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, August 28, 2011

I am getting older

This picture of me, taken last week by Fred while we were on our hike to Goat Lake, shows a nice smiling lady standing in front of a beautiful scene. But something about the lovely picture nagged at me and I just couldn't figure it out at first. Then it hit me: I am getting older, and no matter how much I exercise and diet, time doesn't stand still for anybody, and it shows. The three pictures I keep in the header of this blog show a progression of aging, and it hasn't stopped or slowed down at all. This is natural and inevitable, but every once in a while, I notice and think about where I'm headed.

The world has changed so much since I was born almost seven decades ago. Even though birth and death are major events to an individual, they continue to occur all over the world at every moment, not just with humanity but with everything. It's usually so gradual that we don't notice, but if I think of the world as it was when I was young and compare it to the world I live in today, the differences are staggering. The population of the United States has more than doubled. How could that not be noticeable? But it also has happened gradually and although I realize how many more people are around, I always think that it is simply where I am living, and that somewhere the world exists as it did when I was little. But it's just not true. It's gone. The Wizard of Oz was made in 1939, and we still watch it occasionally on TV. Every single person, from stage hand to Munchkin to actor, has died. There was no massive catastrophe that caused this, just the simple passage of time.
The world doesn't stand still for anybody or anything. The wrinkled and spotted hands that type this today were once pretty, with manicured and painted nails, and I cared a great deal how they looked. That has also gone; today they function just fine, and I cannot imagine putting polish on my nails ever again. It just doesn't have the importance it once did. But today I notice, marking another change that happened while I wasn't paying attention.

If I could see a map of the United States with a light winking on at every birth, and a light winking off at every death, I might notice an upward trend. More people are being born than are dying in this part of the world, and this not only changes the quality of each life, but the sheer numbers cause me to realize that it cannot continue at this rate for much longer. There are more than 312 million of us in the US today, and when I was born, it was around 140 million. And even though I'm old now, it's taken less than seventy years for this enormous change to occur. The demographics are fascinating to me, and if you are interested, take a look for yourself. This is just in my small corner of the world; it's happening everywhere. I remember when I was in school learning about the fact that the world population would reach 6 billion by the turn of the century. At the time, this represented a doubling of the 3 billion on the planet. I couldn't even begin to imagine how different life would be, but the gradual rate of change has made it noticeable but not incredibly so. Certainly nothing like I imagined.

The other side of the passage of time has been the incredible rate of change in connectivity. I'm sitting here with a laptop that is connected to the world in ways that I could never have imagined even a decade ago. Yesterday I video chatted with my sister on Skype; this morning I've googled several items to check facts or download a picture, and I am writing this article on a blog that will appear on your own computer instantly after I hit "publish." If you try to imagine how that sentence would have puzzled someone who tried to make sense of it just a few short years ago: what's a Google? Skype? Blog?

It all seems so natural to me. I can hardly imagine how different my life would be without my connections. Smart Guy and I each have a cellphone and can talk to each other while out walking or while driving somewhere (although here in Washington state, I now pull over if the phone rings so I don't get a ticket). But how cool is that? And the best part is that I can TURN IT OFF if I feel like it. I remember how annoyed I would get when I would receive a phone call when I wasn't feeling receptive. All these changes have come in the past few years, too. We don't even have a landline any more.

Thinking about the passage of time, of the inevitability of change, I feel a little like I'm standing on the edge of a cliff looking down into a beautiful valley. I realize that as I can see everything from this vantage point, I can also feel the breeze lifting my hair and the rush of exhilaration that comes from having climbed this high.


Sally Wessely said...

Life seems so short at times. I am visiting my 95 year old mother. I am struck by how little she has changed. I have aged. I feel it and see it, but she seems ageless. I have quite figured out why that seems to be true.

Dee said...

What a thought-provoking and evocative posting today, DJan.

Thank you for reminding me of just how much change there has been since I was born in 1936. Right now, the different ways of connecting impresses me most. I sometimes wonder about both the pros and the cons of this connectedness.

What I thank you for most today is bringing back the memory of my mom out on the farm. I think she must have been so lonely. So cut off from others, especially because Dad had the car had work.

If she'd been able to connect as we can how different her life might have been. I'd so like to give her back those years but add today's connectedness.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful pic of you at Goat Lake!!! When I look at it, I don't see an "old" lady. I see a healthy and fit woman, who seems so happy and serene. Yes!

The theme of your post today reminds me of the comment Linda Reeder left on my blog (which showed pics of me at the zoo in 1982), yesterday: "I have mixed feelings about looking at old photos like these. It makes me a little sad to see how young I was then, and how old I am now. And yet I don’t want to go back. I guess that’s just the way life is."

Her comment just about says it all for me!

Mel said...

You look great. I loved this post, and the last paragraph is beautiful and perfect. I need to make it into a poster and read it every day.

