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, March 21, 2021

The evening of life

Red rainbow by Rita Eberle-Wessner

One of my favorite artists is Rita Eberle-Wessner, and I snagged this wonderful picture of hers from her Flickr site. She lives in Belgium and I am impressed with her ability to capture nature incredibly well. Of course, it helps that she uses a professional Canon Mark IV for many of these beauties. I looked it up to see how much it costs and realized it is not for me! I'll stick to my iPhone camera and snag hers for my own enjoyment. And yours, too, in this case.

This morning I'm looking back at my long life, and how many times I've completely changed everything in it, becoming an old woman very gradually but inexorably. I caught a glimpse of myself yesterday and was shocked by how deep the wrinkles around my mouth have gotten. I feel like the same person throughout my life, but the journey from a child to a young adult feels like ancient history. Even becoming a retired person feels like a long time ago; it's been thirteen years.

When I see the age of people I admire, I realize that many times these people were born what seems like not long ago to me, but they are now adults and making a mark on the world. Chadwick Boseman was only 43 when he died, but he had already become famous for his incredible acting ability. I just watched his role in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, his last movie, and I was so moved by his performance that I cannot forget that last scene. We are all diminished by his passing, but we will have his legacy of films to celebrate for a long time to come.

I'm in the process of seeing all the Oscar-nominated films, as is my habit, although this time it is from the comfort of my living room, and without my movie-going partner, Judy, while we are in the midst of a viral pandemic. This coming Tuesday I will get my second shot; SG had his second one last Friday, and hopefully after a few more weeks, I'll be as protected against the virus as I can be. Our post-pandemic life will look different across the world, but from here, the beginning of spring (or autumn in the Southern Hemisphere), it looks like we still have a ways to go. Canada just announced another month of border closure, making it well into the second year without the ability to travel across the border from the US. I'm a long way from considering travel, but one day we will be able to do so safely. Not today, though.

Today, I am pondering what it means to grow old. I've been given the gift of life for many decades now, and as I emerge from the decade of my seventies and tentatively place a toe into that of my eighties, I wonder why in the world people continue to live and in some cases thrive for so long. Anyone who loves his or her pets knows that they will not outlive us: their shorter life spans means they will leave us and we will grieve their loss. It doesn't mean we won't continue to love and enjoy them, just that we know what it means in the time ahead. 
A human being would certainly not grow to be seventy or eighty years old if this longevity had no meaning for the species. The afternoon of human life must also have a significance of its own and cannot be merely a pitiful appendage to life's morning. —Carl Jung

I found this intriguing quote from one of my favorite authors. When I was younger, I studied Jung's work and read many of his most famous books. He was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst well known in the middle of the twentieth century. He died in 1961 at the age of 85. I think he was a man ahead of his time, and he came up with several concepts that have become mainstream. Read more about Carl Jung on his Wikipedia site here

I wonder what he would think of the internet and how connected we have all become to our smartphones and social media in general. It all happened after he died, but he seemed to know what was coming, writing extensively about the collective unconscious:

As modern humans go through their process of individuation, moving out of the collective unconscious into mature selves, they establish a persona—which can be understood simply as that small portion of the collective psyche which they embody, perform, and identify with. The collective unconscious exerts overwhelming influence on the minds of individuals. These effects of course vary widely, however, since they involve virtually every emotion and situation. At times, the collective unconscious can terrify, but it can also heal.

Well, to be fair, Jung wrote about everything in massive volumes of work, as well as giving lectures throughout the world. He was tremendously prolific, and continues to be very relevant in today's world. And I really wonder what he would think of these new collections of humans in the virtual world, such as this blog, with so many of my dear friends whom I will never sit down in a room with, but who are as important to me as any of the rest of my family. Our world has changed significantly with the advent of this new connectivity.

