Thursday, May 31, 2012

Looking Back, and Forward .....1001:56

It's been a year or so since I started blogging on the topic of "Growing Old."  My goal: write a post-a-day of personal observations, until reaching the magic number 1,001.  This would've taken 3 years at the Scheherazade rate of "1 story per day."  I aimed to "Inform, Enlighten, and Cheer"  about the road to ageing. 

Time to review Goals.  I still want to I, E and C.  But writing regularly, as any writer knows, brings its own personality into the mix.  The writing itself arranges some things, and I try not to stand in the way.

First Goal Review: although I see a definite advantage in disciplining myself to write every day, it's easiest to write when the muse moves me.  This decision quashed the post-a-day thing, but preserved the joy-in-writing thing.  It will take longer than 3 years, but I'm still shooting for all 1001.  I'll never make professional writing status with such a lack-a-daisical attitude, but maybe I'll manage daily writing (a.k.a. chairbound) for when I can't move around much anymore.  Something to look forward to, provided I can still keyboard.

An unanticipated bonus Goal is, obviously, honing my writing skills.   Writing, like anything else, can be constantly analyzed and improved.  My writing goals now include: trying to move beyond my trademark heavy-philosophical-sociological-Latinate-Madeline L'Engle/ Carl Sagan-worldview to Simple Statements.  Whittling down Great Thoughts to manageable proportions.  Alternating sentence sizes.  Short is Good.  Edit, edit, edit.  And all those goals slide from the belly of the Beast of Practice, Practice, Practice. 

Also, because I love to write and it makes me happy, the Goal of joining a writing community manifested itself.  I recently joined a local writers group.  Feedback is good.  I anticipate benefits on ideas and publishing, as well as a new community to enrich my life.  Relatives come and go, but communities hang around.

Finally, the blog has invested in me as I have in it.  It's given back the interest I've put into it, like a reflecting mirror. An essence of ageing well is embodied, for me just by the act of writing this blog: doing things you love keeps you on your toes, involved, and most of all it keeps you happy to be you.  That is the best advice I can possibly give myself about ageing, or living.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sandboxes and Resurrections

When my son was born 33 years ago, I was a young and very inexperienced mother.  He was born in December, the day I put up the Christmas Tree.  Foremost in my thoughts that season: "Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Child is given."  It was like having Baby Jesus in my home, and the story was a comfort to me.

Thirty-three years later--last Christmas--I held my son's baby daughter and reminded him of that story.   His smile as he looked at his personal little Christ Child was, undeniably, beatific. 

Yesterday I sat with Lila, all of 15 months old now, in her new sandbox.  Her Dad set it up a few days ago: the nifty, ubiquitous, green plastic Turtle Sand Box replete with Moat and Lid.  Under the shade of a big tree growing up through the wooden deck, she and I sat and Explored Life.  Sifters, cups, and dippers of sand.  How sand feels on feet, in hands, how it pours itself sweetly onto all things. We tasted sand (well, she did, a little).  We dropped things in the moat, and poured water in the sand.  A trio of squirrels ran through the tree and across the deck, another distracting and brand -new experience.  When a good breeze nudged the tree, helicopter seeds swirled lazily down, requiring some attention.  The heavy metal wind chimes bonged dreamy angel music, without repetitive melody, no anticipated rhthyms.

We took a break from sand duty to walk through the grass--rife with more amazing distractions, including but not limited to: ants, twigs, dead grass, and rocks--to the hammock.  I put Lila on the hammock and pushed her.  She was not pleased, and wriggled her way down and out of the confining ropes.  Feet firmly on the ground, she took firm hold of the hammock and pushed it herself.  Back and forth, with concentration.  Her own unanticipated melody, not formed yet, reminding me that she is finding her notes and they don't fit my patterns.  What a kid.

What a brand new, independently activated, New World Child.
Being Grandma to the Christ Child's Child is every bit as resurrective, I find, as being the Christ Child's Mama.  The Memories of First Things, reborn with every baby, lifts and cheers.

