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We Interrupt This Blog…

category_bug_journal2.gif I had something of greater import in mind for today, but it involved actual thinking and time got away from me. So consider today’s post an interlude, a pleasant interruption that has nothing to do with getting old.

Big excitement out back yesterday. All three floors of the apartment house that is kitty corner from the deck have been empty since I moved here in June. Then, about three weeks ago, a team of workers arrived who have been gutting the place from top to bottom throwing pieces of walls, ceiling and flooring into dumpsters below. Renovation is in the air, but it’s not all that compelling as entertainment goes.

Then yesterday, a big blue crane showed up for what appeared to be reconnaissance of the condition of the roof. I couldn’t resist a few photos:

Crane

About two weeks ago, Mrs. Spider moved in and erected a new home for herself between some leaves of Hedy the ivy and a wall of the deck. I thought to brush her away, but was impressed with the diligence of her construction efforts and so gave her a reprieve but intending it to be only a day or so.

Spider I thought she was gone after a heavy rainstorm, but then I spied her using an ivy leaf as an umbrella and when the rain stopped, she repaired her web and sat down to wait. Her patience is admirable and has led me to wonder how long a spider can go without food. As far as I can tell, nothing has fallen into her trap.

A second windy rain again tore her web apart, and again she diligently repaired it. And now that I’ve spent time watching all these efforts, it’s not so easy to brush her off. Can any of you gardening bloggers tell me if there’s any reason not to leave her there?

VegetablesWednesday is farmer’s market day at Monument Square in downtown Portland, Maine. I never miss it and I always overbuy, but how not to. Real tomatoes, ripened on the vine. Cute little round cucumbers that hint of lemon in their taste. Hybrid peas that snap and crackle and are as sweet as candy. Ten or 15 kinds of lettuce to choose from. Local raspberries, blackberries and wild blueberries that – well, you get the idea.

It makes you understand why so many artists paint still lifes.

Sunflowers The farmer’s market also sells plants and cut flowers and, hey Millie (of My Mom’s Blog), after your recent birthday, I’ll never again see sunflowers without thinking of you. So I bought some this week.

Our regularly scheduled programming will resume on Friday.


Old Stuff

category_bug_journal2.gif A move to a new home is an excellent opportunity to chuck useless stuff, and I was (mostly) ruthless when I packed my New York apartment to move to Maine.

But as I weighed each decision to toss or keep, some items – useful and not - held an importance for me unconnected to their purpose. In choosing what to keep, I was reminded of times when, clearing out the homes of friends and relatives who had died, I asked myself why on god’s green earth the person had kept this chipped cup or that ghastly figurine.

Here, I think, is why:

Timer Would you look at the design this wind-up timer - right out of the 1950s, which is exactly what it is. I was still a kid – 17 years old – when I went to work and got my first apartment. I bought the timer then, and although I’ve been tempted now and again in cooking supply stores to buy a new, more modern one, it works just fine.

But also, it’s a piece of my youth from 48 years ago. I hardly ever use it now – there’s a timer built into the stove, so I don’t know if keeping it is nostalgia or frugality (sometimes two things need to be timed at once). But I suspect it will still be in the kitchen drawer when I die.

Mezzaluna I bought this mezzaluna, with its steel edge and wooden handle, in about 1964. I had learned to use one from my soon-to-be mother-in-law. Hers fit my hand perfectly and it took a lot of searching to find a duplicate, which I finally did in a hardware store in the North Beach section of San Francisco.

The shop had been there for about 50 years and the price of the mezzaluna – 25 cents - had undoubtedly been written on the blade in grease pencil at about the same time the store opened. Even in 1964, such a well-made piece of kitchen equipment usually went for at least a dollar and would probably cost $10 or $15 today.

These days we have food processors that chop parsley or mushrooms or hard-boiled eggs in three seconds, but you can’t easily control the finished size of the food. So I still make heavy use of this beautifully-made chopper.

Hourglasstimer Here’s one I have no idea why I’ve kept. I have never used this three-minute hourglass timer. Not once. It has no purpose in my life. I got it as a promotional item sometime in the early 1970s when I was producing local morning TV shows. It’s stamped on one end with the logo of Liberty Records, which hasn’t existed in at least two decades. The album title has worn off the other end.

Every now and again, as I shove it aside in the utensil drawer looking for something else, I think of throwing it out. But I never do.

Fryingpan Like the wind-up timer, this cast-iron frying pan is one of the first purchases I made for my first apartment. It has been perfectly tempered for decades now and woe unto anyone who would dare put it in soapy water.

Instructions for the fancy, glass-top, electric stove that came with this new apartment warn against using cast-iron pots and pans on the surface, which is a clear indication that the engineer is not much of a cook; there are some things that just won’t come out right unless they are cooked in cast iron. So I’m taking my chances with the new stove top.

Dianacharlesbox A reporter friend of mine went to London in 1981, to cover the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Having a wonderful and odd sense of humor, she returned home with gifts for her friends - an astonishing array of cheap tchotchkes that were sold to commemorate the event: tea towels, key chains, scarves, soap dishes, pens and more. Each one, like my china box, was plastered with a bad photograph of the royal couple.

I often think I should throw it out so that when I die, no one will question my taste, but hey, it was a gift. And it’s funny. So it still sits on my dresser filled with nothing more than few foreign coins left over from countries I am unlikely to visit again.

Although it is hard to be certain, I think my getting older gives some of the oldest items – useful and not – their increased importance. Not always, but sometimes when I use the frying pan, I think a bit about how far I’ve come since I bought it. And the cooking timer has become a treasured antique, an artifact of the Fifties which are so often reviled, but during which I came of age.

They are touchstones that help mark my journey through life, jog my memory of past events and in a few cases, like the mezzaluna and the frying pan, are tools that can’t be improved upon, a pleasure to use.

So what’s been lying around your house for decades that people are going to make fun of when you die?


The Need for a Final Blog Post

The disappearance, with no explanation, of Milt Rebmann’s blog last week (read more here) and a comment from Steve Sherlock of Steve’s 2 Cents reminded me of something I posted in May 2005:

“I have left with the other papers my friend will need, a final blog to be posted. Yes, it begins with, ‘If you’re reading this, I am dead…’”

Milt announced in his first blog post last year that he was battling terminal cancer so those of us who read Milt’s Muse and consider him a friend are concerned, with no way of finding out what has happened. With that in mind, this idea of a final blog post bears repeating.

Blogging is still a new phenomenon little understood by those who do not participate either as bloggers themselves or regular readers. Blogging is here to stay, but there is not yet a consensus - moreso outside the blogosphere than within - about where the online friendships we establish fit in with our other relationships.

