is, the world could turn over in a minute: the intense love affair that lasted really only two weeks; the year I took a graduate degree, moved, changed jobs three times, learned a new culture, became pregnant, and watched every bit of the Watergate investigation - so many things packed into so short a time. Of course, I had much more energy then to accomplish a lot, and I didn't need to spend the recovery time from overdoing it that I do now, but still, it is amazing to me that out of a 66 year life I can recall so vividly a few days or a few weeks that feel as if they must have been much longer. Intense enough that the memory lives in an emotional time zone that seems to not be prejudiced by how many days or months were involved. Funny that:)

I can't decide if it is because I am just slower to latch on to things and work through them or if my emotions, tempered by the years, are not so extreme as they were then, but if feels that I live in a different, less erratic time zone now. An eldertime zone. Habits I once eschewed have crept into my lifestyle and slow me down; my body slows me down; and I am pretty sure my mind slows me down compared to the quickness with which I grabbed life in my youth.

Or perhaps I am just more cautious. Certainly I have not given up having new experiences and I stay almost as busy as ever, but everything now takes more time, and I seldom rocket to emotional extremes. Maybe I have finally found balance.

I am not unhappy with my eldertime zone, but it is more a waltz than rock n' roll, and I find some loss in that.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

North Country Blues

The neighbors to the north of us have taken down a string of trees along our fence; trees that grew big and blocked the view so that our yard was very private. Trees that overhung our kennel, giving weather protection to the two beasties we always keep. It feels naked now, and exposed to the northern sky as well as a whole row of second floor balconies. I can't fix this, can't substitute another barrier, as nothing I can think of is anywhere near reasonable. So, instead, I must get comfortable with the North, consider the benefits, look at the view.

Personally I identify with the North anyway: ancestors from northern Europe, hate the hot, love my Zone 3 location, and winter is my favorite season. Good, that is all good, and it means to me that instead of feeling exposed, I should open up to these northern skies and reap their wisdoms, ready or not. After all, I now have the Northern Star to guide me.

Here are a few things I found out about the symbolism of the northern cardinal direction over several cultures.

Native American
Illumination, Discovery, Logic, Understanding, Mental wisdom.
Science and knowledge accumulated through our life cycles is purified, and trickles from the tips of ice-capped mountains of wisdom. As these streams of knowing move to our awareness, we prepare for Intellectual illumination. In this mentally-focused quadrant, the greatest reaches of our comprehension roll back into us, causing avalanches of deductive reason. Intellectual knowing is processed and crystallized.

Cool. On the other hand:

Symbolism of the Cardinal Points, North, South, East and West.
Mackey uses as an illustration of this the fact that the sun in its summer journey never passes north of 23° 28´, and that a wall built anywhere above that will have its northern side entirely in shadow even when the sun stands at his meridian. As this fact became known to early peoples it led them to look upon the North as the place of darkness. Accordingly, in all ancient mythologies, that portion of space was regarded with suspicion and even with terror. This prejudice was carried over into the Middle Ages, and traces of it, often dim and vague, survive to this day in popular customs. In his "Antiquities of Freemasonry," Fort writes that the "North by the Jutes was denominated black or sombre; the Frisians called it 'Fear corner.' The gallows faced North, and from these hyperborean shores beyond the North everything base and terrible proceeded." To the churchmen of mediæval times it carried a like sinister meaning.

But, finally in my own preferred symbolic culture:

The Earth element, season of winter, time of midnight, the new moon, wisdom, stability.

This is clearly a case of feeding the right wolf! I'll get right on that.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Ladies, Start your Engines: One, Two, Three, Talk!

It seems to me that recently I have had a lot of glitchy spots in my speech, groping for words and ideas when I have a conversation.  I often think, “Gee, I am sounding kind of slow here, having some retrieval problems.”  This becomes more noticeable when visiting and talking a lot, as when my friend came to stay with me last month for our yearly talkathon. And at my age, I have been prone to just write this off to the famed and expected third stage memory loss.

I’m beginning to think, however, that this is more likely just lack of practice.  In my forties, I learned in graduate school that most academics have wonderful facility in remembering concepts, ideas, authors, citations - all kinds of tiny details they so easily store and access off the top of their heads.  I greatly admired this, but I could not do it. At least not when I started.  But by the time I graduated it was becoming second nature to me as well, and I believe if I had continued in school I would have become as proficient with details as those I admired.  It seemed to me then that it was the constant verbal exchange and intercourse, pushing always for more detail and cohesion of argument, that trained me to think better and consequently speak better. 

Now, I have a fulltime job where I might speak only to a few people all day - and that only for minutes - in addition to the fact that I really like and have expanded my alone time in the mornings before work.  I interact with others in the evenings and on weekends, but mostly with undemanding family and friends.  So, I think my verbal skills have atrophied, and when I cannot recall the word I need it is because my mind has not verbally exercised these last years.  Could it become as sharp as it was?  That is an unknown without actually trying (and where would I find the practice anyway?), but I am not ready to concede that it is the years that are tying my tongue.