With practice, Resurrection gets easier.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Last Tango over Gray .........1001:45

I did it.
Or, rather, Gigi did it.
Because really, she was as excited as me.

We've been in this client/ hairdresser tango for a couple years, as only those who have a deep relationship with the person who cuts their hair can know.  Our back-and-forth was on the subject of Going Gray.  We have had differing opinions.  She voted for keeping color with the hard-to-resist argument that "you're too young to go gray."  As a woman who is going gray and who strives for seeing things clearly, I felt obligated to Be Me aka Gray.  Both of us had some good points to support our views. 

Back when I turned 49, and began acquiring a few silver hairs, I gave myself the Clariol Curse.  Hair dye is like plastic surgery:  once employed, the natural course of things alters.  Things like self-image, projection, reflection, expectation.  You can skip past Inevitable and go straight to Avoidance.
But avoidance is exhausting.  I've never been a good liar because its a lot of work to keep alternate reality facts straight.  Hair color is like keeping up a charade.  Too much work, my brain needs a clear path to too many other tricky life requirements to share the cargo space with non-essentials.  Getting Older lends itself to dumping the non-essentials.

I went to my appointed round with Gigi yesterday at 4:20 p.m. for a trim.  By 5:12 p.m., I was my True Color. 

Gigi pre-empted my final moment of realization by a few months. I just wanted a quarter inch off to lose the split ends and nudge those cursed fomerly-colored horizontal stripes to oblivion.  She knows how long I've been working to Be Me, she's argued against it, she's helped cover IT, and she's heard my pros and cons for a few years.  Finally, she cheered me on, saying a few cuts back that "theres no going back now."  After all the waffling and the slow growing-out time, she wanted to see WHAT the hair would look like as much as I did.  I could've dipped my toes into the water for a few more months with just a trim.  But she shoved me in the deep end.  She clipped past the Brassy Dyed Leftovers, straight to the heart of the matter.  Which meant that my hair is shorter than I wanted it.  But it's a wrap.

Right away, it felt good.  Short.  But good.  It was a Let-Go moment.  And a Hello moment.  I like it very much.  I think that people react differently to me, in the last 24 hours.  Maybe I have acheived Eccentric Status, because being gray and acting like I usually do--abrupt--is more acceptable under gray hair than it was under dyed.  Its a whole new world, which I am happy to explore.

Gigi likes it too.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Trash Amnesty..........44;1001

Great Weekend in my little burg: Trash Amnesty Day came and was celebrated with appropriate gaiety.  Once a Year, on a Saturday, on all streets, Plymouth picks up ANYTHING (almost) that you care to put out at the curb. Sofas, mattresses, kitchen cabinets, kitchen sinks, erstwhile front doors, busted up toys, intact dining sets, working and non-working TVs and appliances. Kids. Well, they aren't left at the curb, they just run back and forth in all the other stuff left at the curb. Its A Party all over town. Its The Opp to kiss all those things Goodbye that you know you should never have bought, or things that required or didn't recieve too much maintenance, or that makes you think of someone you just can't think of anymore, or that your lifestyle became to opulent to countenance any longer.  A story in every reject, there is.
I even contributed to the party this year: an old futon mattress bequeathed me by an ill-natured former renter, a busted office chair, and a wooden, hand-assembled CD shelf thingy that some well-meaning student insisted I wanted years ago.  The chair and mattress were irredeemable, but someone took the CD tower, and that is as it should be.  The Protocol of Trash Amnesty: anybody's junk is everybody's potential treasure.

As the Friday prior to TA Saturday draws towards a close, excitement picks up.  People are hauling all kinds of stuff from the depths of basements and the caverns of garages out to the public feeding ground of the residential streetside curb.  Everyone checks to see what everyone else is putting out.  Soon, traffic patterns change on the residential streets.  Trucks appear, SUVs, pulling a variety of trailers, driving slowly up and down, with people peering intently towards the curb.  The cargo-carrying vehicles pull over at likely-looking spots, sometimes 2 or 3 groups of pickers per spot, if its likely-looking enough.  Everyone is driving slowly and looking, but I notice careful driving and parking.  However, first to arrive at the targeted trash has to act quickly if there are others zeroing in.  A particularly nice chair or cabinet will draw several contenders, for example.  One year I watched a kid on a bike go for a really neat world globe, and an older picker politely stepped back from taking the same item.  There is a protocol, and I will document it one of these years, to store in the annals of Local Sociological Customs Concerning Trash.

