Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Turning 65

As most of us know, we live in a culture that no longer reveres aging, or so it seems. Elders were once reverenced among their tribes and villages, but we tend to put ours away. We do this because the culture says we are not supposed to be burdened by them, and many of our elders have internalized this message.

"I don't want to be a burden on my children." Have you heard that one before?

Aging didn't always present "burden." It used to present the possibility of wisdom passed down.
Life experience once earned one some perspective to offer younger people who did not yet have much of their own. It offered some insight over time and space. And it gave most of us our life stories. Abandoning these stories, those relationships, even when troubled and difficult, means losing some essential aspects of our own life stories and the realities that form the contexts of our lives.

And then there are the opportunities for deepening love and compassion and wisdom from walking with those becoming old, frail, those facing their mortality and thereby show us our own. We become better human beings when we start taking in our own ungodlike mortality, the deep awareness that we are not nearly as powerful as we think we are, and that Nature is one thing we will never overcome, no matter how hard we try.

My mother, my oldest sister, the 1st grandchild, and me
I learned so much in the caring and accompaniment of my mother through her aging, long dying, and death than I have even begun to unpack since we buried her body at age 90 in 2008. But I wrote about it. It's part of the book project of these past 3 years, which now has a completed draft to share out into the publishing world to see if that world will embrace a somewhat unusual concept.

From accepting her aging and dying, from opening to all that happened in that journey of broken bones, vascular dementia, extreme vulnerability, and at times breathtaking intimacy and tenderness, I finally became the writer I always wanted to be.

Not so careful anymore. Not so afraid to tell the truth with abandon, yet with compassion. A stronger voice, one that I recognize fully as my own.

I turned 65 last month. I am surprisingly welcoming of it because I believe it means I have a view from a higher peak. It means an expanded vantage point from which to view the predicament of our sad, still beautiful, horribly damaged planet, and of this poor species growing increasingly bereft of the kind of wisdom needed desperately in this world if we are to survive. We are losing the "wisdom of the ages" because most people in this culture don't have long views anymore. We can't see where we are if we give up the all-important vantage points that come with time and space - time over generations, time from the vantage point of our elders who have been here longer than we have.

I intend to claim wisdom, to keep learning, and to keep passing on however I can what I learn as I climb that mountain of time.

Anyway, I wrote down a couple of lines more than a year ago that have been sitting quietly in a notebook waiting for the rest of the poem to show up. It did yesterday, and I want to share it here. Hopefully it will get published some day soon because I'm rather fond of it. So is my writers group.
Turning 65

Old wood, lying scattered
in a small open space
in the forest...

dappled sunlight
through the trees
at a sharp angle
and the earth
still fertile

We need more wise elders. We need more elders to claim their wisdom. Don't be afraid of the word "old." Be afraid of letting the fertile earth go to waste.

Margaret Swedish

No comments:

Post a Comment