It is generally accepted that our social lives and contacts are arranged in concentric circles which, working out from the middle, form a hierarchy similar to this:

  1. Immediate family
  2. Closest friends
  3. Extended family
  4. Other frequent social contacts
  5. Work colleagues
  6. Neighbors
  7. Acquaintances

Your list could differ in the middle, but we can probably agree that numbers 1 and 7 are properly placed.

So where in the list would blog friends reside?

For me, it varies. Certainly, one or two belong in category 2 and many others can be located in categories 4 and 7. And in the blogosphere, number 6 hardly matters; we are all neighbors in the ether of cyberspace.

So our blog friends, wherever they land in our personal social hierarchies, are people who would want to know when we die. Without that notice, they are left with a mystery, bereft of the opportunity – and human need - to mourn and to celebrate a life that was part of their own.

We leave last wills and testaments to dispose of our belongings. Some people leave instructions for their funerals and memorial services, choosing music to be played and food to be served. (Jill Fallon at Legacy Matters writes about the practices of death in all their ordinary, strange and even funny particulars.) And so, we should leave a final blog entry too – with clear instructions, needed passwords and other information on how to post it for those who may not be familiar with blogging software.

Readers who comment frequently but do not blog themselves might consider a final blog post with a list of URLs on where to post it as a comment.

I’ve rewritten my final blog post once and it’s about due for another update; things change over time. And I’ve also directed that enough money be used from my estate to pay my blog host and domain registrar for a year following my demise.

Life expectancy these days is somewhere in the late 70s which only means that a whole lot of people die younger than that as well as older. There are no guarantees. We can count only on today.

Although it is a peculiar thought to attach social obligations to one's own death, a final blog post is the polite thing to do. If nothing else, it’s a chance to have the last word, and I’m not letting an opportunity like that get past me.


Aren't We Too Old For This?

Crabby Old Lady was grumpier than usual over the weekend. “Would you get this posted,” she grumbled. “I want to get it off my chest.”

ME: Let it go, Crabby. You'll just inflame the issue.

CRABBY: No. We've never done anything to cause this woman to speak so rudely. It should be addressed.

ME: It's not important, Crabby. Besides, most visitors here probably didn't even read it and so what if they did.

CRABBY: It's not about readers. It's about standing up for oneself. About righting a wrong.

ME: It's not that big a deal...

CRABBY: Just write it. You'll stew about it if you don't.

ME: Okay. Okay.

What's got Crabby's knickers in a twist is a comment left Saturday on the recent Housekeeping post which asked people on the Elderbloggers list to suggest a category under which they would like their blogs listed.

The comment comes from M Sinclair Stevens of Words Into Bytes, a woman Crabby considers a long-time compatriot of the blogosphere who, over more than a year, has contributed a couple of dozen thoughtful/useful/helpful comments to Time Goes By. So the tone and attitude of this new comment nearly knocked Crabby off her rocking chair:

“Although it's always an honor to be included on someone's blogroll, feel free to delete me. I'm not an elderblogger. With a generation above me and one below me, I'm smack dab in the middle of my life. I am, in fact, one of your oft-reviled baby boomers (although I feel a bit young even for that label--my Dad served in Viet Nam not WWII).

“Even if I were your age, I would consider myself a senior rather than an elder. I think there are generational differences between the 60-75 crowd (which I would term seniors) and the 75+ crowd (which I would term elders).

“May I suggest North Country Maturing Gardener in my stead?”

Good god – that link to Words Into Bytes has been on the blogroll for more than a year. If M Sinclair Stevens is younger than 50 or, if she is older than 50 and does not want to be identified as an elder, all she had to do was ask. Crabby has made the error of assuming age that had not yet been attained with two or three other bloggers who requested a correction, and they were immediately moved to the Honorary Elderbloggers list.

Crabby is sorry for the mistake. She apologizies to M Sinclair Stevens and has removed the link.

M Sinclair Stevens has made her senior/elder point in the past at Time Goes By, which she is welcome to do. Disagreement and argument (in the best sense of those words) with one another here has created some enlightening and valuable discussion. What is not tolerated here, however, is an uncivil tongue, and Crabby can't imagine what she has done to provoke it.

If this comment had been left by a stranger to TGB, it would be of no account. From a regular contributor, it is incomprehensible. But Crabby, who is no saint, admits that it is a struggle to refrain from responding in kind so she will shut up now before she lets loose. She thanks M Sinclair Stevens for the suggested replacement – an excellent and informative gardening blog.

As an antidote to today’s unpleasantness, Crabby recommends this lovely piece posted by kenju at Just Ask Judy, written by someone who is eager to enjoy the differing pleasures of late life with as much enthusiasm as those of youth and adulthood.


Four Sunday Items of Note

ITEM 1: There is a campaign in Australia’s Victoria state to preserve the East Gippsland old-growth forest there. A group of elders has joined the movement calling themselves “Oldies for Old-Growth Forests.”

The group’s spokesperson, Wolf Passauer, says their goal is to preserve the forest for their children and grandchildren:

“We have something to offer society, specifically to the environmental movement,” he said.

“We have stood the rigours of time, like an old forest, we’re still alive and we [try] to give the best that we can do in our sort of sunset years,”

- ABC News Online [Australia], 25 August 2006

As most elders discover, our later years - when children are raised and careers are done - is an excellent time to work for larger causes and many choose the environment. This group’s slogan caught my attention as the best new use of a Biblical admonition I’ve seen in a long time:

“Respect Your Elders – Protect Old-Growth Forests.”

ITEM 2: Dug Falby, who first alerted Time Goes By to a U.K. blog, Life on the Pea Harvest, a couple of months ago, emailed this request:

“I'm doing some research at work and we're trying to get a handle on what American over-50s make of Great Britain. I know this is highly irregular, but would you be willing to ask the question on your blog (perhaps something like ‘Why is Great Britain good / bad’)?”

Dug’s a friendly guy and I’m curious to know too, so I agreed to ask readers (though I’m tardy in doing so). He also said:

“To date we've had some responses:
  • We like Tony Blair
  • It's a place in the Da Vinci Code
  • The UK is too expensive
  • The English have bad teeth
  • Great historical stuff
  • The hotels are too small and uncomfortable

“I'd be happy with even three or four bona fide honest opinions from American over-50s whether moral, ethical or political (even trivial would be interesting).”

So please help out, if you are so inclined, with Dug's research. He will check in here to see what you’ve said, or you can email him at dug.falbyATgmailDOTcom.

ITEM 3: A website that promotes itself as "a new way of finding people who don't suck" turned up via this link from Frank Paynter at listics. Take a look. It's an enlightening experience to read about yourself as if you're a specimen in a petri dish and not quite human.

I tried to find some humor in this. I tried and tried and tried. At least the babies can't read yet.

