Growing older, cactus style

Picture of saguaro cactus

Isn’t this a great saguaro cactus? I found it in one of the mountainous parks in the middle of Phoenix. One of the marvelous things about that burg is that there are SEVEN mountain peaks you can climb, right within city limits. I’ve been up most of them, and they can be a tough scramble.

Back to the saguaro. Did you know they don’t even start putting out limbs until they are 50 years old? By that tally, I’d estimate this cactus is pushing a hundred–or more. Not moving, just standing there tough, watching the world go by. You’ve got to appreciate patience like that.

~Don’t give up!
Good things take time,
and you’re getting there.

~Anonymous~

Four score and seven

water fall in NH

What is striking to me about this picture of surf hitting rocks in Maine is that the rock, solid granite, has been worn smooth by the constant plunging wear of the water, advancing, retreating, advancing again.

You could put your hand to this stone, as I did, and feel a surface polished as smooth as a tombstone.

Perhaps our sense of time, based upon our meager life existence of “four score and seven,” is too short. How our perspective would change if our worldview was the same as the rocks of this earth.

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be.
~Robert Browning~

 

 

Book Review: 100 years: Wisdom from Famous Writers on Every Year of your Life by Joshua Prager

100 years by Joshua Prager100 Years: Wisdom from Famous Writers on Every Year of your Life by Joshua Prager

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Imagine if you could ask the most famous authors in the world their views on your age today. What would they say? Better yet, what advice could they give you as you enter your next decade, and the next after that?

This is the delight that the book 100 YEARS by Joshua Prager provides. In collecting these quotes, he had very specific criteria that made the challenge all the more difficult: an author could be used only once, and the specific year must be included in the quote. What fun!

It was a slow slog: he went through 2700 pages of Thomas Mann and Leo Tolstoy to find only two quotes. Agatha Christie wrote over 80 books and didn’t make the cut. He had to keep in mind the progression of history as well. Two authors used the phrase “yellow leaf” to describe their then current old age: Christopher Isherwood at 53 and Lord Byron at 36!

Often he will give a summary quote at the beginning of a decade. For example, for the Fortieth Decade he includes, “Men at forty learn to close softly the doors to rooms they will not be coming back to,” by Donald Justice.

As I look ahead to an older age, I was curious about what might be said of seventy, or even the ninetieth decade. Prager doesn’t disappoint. J.D. James says, “Will I be here at the end of the year? At seventy-seven, that is not an irrational question.”

And May Sarton, that wonderful journalist laments, “Every person seventy-eight years old lives in a somewhat depeopled world. The trouble for me is that I often loved people older and wiser than I. So I’m left now in the lurch, being, trying to be, the old wise one and feeling like a great goose.”

Whatever age you’ve been, are now, or hope to aspire to, you’ll find it here.

An additional delight is that each page of the book is a different color, each specific number is set in a different type font by one of the most celebrated graphic designers in the world, Milton Glaser. The book becomes a feast for the eyes as well as for the mind.

Highly recommended

Falling apart and coming together

Out of plumb

This ramshackle house, about to collapse, with not one true-square corner to its credit, is how I wake up some mornings. Out of plumb, not syncing with the world I find myself in. My jokes don’t seem funny, even to me. My cat purrs and bites me at the same time. I stub my toe on the sidewalk edge I have stepped over hundreds of times before.

And then I have to stop and breathe. I’m fine. The world is fine. We will all make it through this life, together.

     Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.
                  ~The Velveteen Rabbit~ 

Book review: UPSTREAM–Selected Essays by Mary Oliver

upstream by Mary Oliver
Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Although wildly famous for her lyrical poetry, Mary Oliver has become my new favorite essayist after Ursula le Guin. Both women in their 80s (Le Guin recently passed away), both astute wise women.

Mary Oliver’s poetry came from early roamings and ramblings in nature. The eponymous essay in the book describes how she waded upstream while her parents waded downstream. She got lost, but loved it, and has been wading upstream ever since.

Until she moved to Florida in 2005 at the death of her partner, she had spent 50 years in Provincetown near the ocean, and her essays pay tribute to this beautiful place.

She includes essays on favorite authors: Whitman, Wordsworth, Emerson and a surprise to me, Edgar Allen Poe.

She describes how she made a one-room studio out of salvaged wood and other materials. She strung a wire to it because she wanted to light a lamp like a beacon that she could see from her main house.

What I like about these essays is that they have a sharp-edged attention to detail and a lyrical swing to the words that makes them almost poetry in their own right. For example, her first essay ends, “Teach the children. We don’t matter so much but they do. Show them daisies and the pale hepatica. Teach them the taste of sassafras and wintergreen…And the frisky ones: inkberry and lamb’s-quarters, blueberries…Give them peppermint to put in their pockets as they go to school.”

I respect the poet’s skillful use of language, and I love her philosophy of life.

Book Review: Ursula Le Guin, No Time to Spare

No Time to Spare: Thinking About What MattersNo Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ms. Le Guin, who recently passed away, wrote this collection of essays published in 2017 when she was in her mid-80s. It is a wakeup call to older authors that the writing life lasts as long as the words can be put cogently upon paper!

Le Guin’s essays are sharp, funny, and filled with wisdom.

Being a cat person myself, I was delighted to hear of the adventures of her new cat, Pard. One of her essays begins, “Last Thursday night, Pard woke me up about 3 a.m. by bringing his real, live mouse toy onto the bed so I could play with it, too.”

Upon receiving a questionnaire from Harvard asking about her spare time, she replies, “I am free, but my time is not. My time is fully and vitally occupied with sleep, daydreaming, with doing business and writing friends and family on email, with reading, with writing poetry, with writing prose, with thinking, with forgetting, with embroidering, with cooking and eating a meal and cleaning up the kitchen…” she goes on listing activities, ending with, “lying down for an afternoon rest..with my own slightly crazy cat occupying the regions between my upper thighs and mid-calves, where he arranges himself and goes instantly and deeply to sleep. None of this is spare time. What is Harvard thinking of? I am going to be eighty-one next week. I have no time to spare.”

When asked about old age, Le Guin said her pet peeve are the ads portraying “typical” older people with airbrushed wrinkles skiing diamond slopes or running ultra-marathons. What about the rest of us? she questions.

An excellent read, as Le Guin gives an unsparingly honest reflection upon our lives and the times in which we live.