Perhaps many people consider seventy years of age as “old.” After all, there are seven decades of life lived, Medicare and social security (hopefully), and many more physicians in one’s life than ever before … even if you are reasonably, or extraordinarily, well. Then there is the school of thought that seventy is the new sixty, sixty the new fifty and so forth. While this might be a pacifying concept, I believe it was created to perpetuate our culture’s obsessiveness with youth rather than celebrating the gifts of each season of our lives, especially those of Elderhood.
I begin my seventieth year on Tuesday, August 27. My life is not perfect but it is plentifully blessed. It is graced with a simple abundance. I have no material riches or golden parachutes upon which to financially coast, and nothing of value — as our world defines it. Yet, I feel endowed with wealth given the beauty of nature and life that surround me, the friends, neighbors, and extended family that have come into my life, and the work God has given me to do with the talents that I probably do not use enough. The wonderful Erma Bombeck said, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.”
This too is my hope, prayer, and goal.
I seek to live authentically, fully accepting who I am now. Of course, I have a few more aches and pains. I walk at a brisk but thoughtful pace almost every morning, as I can no longer run four miles daily. I am no longer a size-six jean. Instead, I am a tad more full-figured. And importantly, I like how I look and feel for it has softened the harder edges in my face as well as my heart. I am grateful for the creative talents that have been given me together with my search for what I can contribute as a form of ‘personal ministry’ as I move forward into this next stage of my life.
Yes, I said forward. I am not a survivor of seven decades, or retired — I am still on my way!
I have no great wisdom to pass on but merely a few musings that apply to my experience and may also apply to you, or someone you know.
- The joys of my life have nothing to do with age.
- The morning sunrises and evening sunsets always thrill for never are they the same.
- The light, whether sun or clouds, rain or snow, cast upon the landscape for my photographer’s eye to see and, perhaps, capture, always presents a new beginning.
- The arias of birdsong in the mornings are my wake-up call. The insects, like a Philip Glass composition with its repetitive structures, lull me to sleep at night.
- I listen for the sound of snow for it quiets the busyness in my head.
- When a gentle rain falls, there is a Christening of the land that provides a meditation in grace.
- I live more completely in the moments of my hours and days (at least I try). It comes easier now for I am more detached from areas of pain, the loss of love and things, the fear of death.
- Importantly for me, one who lived on an ambitious, aggressive fast track for all of my teen and adult years, I am more available to truly speak with, listen to, and be with friends … even hand-write a note or card instead of e-mail. Just “being” with people, if only in passing, with a focused and respectful awareness of them and what they and their souls have to say has become a daily gift.
- Finally, these seven decades and events of my life have taught me the blessing of humility — a quality frequently misunderstood in our frantically busy and too often violent world.
These past two years have been watershed markings for me personally. My home and studio are no more. I sold every piece of silver, china, crystal, multiple cameras, custom made clothing, accessories, and most of my jewelry as well as gave away many things to churches and other organizations for the needy. I shed every possible extra or unused item in my life, including books and music. I only kept what I knew I would return to for inspiration and solace and the basic tools for my writing and photography.
At the moment of this writing, I sit in a lovely corner of my bedroom, now my official studio, next to a window where I hear an occasional bird in song and the humming of insects. I live in a small, Zen-like apartment with windows that overlook only wooded land and the wildlife that resides there. I take my morning walks through the quaint historic village of Athens, New York and am two short blocks from the mighty Hudson River. I could not ask for more. I have all I need — or want.
I have curated a medley of images from the past fifteen years in which I see truth and hear music. These are my personal criteria for they tell me if an image is worthy. Whether or not you have seen some of these, I sincerely hope you enjoy the retrospective. There is a brief Coda following the images that you may wish to read.
Mary Oliver has long been my muse. And though this image is not her “Red Bird” from her exemplary book, “Red Bird Poems,” I heard her reverence for everything in nature when I came upon my ‘bird on the fence’ along the Hudson River amongst a plethora of flowers one warm, mist-filled summer morning.Red Bird Explains Himself (Excerpted) by Mary Oliver
“…And this was my true task, to be the music of the body. Do you understand? For truly the body needs a song, a spirit, a soul. … And I am both of the earth and I am of the inexplicable beauty of heaven where I fly so easily, so welcome, yes, and this is why I have been sent, to teach this to your heart.”
Please rejoice with me on this milestone birthday and know that we are always beginning, always being reborn along with the whole of Nature and its cycles of seasons.