ITEM 4: Steve Sherlock, who maintains more blogs than I could handle including Steve’s 2 Cents, has nominated my post about An Old Woman’s Daydream in the “silly-but-fun category” of a carnival meant to enliven heat-of-summer doldrums. What a cool thing for Steve to do and I thank him.

Voting for the winner is open now at Pet’s Garden blog. The four other nominees have done estimable work in the silliness category and it would be difficult for me to choose which to vote for. To resolve that little issue, I chose myself, also because the only thing of note I ever won in my life was $4000 at a casino in Spain, and certainly a silliness award infinitely outranks four long ones, don’t you think?


Milt's Weather Report

category_bug_journal2.gif Dense fog in Portland, Maine, this morning. Casco Bay islands are behind a veil of gray and even sailboats moored just offshore look like ghost ships. The fog is expected to burn off by noon, then sunshine and cool temperatures for the rest of the day.

Milt12_05b That weather report is a small tribute to Milt Rebmann of Milt’s Muse. He began every post with his personal Idaho Falls weather report which became his signature style:

“It's a beautiful crisp, clear, sunny day in Idaho Falls, definitely one that should be enjoyed from the other side of the window....I intend to do just that.....”

I had no reason to care about the weather in Idaho Falls until Milt made me care, and I would have been hugely disappointed if he had ever stopped doing those reports.

Milt, who began his blog in July of 2005, and was always plain-spoken, wrote in his profile:

“I'm existing with cancer. It's a pain in the butt. I have it and am stuck with it. This is a blog of my thoughts about the cancer, the resulting depression, and my feeble attempts at self help.”

His attempts were far from “feeble” as he struggled with the ups and down of the disease, the depression it caused and medication that made his mind fuzzy. In the spring, he wrote more frequently of pain and on 30 May, having given up Oxycodone for over-the-counter painkillers, he said:

“That's my whinny rant for the day, I may feel more like my old self tomorrow....I don't have much confidence it that though......”

It was Milt’s last blog post. His granddaughter, Amber, posted a couple of short notes saying Milt was very sick but resting comfortably and now, with no explanation, his blog has been taken down and only a Google cache remains.

Susan at Saz Secrets and Claude of Blogging in Paris have tried to track down news of Milt without success. I too have checked his site regularly and searched Idaho Falls newspapers for an obituary, but none has appeared.

As so often happens in the blogosphere, Milt was not the sort of man I run across much in my life, not the sort I would usually seek out to know. But we became friends across the ether; my gain. I like too what he told a reporter about blogging when he was interviewed for a piece about elderbloggers in The New York Times in April:

"’It's a therapy for me,’ said Mr. Rebmann, who retired from the electronics business and lives in Idaho Falls, Idaho. ‘It's pretty much gotten me out of the depression. I'm not having so many dark thoughts about death as I used to. I can see improvement in my thinking.’

“Mr. Rebmann also gets something by visiting some of the other bloggers who visit his site. ’It's kind of like talking over the backyard fence,’ he said. ‘Like a neighborhood.’"

Yes. A great, big worldwide neighborhood with no more than an electronic back fence separating our yards. I hope we can find news of Milt and I’m betting that wherever he is, he’s starting every conversation with the local weather report.


Elder Body Image

Shortly after World War II, in the late 1940s, my family moved to Lake Oswego, Oregon, where my parents had built a new house on the GI Bill. I was seven or eight years old and my only nearby playmate was a girl who was three or four years older.

On age alone, leadership of our two-girl pack fell to Carol whose sole interest in life was movie stars. She had stacks of movie magazines – Photoplay, Modern Screen, Silver Screen, Hollywood – over which we pored picking out our favorite stars – the men who were handsome and the women we wanted to look like. I can't recall the criteria we applied.

It was common then for movie magazines to list women stars’ “vital statistics” as a series of numbers. 34-24-34 was considered a perfect figure – what every teenage girl aimed to match. The phrase “hour-glass figure” was in vogue.

If memory serves, by the time I was old enough to achieve my own set of numbers, the ideal had changed to 34-22-36 and although the kind of pressure young girls face today to be as thin as models who are shaped like 10-year-old boys had not yet emerged, an 18-inch waist was something to be admired.

From childhood on it was obvious that my body, left to its own devices, preferred pudgy over slim. But with will power and diligent dieting, I maintained a damned cute figure – if I do say so myself – until in my fifties, age, menopause and weariness with counting every forkful led me to change my eating habits. Henceforth, I determined, I would eat whatever suited my fancy – within reasonable health limits - and see what happened.

Anyone could have predicted the result. It wasn’t long before I was horrified to see, as I caught sight of myself in the mirror getting out of the shower one day, that my waist appeared to match the width of my hips. My shoulders had become beefy and that space between breasts and abdomen had filled out – not a beer belly, but a visible swelling where one had never been. At least my hips and butt didn’t change much.

Realizing there is no way to hide excess weight entirely, I determined to at least not show off the bulges. I became a master of camouflage. No more belts, of course, no dresses with sewn-in waistlines. Loose Oxford shirts, elastic-waist pants and skirts, men’s sweaters (they hang better) in winter became my friends, and so they remain.

Would I like to be thinner? Sure. But I eat well; aside from ice cream, junk food doesn't interest me. And with age, my appetite has decreased. I was never a gym rat and won't start now, so my daily walk and the t'ai chi class I've signed up for beginning next month is what will continue to pass for exercise. Determined to be comfortable in my own skin, however much it encases, I threw out the bathroom scale several years ago and tossed the full-length mirror when I moved. I have better things with which to occupy my mind.

But it is still not quite like that. I think about my size and shape too much. When I catch a glimpse of myself in a store window, I am dispirited. If, when shopping, a communal dressing room is the only choice, I don’t buy. There is no telling how much money I’ve saved and stores have lost to that humiliating set-up because there is no way I’m changing clothes next to a 19-year-old Kate Moss-type in a room with wraparound mirrors. I’d like to be more self-possessed than that, but I’m not. Not yet, anyway.

It is in the nature of human bodies to thicken as we get older and I should be, by now, past caring. I don’t want to spend my remaining years lamenting that I’m not as svelte as Katharine Hepburn – a poor choice for me to emulate in youth OR age since even at my best, Miss Hepburn was twice as tall and half as wide as I was.

Whether we like to think so or not, celebrities, pictured in magazines, movies and television shows, are our role models in regard to what is attractive and au courant. Even intelligent women who should know better look to these goddesses of beauty to learn how to dress, wear our hair and how to carry ourselves in general.

But where are the role models for women of my age whose bodies are not out of the ordinary? Someone to admire and respect for her achievements who also looks like a normal older woman and is considered attractive? They are hard to find in a youth-obsessed culture which values beauty and thinness and abhors showing older women at all except as objects of contempt or humor.