For me, my laptop and its ability to let me know what is happening in the entire world almost instantaneously has become essential and rather routine. Here I am sitting in my bed with the laptop, writing a post that will soon be published to anyone who wishes to read it, anywhere in the world, along with thousands of others that are being created as I write, by others like me, many of whom are also old. We bring our wisdom and beliefs into the blogosphere to share and amplify. There are people who, I'm told, look forward to this missive every Sunday as a way to regulate their Sundays into a regular routine.

Although I am looking at the sunset of my life, it is also at the beginning of a new day, and a new season. We have made it through another winter and I so look forward to the enjoyment of spring flowers, green plants shooting up out of the ground as if they were impatiently waiting for the sun to awaken them. My goodness, I have so many ways to feel joy and love that I can barely count them all. And not least in that list is feeling grateful for the physical body that carries me through all my days. Even though it's true that age has brought me aches and pains that will only increase as I age further, I cannot deny that I welcome them, listen to them, as they help me decide what I might be able to accomplish today, this first full day of spring.

Of course, the first task is almost finished: writing this post. Then, it will be time to leap out of bed (figuratively, that is) and get on with the rest of my day. That always starts the same way: washing up, dressing, brushing my teeth, and going out onto the front porch to do my exercises. And then it's off in my car to the coffee shop, where John will already be drinking coffee in his truck, waiting for me. 

One day we will once again be able to gather around the table inside, but not today, not yet. We'll be wearing our masks out in public, but since John is part of my "bubble," we'll take them off while we drink our coffee. If we get out of the cab, we'll put them back on again. I feel very fortunate that my entire town seems to be cognizant of the need for protection from the virus, even as other places are apparently ignoring the pandemic. I hope they will stay safe and not infect others on purpose.

And with that, my dear virtual family, I will leave you to enjoy your day, with lots of hopeful wishes for happiness as we move through yet another moment on this beautiful planet, with love and joy surrounding us everywhere. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things.


gigi-hawaii said...

You definitely write well. I know what you mean about looking old, yet feeling like the same person you've always been. I can identify with that. Well, enjoy Sunday, DJan. It's pouring rain over here in Hawaii.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

DJan I share how you feel much the same inside but the mirror reflection shows us a newer version. When I was younger I looked at elderly and felt sad. Old seemed like a curse almost. Now my understanding gas shifted. One needs to be old to really get it. It is not bad just inevitable and somehow as we get older we fit into that role gracefully and with a keener awareness of our time to remain mortals.
As foe Covid we have provincial borders closed two and only 4 airports open in our vast country. It means we must stay local. The third wave has arrived and it is said to be very deadly .
Spring is here and we made it too this as well. Let us hope we see our way to fall.
I posted on both my blogs after a long time as sight is growing weaker.

Far Side of Fifty said...

My husband has that problem, somedays he thinks he is 17 again instead of 71. I am his reality checker!
I am feeling old today...isn't there a song In the Morning of my life...is it the Bee Gees maybe..
Soon you will have that second shot.
I am certain I have earned every wrinkle I have!! :)

Elephant's Child said...

Thank you. I do look forward to your Sunday musing which so often give me a new thought or perspective to consider as I start my week (it is very early Monday here).
I am frequently surprised when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I just don't look the way I feel. Ever.

Arkansas Patti said...

Ah that 30 year old mind gets my 81 year old body in trouble all the time. I had gotten use to the old lady in the mirror but can't quite get used to her needing a haircut desperately. Blast Covid.
I am so glad you are almost vaccine secure. Not sure how much I will change when I have passed the two week wait period but I definitely feel more comfortable already.

Linda Reeder said...

I feel like my age may be finally catching up with me. Losing mobility can do that. My hair is almost white now and my face sags. Yet I can still smile at many things. Spring is here!
We watched the movie "Mank" last night. It was a bit hard to follow and not having good knowledge of that time period made it harder. I can see why Hollywood would like the movie, though. The only other nominated movie we have seen so far is "The Trial of the Chicago Seven". I liked that one very much. Both of these movies have messages for our time too.
Thanks for being here again this Sunday morning.

ApacheDug said...

