I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, January 28, 2018

A matter of time

Me at 72 and 22
What a difference fifty years makes! A while back I compiled this so that I could ask friends if they could tell that this is the same person, separated by fifty years. Nope. Even my dear partner couldn't tell it was me. Or maybe especially him, because he never knew me when I was young. We met at fifty and by that time, although my hair had not yet turned white, I was definitely no longer looking like that pretty ingénue.

I've been thinking about how much has changed in that half century. Our language, for one thing, is now filled with phrases and words that made no sense back then, such as "google" or "landline." A watch was just a watch, not analogue or digital, and our phones were all connected to the wall, so the word "landline" would have made no sense. Nowadays, landlines are definitely on their way out. When we moved here a decade ago, we discussed whether we should get a landline along with our cellphones, and we decided against it. Although there are still landlines, I never call one and our smartphones are so much more than just a phone. There's another one: "smartphone." What in the world would I have made of that word in 1965?

Most people don't even wear watches any more. I do, because I really like to look down at my left wrist and know the exact time, without having to pull out my phone. But I use my phone for so much more than telling time or making a phone call. It's also my camera, alarm clock, step counter, calculator, news source, and gives me a way to check my mail. When I was that young woman, I remember once watching a TV show about the future, and there was a concept that in fifty years we would all be wearing a Dick Tracy-type wristwatch that would allow us to talk in person to each other, and guess what? Now we can do exactly that with our smartphones. Gracious!

It's also becoming obvious that many of the phrases I grew up with are becoming obsolete. What about clockwise or counterclockwise? Are those going away as people move away from analogue clocks? Or how about telling someone about where your hands should be on the steering wheel at 10 and 2? Does that even mean anything to someone in his or her twenties? My goodness, I am now sounding like my grandmother, lamenting the passage of time. But time is not a thing that passes, it's a sea on which we float. (Margaret Atwood)

I have been floating on this sea long enough to look like a wrinkled prune. That's it! I just figured out how I can look like that young woman again, just get out of the sea. No, that won't do, because then I'd be dead. The notion of time is simply fascinating, and old photographs and memories remind me that it's an equal opportunity concept: nobody alive escapes its passage. Some might be able to appear younger with lots of lotions and potions and plastic surgery, but they are still floating on that same sea along with me.

Speaking of time, I have a week before I travel to Florida to be with my sister and nephew for a winter vacation. Since it's getting close, I spend lots of time thinking about what I'll need to take along, how to survive the journey of two long days, one going and one returning. I'm looking forward to being there but not to the travel. There was a time when I loved airports and journeying from one place to another, but not any more. Not only am I older, but now we are like cattle being herded into crowded pens, no longer treated with special care. Unless I could travel first class (which I cannot afford), it's something to be endured rather than enjoyed. No matter; I'll be in sunny and (hopefully) warm Florida! Norma Jean told me they just had two hard freezes in a row, and some of the palm trees turned brown and look dead, while others are unaffected. I'll try to take some pictures to capture the damage.

Mostly I'll be spending the time keeping up with my active sister: swimming first thing every morning in the outdoor pool and then walking a few miles to get weight-bearing exercise. She and I are the two active siblings, and it does sometimes make me wonder why it's just the two of us in a family of six who exercise daily. Whatever the reason, I'm glad we share a love of activity and will be together for a little more than a week to play in the sunshine and enjoy a glass of wine together in the evenings.

This past week one of my favorite authors died at the age of 88: Ursula K. Le Guin. She has written many sci-fi novels that I enjoyed enough to reread several of them. The New York Times wrote an obituary that tells of her many talents. She also wrote wonderful essays and recently released her latest collection, which I have on order from the library, No Time to Spare. And I found this quote from her (from The Dispossessed), that sums up this post with perfect symmetry:
Well, we think that time "passes," flows past us, but what if it is we who move forward, from past to future, always discovering the new? It would be a little like reading a book, you see. The book is all there, all at once, between its covers. But if you want to read the story and understand it, you must begin with the first page, and go forward, always in order. So the universe would be a very great book, and we would be very small readers.
She lived a good life and left behind a legacy through her writing that will be loved and appreciated for generations to come. She is no longer floating on the sea but has joined it, as we all will one day. Until that time (there's that word again), I'll be enjoying my Sunday mornings with my virtual pals, and with my dear husband sleeping beside me. Next week I'll still be here with him, but the following week I'll be in Florida and sitting in another bed writing this post. Until we are together again next week, I wish you all good things and especially hope that you will be well.


Anonymous said...

There is some resemblance, but both photos look beautiful. You have aged well.

Linda Reeder said...

I see plenty of resemblance between the young you and the "old" you, or perhaps we should reverse that. The young you is the old you, and the current you is the new you. Do we renew ourselves as we age? We certainly change. And yet, at the core, we are still that person who was once young. But as your hearer says, we have had lots of "experience" along the way.
It's a new day, and soon, a new month, in a still new year. Now we need a patch of "new" weather. Hopefully you'll get yours in Florida.

Linda Myers said...

I love both the pictures. And yes, I see you in both.

Marie Smith said...

Both photos are beautiful, Jan. That young woman learned a great deal and experienced so much. She has earned every line in those fifty years.

Arkansas Patti said...