One evening recently, I was catching up with some episodes of As Time Goes By I had recorded. I’ve been intermittently watching this BBC series for a decade or more. It is the only program ever produced that presents elders as intelligent, active, thoughtful – and in this case, funny – people engaged in life while coping with the inevitable factors of aging.

Even the Golden Girls, on a show which made intelligent fun of later years, were still chasing after men with the relentlessness of hormone-addled teenagers. But I digress.

Judy_dench Although I’ve seen Judi Dench, who stars in As Time Goes By, in many films over many years, I had never given a moment’s thought to her appearance beyond the role she was playing – until that evening watching two or three episodes in a row. It struck me then for the first time that she and I have remarkably similar bodies.

Then I noticed that she is costumed on the show much the way I dress, in loose tops and sweaters or jackets over shell blouses and teeshirts – clothing chosen to hide the excess, mid-body flesh. You would think the show’s wardrobe people had been peeking in my closet.

So, since thanks to my childhood friend, Carol, I have always looked to movie stars for a reality check on what's attractive, I am now adopting Dame Judi as my exemplar. She carries herself as a poised and confident older woman who (although I have no way of knowing) appears to be comfortable in her 71-year-old body. And that is my goal.

Ideally, I’d like to ignore my size and shape (beyond health concerns) for the rest of my life and live like Popeye: “I yam what I yam.” I’ll let you know how it goes.

ADDENDUM: To the few of you out there who have never felt the pressure to aim for the stars (as it were) physically, please keep it to yourselves. I accept that you are more spiritually advanced and sensible than I, but I don't want to hear about it.


Leaping the Generational Divide

There was something else on the agenda for today’s post, but this is just too good not to pull together all in one place.

Even though increasing numbers of elders are blogging, the press and the culture at large still believe it is a youth activity. That creates a divide between generations that too often comes up in the media as: “Oh, dear, blogging is dangerous and when it’s not, it’s just those young folks being young. But aren’t those old folks cute trying to keep up with the kids.”

Those of us who are out here doing it every day know better, and in the past few days, an event has occurred that brings two widely separated ages together appreciating each other. Follow along now and I promise you’ll have a great laugh even if you have seen all or part of this before:

It started with Millie Garfield’s 81st birthday last week. Chris Pirillo and Brad Fitzpatrick of bLaugh created this terrific cartoon to help Millie celebrate:

060818_thoroughly_older_millie

With the cartoon, Chris and Brad included this list of things Millie can’t open:

  • a new checking account
  • that bag of dried prunes
  • her left eyelid
  • for Beyonce Knowles
  • the flatbed scanner lid
  • an airplane seatbelt buckle
  • fire
  • this page in a new window
  • unordered list tags
  • old wounds

Millie, with the help of her son, Steve, countered with this video:

Chris Pirillo then posted this video of himself on YouTube reacting to Millie's video:

Now isn’t that a terrific series to start the day with, and a wonderful leap across generations.


The Art of Blogging

The other day, Crabby Old Lady asked for some help in reorganizing Time Goes By’s Elderbloggers List – the blogroll – because it has become unwieldy in its length. Tabor of One Day at a Time thinks Crabby may be overly optimistic in taking on such a sizeable project and she could be right. But it will be done eventually; when I’m eager for the outcome, I have a high tolerance for tedium.

Relatedly, I get a lot of requests from novice elderbloggers for advice on how to get started. They tend to arrive in rashes and there have been a bunch in the past couple of weeks. I’m always happy to help because blogging has many high-end benefits for elders which I wrote about here last year, and I want to do all the evangelizing I can.

Once a new elderblogger is up and running, I check in regularly and if they stick with it and if their posts are consistently compelling, I add them to the blogroll.

With all this thinking about beginning bloggers and blogroll links lately, I was interested to read Doc Searl’s refutation of this guy who wrote:

“...in the end, that's what the A-list is all about: directing traffic. They are the traffic cops of the blogosphere and they are not as easily replaced as some would like to make us believe. They are brand names and we tend to trust them, even if they let us down sometimes.”

To which Doc replies in part:

“As often happens, I'm listed among the [A]'listers. “For what it's worth, I don't consider my readers ‘traffic’. Nor do I consider my links to other blogs or sites a way of ‘directing’ anything other than a reader's interest.

“If I thought of myself as a ‘traffic cop’ of anything, much less the blogosphere, I'd hang it up.”

And then, in response to this other guy’s characterization of all us non-A-listers as “blog peasants” and “the great unread,” Doc gets to his really good part:

“Want to succeed in the blogosphere, or the Web in general? Easy. Do search engine optimization. Here's how:
  1. Write quotable stuff about a lot of different subjects.
  2. Do it consistently, for months if not years.
  3. Link a lot, as a way of giving credit and of sending readers to other sources of whatever it is you write about.”

Right on, as we used to say in the 60s. The only quibble I have with Doc’s list is No. 1 since Time Goes By, while far from even approaching A-list status, does quite nicely with the single subject of aging. But this blog covers dozens of sub-topics to aging, and I’m pretty sure that fits with what Doc means.

Now I don’t want to hear from any of you elderbloggers that you don’t care if only a few people read yours. Only a saint takes on something as time-consuming (to do well) as blogging and publishes in a space where the world can read it without desiring some feedback and acknowledgement. (And I’m not so sure about saints.) But certainly, every blogger needs a better reason that high readership numbers to do it.

When, years ago, I first ran across E.M. Forster’s line, “How do I know what I think until I see what I say,” it was an instance of "I’ve always known that, why didn’t I know that before." I write to figure out what I think about things and it is astonishing how many times I start a blog post and wind up in an entirely different place at the end than I thought I intended. Writing is a joy for me because it organizes my thoughts, forces me toward clarity and often leads to discovering what I didn’t know before.

Today’s post is a case in point. I thought I was going to tell you about how, when I first began Time Goes By in late 2003, and stumbled around trying to find my voice and point of view for several months before I started publishing daily, it was disheartening to see the visitor stats flatlining. And I thought I’d tell you too about the thrill at seeing the surge in reader numbers when Typepad featured TGB on its landing page.

And maybe I’m not so far off from that point after all. Whenever the topic of his A-List status comes up, Doc is self-deprecating about it and I mentally shout, “Hey Doc, it’s okay to be an A-lister.” And for the rest of us, it is okay to not be. The Technorati Top 100 should not be the goal; there are better ones to aim for.

In addition to my enjoyment of writing and having a place to put all the research I do about aging, my main blogging interests are aging itself, blogging’s benefits to elders and building the community of elderbloggers and their readers. The more of us there are, the wider the range of voices, the better the discussion and the opportunities for friendship, learning and support among us. It thrills me every time I receive an email asking for help in getting started because it means one more elderblogger who will add to the store of knowledge we are accumulating.