Children are not the only ones who need to practice talking. If we spend all our time in less-than-challenging environments, if our main conversation revolves around what we are watching on the television, if we are mostly silent even if reading, we will find our memories and our tongues missing things. This is not to say that there won’t be some slowdown as we age, but I am just not sure that it is as necessary as others seem to think.  I can name several 80-year-olds who are still teaching and/or exhibit no slowdown of comprehension or lack of vocabulary.  There are always the exceptions to the rule of course, but memory and language practice certainly cannot hurt:  take classes, join  book clubs, take tours, socialize and participate.

So, Ladies, start your engines:  one, two, three,  talk!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Fear and Loathing in Sun City

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen

The longer I am out here blogging, the more I see that a very large issue among third stagers is fear. By far the most viewed post I have written was about taking risks and, in response to a recent post about cynicism, I received an email comment defending it as "risk insurance."

Choosing to be happy takes a degree of fearless risk-taking.  The Happy Person can be a blip on the emotional radar of many people who have chosen to be mean or spiteful at that moment; these people seeing their behaviors towards the Happy Person as not being mean or spiteful but being cautionary and supportive of "reality." 

Apparently if you are openly happy you are asking for trouble. It's one point of view.

And of course it is true that our culture instills fear in elders for profit, to get us to buy devices, live in security buildings, dose ourselves with medications, buy more insurance. Is it any wonder that we are afraid to answer the phone once we know that we are the most-targeted victims of scams in the universe? That younger people expect we won't be able to remember who called us anyway?

It is a maddeningly madder world all the time. Everything changes, and the older we get, the faster that happens. It is confusing to our, um, more deliberate brains, and learning curves are steep. Electronic devices send cultural trends spinning out like viruses and reality shows (whatever happened to entertainment?) create new celebrities so fast you can't learn to spell their names before they are gone. It is easy to give up trying to keep up. It is easy to feel ineffectual.

Add to this the general paranoia induced by terrorist alerts, school shooters, police riots, and the unbelievable amount of societal violence we live with today, and how do we NOT feel like a victim? How do we maintain our ability to take a reasonable risk - like taking the bus to a class, traveling abroad alone, or walking home from a movie after dark?

I would like to know what readers do to keep up their attitude. I would say that gathering information before I believe anything has been my best defense. As a close follower of the political, I learned long ago to disbelieve most everything I read or see, after a few years almost not hearing the lies at all, as if I were teflon and they wouldn't stick. This condition was brought about by a lot of research to find out for myself what to believe - almost never what I had heard. It is the same whether social security is about to tank or there is a terrorist in every basement, if you take the time to look things up and compare stories, to read some history, to think about what you are being told, it is likely to be personally less frightening and more enabling.

However you do it, don't be afraid to be your own advocate. You can choose to not feel like a victim. Do what makes you happy: go out and dance, shop, travel, sing in a choir. Don't hide your light under a barrel, and don't let the buggers get you down.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Grandmother Effect

A few years ago, I was invited to a retreat being held with a native Hawaiian shaman at the home of some friends.  I am interested in the manipulation of electrons and the use of focus and intention to forward our lives, and so I thought I could hardly pass on the opportunity for his perspective.  It was a very long drive to the far North Shore near Canada, and it being winter, the last couple of hours in and the first couple of hours out were spent in white-knuckled snowblindedness, so I felt the price was high; but I came away with lasting thoughts.

The shaman's story, which is about the power in his native culture, is about grandmothers.  One group member wanted to know if he did not mean to say, “grandmothers and grandfathers, or ancestors.”  “No,” he said; “I did not.  Women are more powerful than men because they create life, not just attend to it. And so they are more important.”

I had grandmothers, one on each side.  They were integral to my life until I left home, and they have been an overarching influence on my pathway ever since.  I have “asked” them for advice many times, much less help in awful situations, even with them gone now for thirty years. They taught me their different strengths, having kind of breathed them into me when I was little, me unaware of the teaching. Like my own grandchildren (I hope) I wanted to be with them both because of their unquestioning devotion, their complete dedication to my needs and wants, and their staunch defense of my growing consciousness. 

Grandmothers are big in evolutionary theory these days: computer modeling tells anthropologists that because of grandmothers, humans were more prolific, life became extended, and men changed their preferences to monogamy (Discovery, 9/8/2015). Of course we did. A love so strong we lived into feebleness in order to help.

