Thoughts on Aging A few days before my birthday, a couple of months ago, I wrote about reaching seventy five years. I am aware of the passage of time. So much of it seems cyclical: watching the moon move through her phases, the replacement of the toilet paper rolls, the milk in the carton….
A few years ago, I started to visualize my life as an 80-year-old: vibrant, healthy, strong, engaged in meaningful projects, enjoying life. It wasn’t too far-fetched to imagine this glowing future. My life is pretty much that way now. But at the time, I also realized there were some elements of my lifestyle that…
When I was a kid, there was a feature on the comic pages of our local paper titled There Oughta’ Be a Law and one of the common themes used was someone “unclear on the concept.” It influenced me lifelong to notice when human behavior doesn’t match the prevailing understanding of an idea. Those were…
First, I noticed the pruned branches on the ground. In prior years, I would have demanded that the pruning process include a grandchild as consultant for which limbs could be removed from the “climbing tree” maple while leaving good foot and hand holds intact for the climber. At least, a former tree-climber, like myself, should be consulted if no active climber was available. This year, I thought, well, maybe the grandkids have moved on to bigger challenges to “climb” and the tree has served its purpose. Let the man-with-the-saw create his own art this year. He has an eye for view and design and health of the tree that is a valid blend of science and art to be respected and appreciated.
Next, I noticed the bay leaves on the ground. In late winter/early spring they stand out against the new grass growth. The old leaves are pale tan now and only the lace-like veins remain. I remember collecting them one cold day years ago, envisioning the art project they could become. And I remember the hot summer afternoon that all the grandkids gathered with me to paint the lacy leaves and print them onto muslin cloth squares. The result was a large collection of beautiful dinner napkins that we still enjoy today – leaf prints in a variety of colors, the beauty of nature displayed in simple, child-made designs.
Now, many of us in that long-ago summer arts week still enjoy making things of beauty, and although we could repeat, or add a more sophisticated version of the product, perhaps a newer project with meaning is how we design our lives – clarifying who we are becoming.
I notice that I still include myself as a person designing my life. I often say I’m a work in progress. No less than the teens and pre-teens now defining themselves, I am figuring out who I am becoming next.
I’m also a guide. Still a summer camp crafts leader of sorts, encouraging others to take the found elements of their lives and create something unique and pleasing to use going forward.
I guide younger people, people my own age on either side of retirement, and people decades older than myself, to see what is precious about themselves. I invite students and trainees to examine and sample practices that enhance the pleasure of life – from physical comfort to outlook, to seeing lifestyle as an art form.
I enjoy being a coach. Not the coach who makes you run another lap because you screwed up, but the coach who asks, “what did you learn?” and encourages you to keep moving – for there is always more to learn and more to appreciate. Nia White Belt Training is an ideal setting for this kind of lerning.
I’ve always cared about the experience, whether it’s the kid out on a limb searching for the next place to put her foot, or the colleague “out on a limb” seeking to make sense of the crazy events of life.