Of course, many people profess to sneer at Trash Picking.  If something has been tossed, it cannot, they reason, have value or maybe sanitary surfaces.  Of course, this is not true.  It has simply and purely been abandoned because someone could afford to look the other way and abscond responsiblity for acquisition.  A Trash Picker is Re-Use On The Hoof.  I am certainly an advocate of Trash Picking, although I am constantly mindful of bringing THINGS home that may not have a guaranteed future at my home--even reclaimed things that merit second chances (yes, and people and cats).  I dearly love bookshelves, for instance, and weird tables; yet, I can only use so many of either of those items, no matter how interestingly they beckon me from someone's curb. 

One year, I was walking around and saw two women pull over in front of me and hoist a sofa onto their flatbed pickup truck. I offered to help, but they declined. I couldn't help but stare at the several other sofas and chairs they had loaded up at other stops. One woman saw my look, and felt she needed to explain: "We run a shelter for dogs, and they love to have sofas to hop up on." That was a good story, and one I would never have made up. I do think however, that training dogs to get up on the furniture can not enhance their adoptability. 

I try to resist.  This year, I enjoyed a long walk downtown, around town, and back home.  All along my route I checked out the Trash Picking Event, with a reserved and detached smile.  Children were jumping up and down on abandoned mattresses here and there, cheerfully squealing.  This is good for them.  Bedbugs can't be much of a risk during outdoor jumping, can they?  Adults were eyeballing discards along the streets with an eye for uniqueness and intactness.  Groups were cheerfully formed on front porches to watch the proceedings and comment on them.  Children also got to indulge in the neccesary growth development skill of Personal Acquisition, as they pulled likely-looking junk to their bosoms.  Roller skates, gumball machines (euw for sanitary there), games, books.

Ah, books.  I was walking home and all alone on the sidewalk near my feet there it was: a cardboard box full of books.  My unconscious reaction to books is always "Look."  So I did.  Immediately I saw "Birds of North America" in a nice hardback book, with completely different format than the ubiquitous Rogers book of the same name.  Without thinking, it was in my hands.  Maybe it leapt up.  Then I saw "Garden Gifts,"  a lovely picture book of flowers and still lifes, indoor and out.  Who could pass up this pretty book, which could be used for framing, coffee table, or collage purposes?  (This book was proved worthy when my grandaughter found it a few days later and promptly tore out a nice big Sunflower Scene.)  Finally, a 2 volume set of Encylopedic Dictionaries, which also leapt into my arms, which were getting pretty loaded down at this point so I stopped looking.

I trudged home with a smile on my face, the five blocks full of interesting vignettes as fellow residents gleaned the harvest and exchanged sociological rites of all kinds.  Its kind of a tribal rite thing: if you eat the heart of the sacrifice you are bonded, only this is participating in the trash kill and communion.

And the next morning, the sound of groaning, invading garbage trucks fill the early Morning After streets. The scattered remains of the Picking are gathered up and taken away, with only a lingering sense of Another Ritual Acccomplished in the air, and much emptier garages and basements in the 'hood. 

Next year, must get videos and do interviews.  This is a true sociological event, not to mention a very interesting and possibly very useful tradition.  The Art of Trash Picking, I'll call the book....

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Of Hair and Self (part 3, I think).........55:1001

Self-Image is inescapable in the U.S., betwixt mirrors, mass media, and other people's opinions.  We Know Us by Reflection.  That Reflection changes over time.  If we live long enough, there are BIG changes.  It's strange  to see pictures of me now, and pictures of me from 1-59 years ago.  Did someone airbrush not only the metabolic rate, but also the bone structure?  Okay, maybe not the bone structure, just the muscle tone.

