GAY AND GRAY: Dick Gephardt's Second Career
Vintage TGB: 2 November 2004

Letting Myself Off the Hook

For the past few days, I've been wrestling some computer problems to the ground. If you are waiting for an email response from me, I'll get to it as soon as everything is in working order again – before long.

Meanwhile, I decided to let myself off the hook to devote full time for a day to getting organized on this machine without feeling pressured. So – no new post for today. Instead, one from about three years ago.

As I am sure is true for other bloggers, posts come in about three flavors:

  1. Not so wonderful, but it will have to do
  2. Not bad, I kind of like this
  3. Wow. On rare occasions, I'm really good

This is a number 3 post, written in August of 2006. I rediscovered it yesterday when a reader left a snotty note telling me that the title is wrong: “mete not meet!!!” she wrote, “(if you want it right).” Oh, and with a little smiley at the end – to soften the tone of superiority, do you think?

Well, not so fast.

“It is meet and right so to do” is an ancient phrase, a beautiful phrase that trips off the tongue, an old favorite of mine. It is from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, (revised, 1662), in the Holy Communion section; the congregation's answer to the priest's, “Let us give thanks unto our Lord God.” And in that ancient book, it is spelled “meet.”

In the first edition, 1549, it was spelled “mete”, but corrected in the revised version. So I stand by my spelling.

All that aside, it was a pleasant opportunity to revisit a post I am more pleased with than usually and by coincidence, it is nicely related to Wednesday's post. I wish I could turn out stuff like this every day.

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 lovely, 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 to 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 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.]

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: The Last Prose of Summer


Well worth reblogging.

Thoughts worth sharing again.

Lovely was to start the day. Thanx, Ronni. Dee

I love this quietude of time, when I can hear the clock tick.
The clock has always ticked, I just never had the opportunity to hear it before when life was full to overflowing with people and activities, schedules and meetings.
The first time I actually heard the clock ticking, I stopped, slowly shaking my head at the sudden realization of quiet.

I too, have always like the riddle of the Sphynx, that Oedipus had solved, which was the demise of the Sphinx. I love the post. Yes, well worth reposting. Thank you.

I think slowing down, being slowed down by our bodies, or our changing lifestyles, brings on a change of point of view on everything, on top of enabling us to see things we didn't have time to observe. That one variable of the equation - speed - changes so many many things.

I must have missed it the first time you posted. It is wonderful; thank you. I can't tell you the number of times that I just stop to listen to the birds outside or the sound of rain. Lovely to have time to listen and think.

I agree with others - lovely.

An evergreen, if there ever was one. Thanks!

Simply lovely. You can write all the posts you want like this one....just take a moment to pause.

Wonderful words Ronni.
I was wondering; do you still have Whip-poor-wills where you are?
I miss them so during the quiet of the evening.

Your snotty visitor should remember that pedantry is risky business. There is always someone in possession of a crucial detail that the pedant has missed.

The way you moved the discussion from a spelling quibble to a question of comparative orthography is a fine example.

In grad school, the spiritual home of pedants the world over, your end of things would continue something like this: "But, if you aren't familiar with the 1662 edition, we really can't pursue this, can we?" (insert eager and toothy grin here)


Can you hear me laughing out loud from across town?

Hmmm, I thought I heard a snicker a few minutes ago. It must have been you.

Your critic surely learned a valuable lesson; don't try to show off before you know what you are doing.

Your post was, indeed a WOW one. I'm glad you re-posted it. Thanks!

A wonderful post. Seventeen year old son just finished reading Oedipus Rex -- it's the Riddle of the Sphinx (at the risk of my own pedantic streak). My 80 something father-in-law has started to take three hour Indian summer breakfasts on his porch to absorb the last sweetness of the late fall...I think I understand why now...

I remember this and like it. I think you let yourself "off the hook" in more ways than one and I love the way you did it.

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