So, follow Doc’s three rules of blogging and you will succeed as long as you don’t measure success by rank in the blogosphere. Doc said it best at the end of his post I’ve been quoting:

“I can't promise royalty, because there isn't any. But I can promise a rewarding relationship with the readers you'll get, regardless of how many there are.”

Elders Dancing in the Street

Anton, who lives in the U.K. and goes by antnhec at YouTube, alerted me to one of his videos which he titles, Blinking Ballet. I found it mesmerizing, almost-but-not-quite surreal and lovely to look at. Perhaps you will find it so too. The music is from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet.

Anton tells me via email that some of the dancers were booked specially for the video shoot and others are passersby who stopped and asked to be included.


Online Elder-Drivers Safety Course

Not long ago, amba of ambivablog sent Crabby Old Lady an email with a bunch of age jokes. Yes, Crabby will publish them soon, but today she is concerned only with one of them:

“I've sure gotten old! I've had two bypass surgeries, a hip replacement, new knees. Fought prostate cancer and diabetes. I'm half blind, can't hear anything quieter than a jet engine, take 40 different medications that make me dizzy, winded, and subject to blackouts.

“Have bouts with dementia. Have poor circulation; hardly feel my hands and feet anymore. Can't remember if I'm 85 or 92. Have lost all my friends. But, thank God, I still have my driver's license.”

Crabby laughed out loud when she got to the punch line. It’s funny. But it also points up the serious matter of elder driving. It is one thing to restrict driving to those who are at least 16, an age when teens have gained a modicum of adult judgment. Children and adolescents age at a predictable rate, within a few months of one another, so establishing a universal driving age at that end of life is fair.

Elders, however, age physically and cognitively at dramatically different rates. Some 60-year-olds can no longer safely drive. Some 80-somethings can. And that presents a dilemma.

It would be unfair - and counterproductive - to impose an arbitrary age at which drivers must turn in their keys, but some elders, understandably desperate to maintain the freedom an automobile lends, continue to drive past their capability to do so safely. Unfortunately, age doesn’t automatically confer wisdom or nobility and as the number of elders increases in coming years, so too will the number of unsafe elder drivers.

What worries Crabby is that in their zeal to protect citizens from all possible dangers, states will set an arbitrary stop-driving age. Already there is media creep toward such a move with increasing numbers of national news stories about elder auto accidents with no equivalent reporting on teen or midlife crashes.

Some states already require more frequent vision and driving tests after age 60 or 65, and that is one good step. Another, as we have discussed here before, is to monitor ourselves, our friends and relatives.

Now, AARP has launched an online driver’s safety program, a tool that should be a boon as a refresher course to help keep elders’ driving skills in top shape.

Only the online part is new. Since 1979, more than 10 million Americans have completed the program in classroom settings where, AARP says, elder students have learned how to compensate for age-related changes while extending their safe-driving lifetime by many years.

The AARP Driver Safety Online Course
There is good news and bad news about this course. The good news is that it is packed with valuable information, self-assessment tools, facts about elder drivers, graded quizzes and strategies to compensate for the normal physical changes that accompany aging. Plus, completion of the course (for which a certificate is issued) may, in some states, qualify elders for a discount on auto insurance.

Crabby Old Lady has no doubt about AARP’s claim that the course can extend driving capability by years. The information is excellent, Crabby learned a lot and that’s why the bad news about it makes her angry. The course is so poorly executed that it would be easy to believe the producers had never heard of the internet, let alone have any knowledge of how people use it.

There is so much wrong with the interactive presentation that Crabby can only list highlights (well, make that lowlights). The following critique is harsh, but it is not unfair:

  • AARP states that the course takes eight hours. That will be off-putting to many, but if they scrapped the unnecessary repetition, excruciatingly slow page transitions, superfluous press agentry and improved the page layouts and navigation, anyone could finish the course in two hours.
  • On many pages, navigational function is disabled so users cannot move forward at their own pace and are forced to listen to the word-for-word narration of the bullet points they finished reading 15 seconds ago.
  • In regard to narration, the course makes the number one worst mistake of all Powerpoint-type presentations: reading the bullet points. Bullets are meant to reinforce major points; narration should give a fuller explanation of the information on the page. Otherwise, what is the narration for?
  • Opposing that problem, some of the animations move so quickly there is no time to absorb them, and as the navigation is either too complex or non-functional (Crabby hasn’t figured out which), it is difficult, if not impossible to back up.
  • Some of the problems can be categorized only as inane: On one quiz, Crabby was told how many answers she got correct, but not which ones and the navigation, again, made it impossible to back up to the questions which a user should not be required to do anyway.
  • Sometimes, it is just nonsensical. On a self-assessment quiz in which the possible answers were Always, Frequently, Occasionally and Never, Crabby was (apparently, although it is hard to know), marked down for answering “Occasionally” to the statement: “I notice other drivers honking their horns at me.” Crabby guesses the idea is that unless the answer chosen is “Never,” driving too slowly is an issue, but that is not explained. And, it is obvious the question writer has never been to New York City where horn honking says everything about the honker and nothing about the honkee.
  • On another quiz, Crabby was told her score was 9 and that the higher her score, the more need there is to reassess her driving skills. Fine, except did Crabby get a 9 on a scale of ten or on scale of 100? A stupid error that renders the test useless.
  • There is another useless and time-consuming, multiple-choice quiz about the most common faults of elder drivers. Such questions test only whether the student has read the latest research and have no bearing on his or her driving capabilities. There are many better ways to present such information.

It is hard to imagine how an interactive course could get so much wrong – and Crabby has hardly scratched the surface. In general, the entire course is so poorly written that many opportunities to reinforce important points are lost. The design is stodgy, so internet-1999 that Crabby was reminded of film strips she suffered through in school in the 1950s. And she hasn’t even touched on the grammatical errors which become more evident with each enforced wait period.

Elder driving safety is too serious, too important to be presented with this much shoddiness. Although Crabby Old Lady has been creating and running websites with interactive components for more than a decade and knows how to work around some of the obstacles, most elders don’t have Crabby’s experience and will be confused, frustrated and quit part way through the course.

What makes all this worse is that AARP is charging for this wholly inadequate product: $12.95 for AARP members, $15.95 for non-members. Personally, I think elder driver education is so important that even if the execution of the course were excellent, it should be free at least to AARP members.

In an era where too many elders are cutting pills in half because they can’t afford their prescription drugs and are undoubtedly cutting their driving in half too, such an important course should be made available to everyone. Crabby Old Lady would happily pay another dollar a year for her membership if AARP would upgrade the course to meet normal interactive quality standards and offer it for free.

The bind Crabby finds herself in with this story is that because the information contained in the driving course is exceptionally good, she wants to recommend (nay, demand if she could) that everyone 50 and older take the course and – AARP doesn’t say this – repeat it annually. But that is hard to do for all the reasons above.