As a lifelong dedicated observer and artist of the human body, I know in my head that photos fall way short of what we look likeProjections of self to the world are far different than self-image Reflections.  Looks are composite: physical atrributes, mental attributes, driving philosophy. The way we move, groom,  turn our head, raise our eyes, smile, put one foot in front of another.  As an artist, I'm all in favor of pretty looking things, but "beautiful" is spelled i-n-t-e-r-e-s-t-i-n-g, defined as many small things.

Of course, photos are easier for quick reference.

It's not possible to know ourselves, the way someone who loves us--or is otherwise forced to see us everyday--can know us.  But photos are an accepted way to satisfy our curiousity about our image.  Photos can be manipulated to our advantage. We can cover up our feet, our gut, fix our teeth.  We can do some useful things to hair, too, for a Captured Moment.  Ancient Egypt seems like a practical cultural model for hair, with shaved heads and wigs.  And whether in History or in photos, hair is an up-front Big Alteration to Self Image when we get old.  For better or worse, Hair-Image invokes our sexuality.  Going Gray = Losing Reproductive Sexuality.  I, personally, like to think it moves us along to another kind of sexuality, maybe Maturely ProvidentOr something. I'd say Grateful, but that's age non-specific.

Yeah, hair Gauges the Changes.  In college, early 70's, I escaped from childhood home perms to Hair Freedom.  Under room-mate tutelage,  my natural curl grew wild, without controlling hair spray, rollers or other popular diversions of the era.  Later in life I moved on to electric stuff, rollers, rods.  Did some time with hair brushes and blowers.  Went into a Let It Be stage again.  And someday I'll look back and gauge how my hair stage, today, compares.

Alfred Lord Tennyson advised poetically in Ulysses, " Let us row then to the West, for something yet remains . . . . "  I apply this advice to my hair.   It's not dead yet. There are still interesting things it could do, despite being old.   Like: since my favorite trusted hair stylist is taking a road trip (again) the hair has grown a little longer (in horizontal stripes of New Gray and Old Brassy Dyed).  So,  feeling  Tennysonian the other day, I twisted it into a clip and a 60's French Twist.  I documented this foray into Self-Image with a picture.  I do not love the camera, and it does not love me.  I have to trust you a lot with a camera in your hands.

My favored spot to capture me is in front of the bathroom mirror, where I can see the image captured in the camera viewer reflected in the mirror.  (Future literary analysis: Reflected Reflection Projection.).  Also, that spot is where I designatedly think about what I look like, while brushing teeth, checking for puffiness and Bed Hair   Total Disclaimer: Due to fortunate DNA, and to Mom's incredible Luck--which I did not inherit but which covers me under her policy--I am grateful for the many years I've miraculously stayed alive.  I'm grateful I have all my limbs, I can see (with help), I can walk, I can talk, I haven't had major crippling diseases or accidents.  I've had good nutrition and shelter, all my life.  I know a lot of people who have not had my Great Good Health and Luck.  I only bemoan my personal pimple-sized vanity problems because I also know people who vacation in Hawaii and get plastic surgery.  And my World View is schizophrenic, biased, and clouded.  in front of my favorite shower stall.

So I check out my current Something Yet Remains photo, kindly.  What's new?  I have a covert look to my eyes, loss of innocence having occurred on a daily basis for 60 years. But I look capable of teaching English because of innocence-loss Acquired Knowledge, possibly manifesting in that piercing blue-eyed gaze.  Said eyes are back in the saddle with eyeglasses these days, but they are both still in place and functioning.  The famous Old Neck Look is here to stay--but neck still rotates nicely.  The cheekbones look good in 3/4 profile, some character, yeah.  Facial muscles are shifting, downward.  The Gray is good, feels honest, blends with age spots on skin. 

Yep, that is an older woman than I saw last bathroom photo session.  But I like her. Outside the photo, I happen to know she has my sense of humor.  We can do some Tennyson-ing together. We can be friends.

 Heres a great article on image, including IQ, EQ, MQ, and BQ!