I see you in both. Enjoyed the "I know things beyond my years" look in the young photo. I use to be accused of having that look.
You have weathered amazingly well. I have somehow turned into an old fisherwoman thanks to Florida sunshine and cigarettes years ago. Sigh.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, Love the thoughts about time passing. And all those old words. Wow, had to smile about clockwise and counterclockwise. Those are almost toast, aren’t they? I had to copy the quote from Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed and save it in a little file called “wisdom.” So interesting! Thanks for another excellent Eye on the Edge. John

Buz said...

The analog clock reference aside, I read somewhere that “10 and 2” (the actual hand positions on a steering wheel) is no longer advisable in the age of steering-wheel mounted air bags, with “8 and 4” being safer for one’s hands.

Gigi said...

I love both pictures and can definitely see the connection. But I think if I "saw" you every day it might be a different story. I look at my husband and still see the man I married and not the man he is today. Every once in a while, I do but that's rare.

I also love that quote from Ursula K. Le Guin - it's a perfect way to view life.

Enjoy your week and safe travels!

Red said...

Cool post. There are many things that have become obsolete in our lives. However, learning new things has kept us in the game and on top of the sea rather than in the bottom of the sea. I wonder how many adults or kids would remember the children's son...there's a hole in the bottom of the sea? Now would you rather take a three day train trip to Florida? Have a good one. Hey did we know that one 50 years ago?

Sally Wessely said...

I think I would have recognized you, but I think you have become refined and more of a beauty with age. Neither photo captures your sparkling blue eyes. That is what I love most about your appearance: your eyes.

I’m so glad you are going off to Florida. Have fun!

The Furry Gnome said...

When I think back to all the years that have passed it just seems unreal. The different stages and places of life seem like totally different lives!

Rita said...

I've thought more about the changes since having the new grandsons. I watched the first Sesame Street with Ian and there were so many little things that are no longer--like dial phones, for one. Kids today don't know what a typewriter is let alone a mimeograph machine--LOL! Having to bring in rolls of film to be developed...having 4 or 5 TV channels...having to go to the library to look things up using those dewy decimal system cards in the little drawers...or just having to roll your window down in the car. I have lived long enough to be able to say--back in my day--LOL! I still call printer paper or copy paper (whatever they call it) typing paper and even Dagan and Leah roll their eyes.

I can see you in both pictures! Both are beautiful--the old young one and the new present you. :)

Rian said...

I think it's fascinating to look at the 2 pictures... 50 years apart. I often look at myself in the mirror and wonder who that old person is. I know it's me, but I no longer look like me... at least not the me I've known. But the thing is... we know that we're still the same person inside... and it's 'that person inside' that relates to family and friends... that person who has never really changed except in appearance. Does that make sense?

As for obsolete, we do still have a landline, but plan to ditch it soon due to non-use. And I haven't worn a watch since retirement... none needed. Technology has changed our world and will continue to do so exponentially. That we have gotten to see so much is amazing.

Enjoy your visit with your sister!

Dee said...

Dear DJan, thank you and Ms. Le Guin for the image of floating in the sea of time. It's an image I need to ponder. sometimes on that sea I seem to be floundering, other times I'm swimming with strong breast stroke, and sometimes I just lie on my back and look at the starry sky, which fills me with wonder and the sea with a shimmer that feels me with awe.

thank you also for the wish for the good health of your readers. I had a Meziere's scare on Friday that has left me somewhat imbalanced and extraordinarily tired. But each day gets better. The knowledge of that fortifies me. Take care. Peace.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Cool here tonight in south Florida - in the 50s. But by next week, you should have really nice weather. Enjoy your trip!

Mage said...

Delightful here in San Diego. Sunny, dry, warm. You have a great visit, and I will think of you as I get in the pool every morning.

Glenda Council Beall said...

I am behind in reading my favorite blogs. I've been "under the weather" - not flu but sinus infection and an injured knee.
I know you will enjoy Florida this time of year. I miss going there in the winter as I did for a few years after Barry died. I don't envy you the flight. As you say, the trip is just something we have to endure to get where we want to go.
You are a lovely woman and your twenty year old self was a beautiful young woman. I'm sure the kindness, the compassion and joy in living has always been a part of you. I enjoyed your post and look forward to hearing about Florida next time.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Oh to go back 50 years, I would be 16. I think both photos are Beautiful you have aged well.

troutbirder said...

As we get older change for many is increasingly difficult. I often think I might have been happier in pioneer times or now being Amish BUT without modern medicine I would long been dead. Still adapting requires learning to deal with change and as a high school teacher I created social studies classes for seniors with names like "Future Shock" based on Alvin Toffler's book of the same name and "Poverty" based on LBJ's first war that was lost because of Vietnam and still exists and is growing worse again etc. As to changes in our "look" I still run into many students who wan to know if I remember them. The girls some even great grandmothers are much easier and I often identify them by name. The boy are much harder being bald or bigger or etc. You I don't know perhaps there was a certain way you smile or had a definite twinkle in your eye or we're especially brave or feisty. Of course a picture doesn't always reveal such things. But knowing you now through blogging I'm guessing I would have remembered you from those many years ago...:)
Ray( Troutbirder)

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

Another very insightful post.