I tell my kids how microwave ovens, cell phones, cd's, the internet, satellite tv and most everything they take for granted didn't exist in 1960 when I was born. It amazes me that the everyday necessity was inconceivable just a generation prior. I get excited thinking about what my kids might tell their kids didn't exist when they were young. I can't imagine what it might be! I wish I could peek forward to see it sometimes. I could have never guessed a few decades ago that I'd be googling NASA images of a hurricane and posting the photos to my blog, while skyping my sister either.

We live in simply amazing times, information access-wise. We also live in amazing times social demographics-wise. I took a college course on Social Geography that was the greatest revelation of any topic I studied. As fast as we're growing in the US, the birth rate is still too low to support the resources required by the baby boom generation, and inadequate to compete in the global economy with high birth rate nations like India. It's fascinating to see the world as an interrelated dynamic systems with predictable impacts and outcomes. Scary too.

Thanks for another wonderful thought provoking post.

Grandmother Mary said...

I second the inspirational power of the last paragraph. What a great attitude toward aging you portray. You're my hero! Doing what we can to stay healthy and fit is all we can do for ourselves, and you're doing that well. The rest is out of our control. Maybe it's time for a fourth photo on the header. Age is beautiful!

Rubye Jack said...

First of all, the photo of you is great, really. Sometimes I look at photos of myself lately and think who is that person. Ah well...

I didn't even notice aging that much until I turned 60 and then it was rather like a slap in the face, but I've grown to accept it over the last 4 years.

You know what is so difficult for me to understand is how we ignore the population explosion. More than anything else in this world, that is what will destroy humans if something isn't done pretty much now. Ah well again...
Great post Jan!

Robert the Skeptic said...

Our generation holds a special place in the history of mankind, but I have often couched it as that we have lived in the best times man ever has, and ever will have, on this planet. We will approach 7 BILLION people on the planet if we haven't already. How can this possibly bode well for future generations? You and I will be checking out before things really begin to slide for humanity. But for now we have reaped the longevity and other benefits of our generation, something to be thankful for.

CiCi said...

You are getting older but better. Remember that.

For me, when I was not at work, I did not hesitate to keep the volume off a phone, or not answer. That was why I had a message machine. Ha.

I like the photo of you by the tree, your red bandana around your neck, your smile soft and you stance relaxed. Yep, older is better. No nail polish but wisdom in the eyes we all see.

Anonymous said...

The photo is beautiful and the writing thought provoking. I am sometimes surprised when I see myself reflected in a mirror or window because I don't immediately recognize myself. I look more and more like my mother as she aged. As far as adjusting to changes, my spouse still couldn't tell you what some of that technology is!
Jann but known to google as anonymous!

Far Side of Fifty said...

You are a beautiful mature woman..perhaps with plain nails..but what the heck.. polish is overrated anyway.

Of course you look older..you are older..I struggle with that all the time..who is this old woman..in a tired body..well worn...and I used to be young and maybe I still am in my mind:)

Norma Jean said...

I often wonder why no one seems to blame "global warming" on the increase in population on this planet. This earth cannot continue to sustain life in ever-increasing numbers.

I see life as we knew it ending and I am glad I will probably not be around to see the demise of being able to "live the American Dream". It sounds very pessimistic, but I am afraid it is just around the corner and no one seems to be able to stop it.

The divide between the "haves" and the "have-nots" is going greater every day and I see no way it will ever change. It will just get worse. (and bigger)


WOW! I could have written this. AND let me tell you it made me feel good to know that we are - many of us - riding in the same boat. Sharing the same road ahead.
I still have lots - I think - to look forward to but as you said time marches on and we with it.
Sometimes it seems to be zipping by. R and I are retired and dealing with some health issues but all in all we have it pretty good.
Thanks for sharing your glimpse of where you are. It's a reflection of me and where I am!
God bless. Barb

Sandi said...

After reading, I went back and really looked at the three photos at the top. I think it's amazing that you look exactly the same. Your eyes and smile haven't changed over the years at all.

I don't remember who said it above, but I see you as a fit and vivacious woman, not elderly at all! You can climb and drop circles around most people 20 years younger; that certainly doesn't make you "old"!

Yet, I totally see what you mean about the changes. I am living in the same town I was born in 60 years ago, and sometimes I'll be driving somewhere and I'll think I've got dementia, as I can't figure out where I am. It's because there have been so many changes, and additions to my town. When I was just 20, the area we live in didn't exist, it was all orchards and fields and woods. This was way out in the country! Now, it takes more than five minutes to attempt to drive a mile!

I have no answers, but lots of questions, about what this world will be like when we're really old!

Linda said...

Aw jeez, now I need to do some thinking. Very thought provoking post. I would not want to go back in time, but I would like to go forward in good health. Life is still good for me. I certainly want to live longer than my parents lived and in much better health.