Housekeeping Notes and a Request

Crabby Old Lady’s kvetching can’t be ignored any longer. She has been nagging about the Elderbloggers list for several weeks. “There is a ton of blogs that should be added. The longer you put it off, the more work it will be,” she says.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. What with packing, moving and settling into a new home in Portland, Maine, over the past three months or so, TGB blog housekeeping has gone all to hell. It’s as though one hadn’t dusted in several months.

Elderbloglist_copy During the life of Time Goes By, as new elderbloggers have been discovered through various means, they are bookmarked, vetted and added every two or three weeks. But there has been a lot of bookmarking for the past few months and not much adding. So, on a beautiful, sunny, breezy morning a couple of days ago when Crabby Old Lady should have been hanging with the plants on her deck, she took several hours to plough through those bookmarks and there are now 30 or 40 new links.

Crabby probably should have listed them in this post so you could easily find the new ones, but she didn’t because it’s tedious enough inserting the html, checking the links and neatening the list into tens to make them easy to read. So you’re on your own. Crabby does highly recommend that you visit the blogs you’ve not seen before. They have been carefully selected for excellence.

In the past, Crabby Old Lady has railed in these pages against lengthy blogrolls, as well she should, and now she is part of the problem. The good news is more and more elders are joining the blogosphere. The bad news is that makes the list unwieldy – too many choices is no choice at all.

So during the next few weeks when Crabby has time and a tolerance for tedium, she will organize the list into categories on a page which will link from the left sidebar. Then, each week, she will feature five or ten elderblogs in place of that long, long list. That way, over time, readers can more easily check out elderbloggers they may not have met before.

It would help Crabby if elderbloggers on the list would email her with a category topic in which they believe they belong. Some are obvious – gardening, for example, and cooking, politics, social observation, etc. Others are what some call “identity” bloggers, mostly about daily life. Be sure to include the name of your blog, not just your name or email handle. With so many on the list now, Crabby’s memory isn’t always as sharp as she would like it to be.

In the near future, Crabby will also update the Honorary Elderbloggers list and there will some other changes coming along just as soon as Crabby Old Lady can make them happen.

Crabby thanks you for your indulgence in getting through this post which, upon re-reading, is about as tedious as writing html.


A Year Older? Already?

UPDATE: Oh, wonderful. Look at this from those clever fellows at bLaugh - just for Millie's birthday. I'm so jealous; I want my own cartoon from Chris Pirillo and Brad Fitzpatrick too. Millie - you should frame it.

060818_thoroughly_older_millie


Millies2006bd

It is Millie Garfield's 81st birthday today. That's "Thoroughly Modern Millie" who blogs in both text and video, appears in newspapers and magazines about elderbloggers, promotes blogging to other elders and was a star at the recent Blogher conference in San Jose.

She smart, she's funny, she tells great stories and proves every day that getting old is as good an adventure as every other time of life. Ollie the cat and I are proud to be her friend.

So get yourself over to My Mom's Blog today and wish Millie a big, fat, wonderful 81st birthday.


Lost Old Friends

category_bug_journal2.gif When, in preparation for my move to Portland, Maine, I was packing up my New York apartment, it took more than 50 cartons to contain the books and, of course, I was required to handle every one of them. In doing so, there were many surprises and I rediscovered some gems that I’d forgotten I own.

On the bottom shelf of a bookcase in a back corner of the living room, I picked up No Commercial Potential: The Saga of Frank Zappa. As I dusted the cover and sides, I was struck wondering about the book’s author, David Walley.

I met David when I was still producing my then-husband’s radio show in New York City and booked him on the program during his tour when the book was published in the early 1970s. David was such an astute critic of the culture – establishment, counter and pop – that I brought him back whenever we needed someone with his kind of sharp insight to the zeitgeist.

David and I kept in touch after my husband and I went our separate ways and I recalled, as I dusted and leafed through the book that packing day in New York, many long nights in the company of David and other friends fueled, in those days, by plenty of wine and weed, dissecting the problems of our world.

Then – who knows how these things happen – I lost track of David and decades passed. Now I wondered how he had fared in life.

These days we have the internet to help find lost friends and after I waded through links to another David Walley who runs a resort somewhere (certainly not how the David I knew would wind up), I found his website, Walley’s Witzend, filled with bits and pieces of his writings over these 30-odd years and – his email address of which I made immediate use.

Soon we were catching up via telephone, words tumbling on top of one another’s, and whoa! - he lived in York, Maine, not more than 30 minutes from where I was moving. David had his publisher send me a copy of his new book, Teenage Nervous Breakdown – Music and Politics in the Post-Elvis Age which he was eager for me to read and we made plans to reconnect in person when I was moved.

Once I was in Maine, we spoke a few more times on the phone but put off getting together until I was settled, and had finished a deadline project I was working on throughout which I thought often of David and was looking forward to again enjoying his fierce intelligence and always unique view of the culture, politics and society.

About ten days ago, David died suddenly, unexpectedly and way younger than today’s average life expectancy.

When people die, our sadness is not for them, but for ourselves; our loss of their love, their companionship and the qualities that made them special to us. Do not construe this as selfishness, for our pain at their absence honors them and, depending on one’s beliefs as regards the hereafter, they have gone to a better place or to oblivion where, in either instance, they are beyond the cares of this world.

Some say it is a curse to live too long, that in our later years the deaths of friends and other contemporaries come ‘round more frequently than in our youth and loneliness can be the only possible outcome. That, I think, is individual depending on temperament, family, outlook, interests and many other variables. But in age far more than youth, one lesson is to not procrastinate.

I would still have found a way to meet my deadline if I’d taken time to visit with David. I would still have settled into this new home if I had taken a couple of days off to read David’s book. The lesson for me – an old one that I ought to know by this age - is to do it now; there is no tomorrow.

In an odd bit of synergy, David’s daughter works at Sirius Satellite Radio with my former husband. I don’t know his daughter, but I am in regular touch with my former husband and for no good reason I can think of, it comforts me in some way that they know one another.

In a culture so invested as ours in the pursuit of entertainment and dumbed-down education, and with a current president who takes pride in his anti-intellectualism, it is good to be reminded of something David posted in the right sidebar on every main page of his website. I would like to think that although we are not averse to having fun on this blog, it applies to Time Goes By too:

"This site is for thinking, not surfing. There are few if any artificial additives. Remember, thinking is a subversive activity, especially in this glitzy age. Anyway, what do you have to lose?"
- David Walley

YouTube Elderblogging

The newest elderblogger sensation, as many of you have pointed out to me via email over the past several days, is one Peter, a 79-year-old widower living in the U.K.

Well, actually, he is on YouTube where he is known as geriatric1927 and has turned out nine five- to six-minute videos in one week about his long life.