DJan, I can appreciate your ponderings here today. Someone who's approaching their 80th decade... that's no small feat. I tell myself it's something I won't be seeing (even if I'm lucky to) for a very long time. And then I look back 20 years to 2000, 2001 and can remember with real clarity various events happening then; 9/11, starting with a new company, my dad's passing. It's unnerving how quickly we went from there to here, and If I'm not careful, the next years will speed by even faster. Thank you for today's read and I hope you have a spring-filled week ahead. :^)

William Kendall said...

Very well said.

Galen Pearl said...

Yes, getting older. Aware that I'm on the homestretch. This quote from The Wild Edge of Sorrow reminds me every morning to make each day count. "Today I am one day closer to my death. How do I want to live this day?" I find this not at all depressing, but motivating me to value the gift of each day and to end the day by asking where I gave and received love.

Marie Smith said...

The mirror breaks the illusion on the days when I feel young in mind and body. After the initial startle reflex, I settle into the realization of my age and it’s all okay again. I earned the lines and wrinkles. Maybe mirrors should be banned when one reaches a ‘certain’ age. Would it change anything for us? I wonder...

Red said...

You start out with the deep wrinkles and carry on to more aging topics. I think the important thing is to keep as active as possible in both body and mind. Now I can see my own deep wrinkles but I'm always curious about the deep wrinkles within my body?

Betsy said...

I caught a glimpse of myself in the window of a building as my husband and I took a walk Friday evening. I was shocked at how old I am! I don't see myself that way at all. Husband gets his second vaccine tomorrow. I get my second one next Monday. I'm excited. I feel it is the first step in seeing family again. The next week I leave to drive cross-country to our new home. It does make me feel safer in doing that although I still will be taking all precautions possible. Have a great week.

Anvilcloud said...

As Sue celebrates her 74th with mine to come in a few months, I realize how lucky we have been to have good health for so long.

Barbara Rogers said...

In my 40s and 50s I was curious about how life would be in 70s and 80s. I remember reading "On 70" a journal of a sweet writer who also grew beautiful gardens. I read several more of her "journals" and now I'm blanking on her name...hopefully I'll remember before I'm sending this off. May Sarton! I often hope my writing is half as interesting as hers was. This summer 79 will happen for me. I'm very grateful to have had this year after the heart episode last May. (ah ha, another May to remember). Each day I'm plumb bursting with gratitude. However long I have awareness, I hope to smile with this feeling of grace.

Linda Myers said...

I keep thinking that my knee and my hip capsule are going to heal up, just like other parts of my body did when I was younger. Probably not, though. Adjust, adjust, adjust. One of my goals has been to age with grace. I'm not a shining star in that regard!

Glenda Beall said...

Beautiful photo at top of post. I love sunsets and sunrises and this red rainbow is as pretty. Like you, DJan, I feel the sting of age more every day. Mentally I am sharp and enjoying my work, but it takes lots of time and energy to keep my body healthy and functioning. I had a wonderful weekend. My sister and BIL came to visit and we rode out to see how spring was coming. It cheered me up and I feel we are going to be seeing our friends and family again, getting hugs and laughing together. Thanks for your posts and for sharing your honest feelings that we can relate to. Have a great week.

Margaret said...

I can't know what I know and live as richly as I do without those years. I wasn't as wise when I was 30 as I am now, nor as able to find the good.

John's Island said...

Hi Djan, This is one of those posts where I enjoyed not only the post but the comments as well. As I’ve said before, I feel lucky to have found you in the blogosphere. You have a wonderful take on this business of getting older, and, yes, we are about the same age, so it all hits home with me. :-) This time I found the comments especially interesting re getting older and what we see in the mirror. Also, I’m going to have to read up on Carl Jung and his concept of the collective unconscious. Recently I’ve been studying Eckhart Tolle. He believes the evolution of humanity moves from the unconscious to awareness and that process is evolving at different rates in each person. How to move one’s self along that process is the subject of his book, Power of Now. Thanks for another fine edition of Eye on the Edge. John