"Older women of the tribe spent their days collecting foods for their grandchildren. Except for humans, all other primates and mammals collect their own food after weaning.
Hawkes, from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Utah, proposed that when grandmothers helped feed their grandchildren after weaning, their daughters could produce more children at shorter intervals.
They then used computer modelling to show that by allowing their daughters to have more children, those ancestral females who lived long enough to become grandmothers passed their longevity genes to more descendants, who had longer adult lifespans as a result.
The team’s computer simulations showed from a start point of just 1 per cent of women living to grandmother age within 24,000-60,000 years about 43 per cent of adult women are grandmothers — a figure consistent with today’s hunter-gatherer populations."
The theory posits that the reason for menopause is that we wanted to stop having babies ourselves so we could help our daughters have theirs - or gain an "evolutionary advantage" as the scientists say (Grandmother Hypothesis, Wikepedia). Of course we did. A love so strong it changed the way our bodies function. 

I wonder now if my own grandmothers consciously taught me what they knew, how much they thought about being examples, how much they trusted to intuition for their roles in my life. Or if they just acted out of their natural instinct to serve and protect me, and to give me everything they knew how to give.

Of course we did. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Physiology of Appreciation

"Everything is interconnected. Gratitude improves sleep. Sleep reduces pain. Reduced pain improves your mood. Improved mood reduces anxiety, which improves focus and planning. Focus and planning help with decision making. Decision making further reduces anxiety and improves enjoyment. Enjoyment gives you more to be grateful for, which keeps that loop of the upward spiral going. Enjoyment also makes it more likely you’ll exercise and be social, which, in turn, will make you happier."

This is a quote from an interesting article I ran across last night: Four Rituals that Will Make You Happy, that explains the neurochemistry of thought. Fabulous that such studies can now be made, a bit frightening to think of joy reduced to serotonin and dopamine, but it made me reflect on all the advice I hear about being grateful, counting your blessings; old advice for the New Age.  Personally, I wonder how it is that people are not grateful on an ongoing basis, because everything I see every day inspires in me a sense of wonder - I marvel at how the universe works, how it can operate on such a massive and yet intimate scale, how can it all WORK!

I spend most of my thoughts on how I fit into it all and how I can keep coping with the inexorable flow, the mad ride down the rapids that is my life. And now I read the physiology of appreciation, how we create our responses and mold our attitudes, and how we can do consciously what I have done unconsciously for all my years. It must be true, because while I have bad days and down times, I have never had what anyone would call depression. And here I thought I was just special when, as with all things in this marvelous universe, there is a plan, a recipe for joy.

Other people who obviously carry with them the same wonder and appreciation for such magnificence are scientists and artists and teachers and historians, people of any ilk who feel a passion for figuring out how we work. Scientists want to understand the mechanics: physicists and chemists and biologists and engineers. Artists want to capture emotional realities, to examine how we feel what we feel. Historians and archaeologists pick away at the scope of existence over time and the impossible layering of memory it brings. What is memory? What does it give us? Why do we have it? What are our own responsibilities toward it? Why are we here?

For me, it is hard to understand how a mind so occupied could become depressed at all, and therein lies my saving grace, and I appreciate it.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Poem for Gabriel

Little RA burst into life,
demanding clearly “Fix me first
and we shall see if you can be
the kind of folks to handle me.
If you can do that, possibly,
I’ll let you take a shot at me.”

So much to see and learn and feel,
so hard to balance on the wheel
of life in time; impatience reigns
when wants must play through weeks and days.

So quick to shoot his blinding rays
to tender mountaintops and glee,
to sharper edges beckoning
as well to flow right over.

He will reach his arms to these
the edges, smiling, joyful haste
in light we’ll teach him not to waste
and then stand back and watch him – pulsing –

A father’s dream, a rooster fine
with mind enough to walk the line
his mother teaches – possibly,
probably in fact. If we
are just as quick and strong as he,
Little RA will grow to be the sun.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Poem for Emma

I have been reading a lot of senior blogs and, surprisingly, have found little about grandchildren. Perhaps we just don't want to wear people out with our joy!  Here is the first of two poems about my own.

(This is Emma’s Grammy’s poem about Emma)

Big Things in Small Packages

This child, like any child,
is full and round and fervently living
giving her gift of naïve luminescence
to light my dark path near the end of the road.
My progeny, dearest of all human things,
rings my heart with smiles.

I know that she is Special, has Needs,
but what I see is the full-force life
of one who chooses to take the best
out of living and leave the rest.
I am incredibly blessed
that her soul is here to remind me.

She peeks at me from tiny perfection
and grabs my hand for wide-eyed protection
but I am not sure whether hers or mine:
her eyes so shine with love and affection
I would walk with her 
to the edge of the world and back.

She trusts me to teach her but
trying to reach her becomes a big game;
she teases and shines me ahead or behind me,
child of my heart, her soul does remind me
to joyfully go on down that road
to where the water tastes like wine.