The latest star of YouTube is a charming fellow and it is easy to see why he has garnered so much attention from young YouTubers. Yahoo! News via Reuters posted this story about him on Sunday saving me the effort of plowing through thousands of comments and video responses:

“’It's great that someone from your generation has chosen to share their views on life, and a shame more elderly people don't too,’ wrote one commentator.

“’I don't have a grandpa, but if I could choose, I'd want you to be mine!’ says another.

“A few who mocked him were quickly rebuked by the rest of the online community.”

The news story also notes:

“Peter…has received wide praise for his videos and for proving technology is not just for the younger generation.”

Hear, hear. Although, with no disrespect meant to Peter, thousands of elderbloggers have been proving that for years including Millie of My Mom’s Blog who has been producing videos with her son, vlogger extraordinaire Steve Garfield, for a couple of years. It shouldn't be such a surprise to the media that elders are part of the blogosphere.

But what is most important, and what Peter’s new-found celebrity is helping to do, is make the point that elders are out here in the blogosphere producing words, audio and video that is as compelling as anything 20-somethings do. And while it is apparent that those 20-somethings and younger are born these days with a mini-computer mouse clutched in their tiny fists, age is no barrier to learning a new skill when there is a need or desire.


An Old Woman's Daydream

category_bug_journal2.gif There are days when you have no idea what gets into you.

At the Wednesday Farmer’s Market in Monument Square last week, I had no intention of buying a plant, only fruit and vegetables. Then I saw some hyssop, an aromatic herb that is on my list for next year when I turn the deck into what will be primarily a fragrance garden.

He was crammed into a tray with other herbs, sad looking and potbound. Hyssop is among my favorite fragrances so I decided we could exchange favors: I would give him a better home and he could share his astonishing aroma with me a year before I expected it.

Early that afternoon, I tended to the other garden plants, gave them all some water, sprayed their leaves, picked off debris and then potted up hyssop into a container large enough for his roots to spread out. When I sat back to admire my handiwork, the oddest little drama took place.

NEWBIE IN THE GARDEN - a play in one act
Cast of Characters - in order of appearance

Red

Bigpink

Littlepink

Hys

Lem

Missmellie

Pars

Thyme

Rosie

Lavender

Hedy2

Begonia

PLACE: The second-floor deck of a home near the bay in Portland, Maine
TIME: Summer, in the temporary shade of early afternoon




RED: Hey, Pink…

BIG PINK: Who ya talkin’ to, Red? There’s two of us, ya know.

RED: Well, I wouldn’t be talking to the little guy, now would I?

LITTLE PINK: Aw, come off it, Red, why do you have to be like that? What difference does it make if I’m smaller than Big Pink?

RED: You’re not small, Pinkie, you’re puny - puny by comparison and…

BIG PINK: Watch your tongue, Red, and mind your manners. We have a newcomer among us. (addressing Hys) Welcome to the garden, young fella. Do you have a name?

HYS: Uh, well, mister, they called me Hys 2 on the farm where I come from.

RED: (dismissive) That’s not a proper name. Why is there a number in your name?

HYS: Um, I guess it’s because I was second in the row of hyssop I was born into, ma’am.

BIG PINK: Well, you’re no number two now, young fella. We’ll call you just Hys. Is that okay with you?

HYS: Oh, that would be very nice. Thank you, sir.

RED: Just a minute, Pink. It is I who gets to do the formal naming here. My beauty entitles me to…

LEM: (interrupting) Red, dear, perhaps you could tone down the ego a tad, at least for Hys’s first day in the garden. He’s already understandably nervous and we don’t want to make it worse for him.

HYS: Oh, it’s okay. I don’t…

BIG PINK: Lem’s right. Let’s go around the garden and introduce ourselves one at a time. I, Hys, am called Big Pink. It’s me you come to if Red is…

RED: (raising her voice) If Red what, Pink? What are you saying? How dare you imply…

MISS MELLIE: Please, please. Can’t we all just get along. This bickering is so unseemly.

PARS: (weakly) Hear, hear.

LITTLE PINK: They call me Little Pink, Hys. When you’re settled in, I’ll tell you about the butterflies. And the bunny rabbits.

RED: Pinkie, your brain is as puny as your size. There aren’t any bunny rabbits here.

BIG PINK: Give it a rest, Red.

HYS: Oh, I’ll look forward to those stories, Pinkie – er, I mean Little Pink.

THYME: Hello, Hys, I’m Thyme. You’ve arrived late in our high season and even Red knows better that to pressure you to perform too much this year. Give me some time with you - that’s an herb joke, Hys - and I’ll help you study for next spring when you’ll be expected to stand tall and strong.

HYS: Heh, heh, heh. Good joke, ma’am. I hope you’ll have some more of them for me in study class.

ROSIE: Hello, Hys. I’m Rosemary…

RED: Oh, get off your high horse, Rosie. No one’s ever called you that.

BIG PINK: Stop that, Red, you’re becoming tiresome.

LEM: I’m pleased to meet you, Hys. Welcome to our garden aerie. I hope you’ll like it here.

HYS: Oh, I like it already, ma’am.

LAVENDER: Well, it’s not like you can move across town if you don’t, is it? I am Lavender and I don’t think we should be quite so close together, you and I. You’re scent gets in the way of mine.

RED: Hah! Too bad, Lavender. Like you said, there’s not much you can do about moving to another spot in the garden.

HEDY: Point well taken, Red – and you too, Lavender - Hys is a bit overpowering, even from up here on this fence post. (to Hys) I’m Hedy, Hys, and it won’t be long before I’ve twined myself all the way to the roof – a height that Red, in her arrogance, can only dream of.

RED: Shut your mouth, Hedy. Nothing you do can match my glorious color.

BIG PINK: Ladies, ladies. Let’s not scare off young Hys on first day in the garden.

RED: Well, she started it and…

HEDY: Hmmph. Hys, listen to me. It’s not gaudy blooms you want. It’s stretching out, moving up, reaching for the sky. That’s what life is all about.

HYS: If I may say so, ma’am, I know what you mean – sort of. But for me, it’s in the other direction right now. My feet were hurting, all cramped up where I was before and it feels so good to stretch them out and wiggle my toes.

MISS MELLIE: That’s nice, Hys. Very nice for you. Welcome to the garden. You seem like a polite, young fellow. I look forward to watching to grow up.

HYS: Did you notice, ma’am, I already have my first bloom?

RED: You hear that, Hedy? His bloom. He said bloom.

HEDY: But he’s also stretching out his feet and by tomorrow morning he’ll be reaching for the sky too.