Rita said...

Who needs nail polish anyways! ;)
You sure don't look like you're nearing 70, lady! You're an active, energetic example for people decades younger, as a matter of fact.

It's funny how the passage of time just kind of sneaks up on you. I was just talking to somebody yesterday about how if I was going to end up house-bound what an absolutely perfect time for it. I'm sitting here with a lap top, cell phone, have movies delivered to my mailbox, am meeting people all over the world, can order my books, craft & art supplies online, and have my groceries delivered right to my kitchen. Blows my mind!

I am so amazed by how life has changed in my 60 years. I think so much of it has been for the better. Because of how we are all connected these days we have been forced to become aware of ourselves as being all in this together. It is slowly dawning on us and we are taking action more and more to save our resources, to reveal deception & lies, and to help & support each other as the world seems to grow smaller. I think it is a good thing. There is good and bad to every era, to every decade. It may seem worse because we see and hear everything now from all corners--but that is a good thing. Human beings are slow to change. But once we cannot live in denial anymore--we take action. Already, all over the world, people are doing things, creating things, learning things, searching for things to make life better for others. It feels to me like your final paragraph...exhilarating! I want to spread my arms wide and feel the winds of change! :):)

Whitney Lee said...

What continues to amaze me is your vitality. It's something that has nothing to do with polished nails or unlined skin but is the core of who you are.
I think the increases in technology and the population explosion are intertwined. Technology keeps people alive for so much longer now and allows people who wouldn't be able to conceive to bring life into the world. It's these same people who keep pushing the boundaries of current technology.
As for your comment this morning, it's so much easier to share my opinions with others than it is to take my own advice! You are right, though, so thank you for the reminder:)

Charlotte said...

I could have written this blog. In less than two weeks I will be attending my 50th high school class reunion. Sometimes I wonder I how got this old and others I feel as if I'm that 18 year old girl graduating from high school.
What you've written has given food for thought.

Red said...

Your comments on the passage of time and the changes which occur around us is bang on. You look at this in a healthy way. Some people suffer extreme anxiety over this natural happening. My Grandma's quote was that she was born before airplanes were invented and she lived to the jet age.
It's good that you can put this in perspective and describe it to others in a way that makes sense.

Friko said...

Your Sunday morning thoughts impress me every time. I agree whole-heartedly with everything you say.

Everything changes, yet everything stays the same. And when we've gone in the fullness of time, everything will still continue as it always has.

Trish said...

You're one person who defies age, never forget that.Only today, Rob and I were talking about how a person time traveling forward from the 60s would be shocked, blown away, by all the changes. The connectivity itself is as marvel. You punch a few keys and are suddenly connected to people worldwide. In a sense, it's what eastern religions refer to as Indra's net - that web of connections among people at deeper levels of our lives.

A really beautiful post.

Thekkikattan|தெகா said...

Thanks for the write up! It is very contemplative sort.

In your life span itself you have seen the world population multiplied in double from 3 billion to 6. Can't imagine how in about another 50 years thing would be.

Thanks for sharing!

Hundreds of Hundreds said...

Wonderful post! It often strikes me that many want to live for a long time but few want to be old. As I turn the corner of mid-fifties I keep my eye out for those aging with grace. Thank you for not only doing so but talking about it.

Stella Jones said...

I think one of the nicest things about getting older is that you no longer have to compete. In this very competitive world, it is nice to get to the point where you've done all there is to be done but you're still enthusiastic for tomorrow. Once that goes, you might as well be dead and give your life to someone else.

Donna B. said...

What an INCREDIBLE POST! I LOVE your picture. I too write my post with age spotted hands which no longer fuss with my nails. As long as they work to do what I want to do, I am good. I no longer wear heels either. It is all about comfortable shoes which are generally thongs or sandals. (That is my biggest excuse for working out...don't want to wear socks
and tennis shoes...LOL!)

That last paragraph was so YOU...the way you love living your life. It was so beautifully written.

I have always said you are my hero and such a warrior, superwoman...

We do need to set up a Skype session soon...in between all the company we will be having over the next few months...

Beautiful, beautiful, powerful post DJan!

CrazyCris said...

Funny, I've been thinking on the passage of time lately also!

My ageing has never been something I've noticed. I'm still the same old me and age is just a number, doesn't represent ME. I started to take not of the passage of time when I realised my "baby" sister was 25. HUH?!?!?! How did that happen???

Then it was the shock of saying "oh yeah! we were there 20 years ago!" when talking about travel memories. Hold on! I can retell an anecdote from 20 years ago?! Damn... time sure is flying by!

The technology changes I haven't paid as much attention to. Although I do stop and wonder on occasion "how did we do it all before cellphones?" It was just a decade ago that I got my first phone... can't imagine life without it! I won't even begin with the internet...