BEGONIA: (slow, deep, booming voice) Enough! All of you. Hys, we are pleased to have you join us. You have a long life ahead of you and…

PARS: (interrupting as Begonia’s voice wakens him from his meditation) Hello, son. Was it Hys you’re called? I don’t hear as well as I once did. I’m old, you know, my day is almost done and I’m preparing to go home to Gaia… (his voice trails off)

BEGONIA: And we’re all here to help you get there, old man, when you’re ready. Now, everyone, let’s give Hys a rest. It’s been a liberating day for him, but stressful too and he needs some time to get comfortable with us. We’ll take a couple of quiet hours now until Sol shows his face again from the other side of the garden. Welcome home, Hys.

Finis

Real or Memorex – Part Deux

category_bug_journal2.gif Thank you all for your information and reassurances about my memory lapses and dementia concerns in the first "Memorex" post last Monday. Those media types who have dismissed elderblogs as cute little hobbies should stop by here and read the conversations. Together we are creating a repository of knowledge and ideas based on, collectively, thousands of years of living. It is valuable stuff – we could call it elder knowledge - that is important to pass on.

For dramatic effect, I may have overstated my level of worry, in that Memorex post, about potential dementia, but it was hardly a fib. My father was discovered to have brain cancer, of which he died, shortly after an incident in his car at a traffic light: he no longer knew if red means stop or go and it was not a momentary lapse. The memory was gone, which undoubtedly explains my outsized apprehension at the yes/no, left/right, up/down errors.

But I don't want to be so ponderous today.

To trish of Worlds Touch, I think I once knew about the 8:20 test, but had forgotten it (tee hee).

Comments you left of your own memory lapses on that Memorex post, made me laugh out loud. Some of the mistakes we make are, indeed, funny:

Amba of Ambivablog: "I put a gallon of milk down at my feet while waiting for the bus and, when the bus came, ran away to catch the bus and left the milk standing there."

Nancy: "I started putting my bra on inside out. Sometimes I wouldn't notice it until I tried to take it off - much harder to do."

Maya’s Granny: "Just last Tuesday I went to tie my shoes and discovered I was still barefoot."

A favorite of my own was once finding misplaced keys in the refrigerator.

So let’s give ourselves some laughs with these incidents today. What is the funniest elder lapse, senior moment, brain fart that you’ve experienced whether you think it’s age-related or not?


Elders and Seniors

category_bug_ageism.gif Following up my post from Tuesday, Chris Pirillo, writer of the bLaugh cartoon, asked about the difference between elder and senior on his blog a couple of days ago. The first comment left me more than a little piqued, so I wrote a fairly restrained (for me, anyway) response rant which turned into a TGB manifesto of sorts.

Perhaps you could stop by Chris's blog and join the fray.


“It is Meet and Right So To Do”

category_bug_ageism.gif QUESTION: What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon and three legs in the evening?

It is a riddle we all learned in childhood and although I can’t prove it, I think I recall that this particular riddle can be traced to the ancient Greeks. It is, of course, redolent of Ecclesiastes, “For everything there is a season…” and the ignorant ageists among us – those who do their best to keep elders out of the mainstream because they think we are stupid and boring – should be reminded that each era of life has its reasons to be.

A couple of mornings ago, Ollie the cat woke me again when it was still dark, 3:30AM. I could have gone back to sleep, but there was a pleasing, cool breeze through the screen door which beckoned me outside to sit on the deck.

It was a surprise to discover there are stars in the sky here in Portland, Maine. I’d almost forgotten about them during 37 years in Manhattan where only Venus is visible and not often. The stars here are not as profuse as in the wilds of upstate New York, where I once had a weekend house, but enough to remind an old city girl that there’s more to nightlife than flashing neon.

I tracked what must have been a satellite – too high to be an airplane - as it raced across the black night. I’d never seen one before.

In the dark, there wasn’t much else to look at and I've forgotten the arrangement of the constellations and their locations, so I settled my mind on the breeze – its rustling in the trees, how it felt on my face and ruffled my hair. How it tugged lightly at the hem of my summer dressing gown, tickling my ankles.

This deck attached to my new home is a revelation for me. Years ago, when I wanted a break from what I was doing, I smoked a cigarette. Now I sit on my deck for a short while half a dozen times a day or maybe more, and I find myself attending more closely than since earliest childhood to what is going on around me.

When, in adulthood, we are on career track, chasing success, raising children, accumulating stuff, filling every moment of the day with “doing” until we drop into bed exhausted, there isn’t time to smell the roses. That is as the second season of life should be. (I’ll leave arguments that we have taken midlife busy-ness too an extreme for another day.) With past gardens, I was too much in a hurry to pause; just get the watering done before leaving for work or rushing off to an evening soiree.

But slowing down comes naturally in elderhood. Forces internal and external nudge us to overcome the cultural pressure to be busy. Activities that no longer seem as important as they once did gradually fall away and a quietude settles upon us.

Now there is time for the breeze, the smell of the sea, the swaying of the tree branches, the call of the birds. To watch a bee flit from flower to flower. A spider diligently building her web. How prettily a fallen petal dances, like a ballerina, as the wind pushes it across the floor of the deck.

Plants, like cats and children, know deep inside how to be themselves. When I turn a pot, the leaves soon rearrange themselves to face the sun. When I water them, their whole being perks up; they almost smile and say “aaahhhh.”

The geraniums, the large, next-door, lilac bush whose top branches reach into my deck, the ivy stretching for a place to cling – each, I am seeing for the first time, is a universe unto itself: flowers and leaves, like their counterpart fauna, are born, live oh so gloriously and die as they must, to make room for more individuals. But the universe, the plant, continues and thrives through the generations of its green and gaudy progeny.

Although I have forgotten what it references, there is a sentence somewhere in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer I have always liked: “It is meet and right so to do.” It is meet and right that elders should have time to discover such things as I have written of today and I think that cannot be done without the stillness of body we are granted in old age which begets this new fullness of mind.

So next time you see an old man who seems so bored and boring is his wheelchair, or an old woman who appears to have fallen asleep on a park bench, remember that it is their season of quietude and they are learning new things they had no time for when they were merely adults. Perhaps, if you ask politely, they will tell you what those things are.

[NOTE: On the off-chance there is someone reading this who does not know the riddle, the answer is mankind, who crawls in childhood, walks upright in adulthood, and uses a cane in elderhood.]


Today's Elderblogger Laugh

I'm becoming a big fan of Chris Pirillo's and Brad Fitzpatrick's bLaugh cartoon - "The (un)Official Comic of the Blogosphere." It's barely a month a old and they've done at least two entries about elderbloggers. We are a fast-growing segment of the blogosphere and I love it when the "kids" of the blogosphere pay attention to us. Here's today's entry:

Senior Netizens

Be sure to click through to the bLaugh site for the commentary on today's cartoon. Now if I could just get these two talented guys to refer to us as elders instead of seniors...