Going Home!?

It was was dark outside.  All I could see were small clusters of lights as our plane came in to land, but I knew the unseen rural New England landscape well. In years past this landing meant I was coming home from college or in later years for a  visit with my ageing parents, my young children by my side.  Feelings now, as then, were a mixture of anticipation and melancholy.  The melancholy was from the recognition that time was closing in on the remaining time left between me and my parents. Those disturbing feelings are a visitor that accompanies advancing age, deepening recognition that the clock is ticking and adding a bittersweet quality to events that were once never given much thought.

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The empty airport concourse signalled immediately that no one would be there any longer for my homecoming. It had been decades ago, but happy images of my mother and father waiting for me remained alive, however impossible. The Christmas decorations on display looked a little cheesier to me than they had in my youth. Mounds of dirty snow were the only remainders of last week’s early snowstorm.  The cold air seemed colder than I’d remembered.  The winter coat I’d brought with me in defense of the cold warmed me, but felt heavy and oppressive.

I’d come to visit a dear relative who is being treated for a grave illness.  I was relieved to finally visit, but apprehensive too. Continue reading “Going Home!?”

Between Heaven and Earth

After recovering from three somewhat harrowing days driving a rental car on the road in Japan, we learned , despite the high points of the trip, not to do it again.  I also relearned that there is a very small margin of error between life and death on a snake like one lane curving  road where a head -on collision could catapult you from one world to the next and was possible at any time.

At Koyasan, while walking through the cryptomeria pathway lined with tombs of the dead, I learned again to value the time I have left, before I rest for eternity with the millions who have passed before us.

 

 

 

 

On the far too narrow one lane road leading us out of Koyasan, I learned that beauty can exist in unlikely circumstances. The road really should have been just a pathway along the small river, but it actually was chosen by Google maps as our way to get down the steep mountain.  It even had a route #!

Despite the knowledge that each curve or one wrong turn of the wheel could presage our final moments, I could not get over the thrill of being in this beautiful area.  The intense beauty overcame my fear. The foliage lining the river’s path was at its peak of fall color.  The river itself, about 25 feet beneath the road, was populated by beautiful boulders and rocks, the river, crystal clear, running a path between them. It invited me to linger, but my husband had a sense of urgency to get us to a wider and undoubtedly safer road. Some bikers rushed past us, but other than that, we’d meet one or two other motorists about every 20minutes, which is to say, we were mostly alone in this splendid landscape on this treacherous road.

the river below.

 

Then, suddenly this journey into an alternate universe was over.  We welcomed the first houses that appeared and celebrated escaping alive.  Maybe I’m being overly melodramatic, but I don’t think so!  Soon, the junk big box architecture that is too prevalent outside of most cities took over our visual field.  We’ve lost so much of the natural world.

The sacred place of Koyasan was meant to celebrate nature, as is Shintoism. I am grateful we got to participate in the celebration, somber as it could be at times.

Life is precarious and glorious.

Knowing Love

Today, visiting my umpteenth Kyoto temple ( this time, Shoren-in )I thought how each time I reconnect with the places, things and people I love here, it’s like meeting an old friend after a long absence.  You can’t explain its satisfaction and happiness, but you sure know it and feel it.

The delicate maple leaves in the temple gardens  are certainly familiar as is the smile on a loved one’s face or the twinkle in their eye. The junction of wall and roofing always pleases too, not to mention the koi in the ponds, the stones, the quiet, the moss, the flowers, the mysteries hidden in the darkened sanctuaries.  How wonderful to be reunited!

 

People often ask me, how many times have you come here?  I truly don’t know, I stopped counting years ago.  It’s irrelevant anyway.  There’s always a First Time feeling to each visit.  I revere the integration of Nature in daily life.  The physical buildings of temples, generally hundreds of years old, are such a part of each temple landscape, looking as if they might have emerged from the earth itself. The carefully constructed gardens are often sublime.  It’s easy to feel a part of them as they have become a part of me.  As loved ones influence and mark our lives, so does this place for me.

 

 

Return to Youth with Anti-Ageing?? Get Over It

Can we please eliminate/eradicate the term anti-ageing?

There is no such thing. Anti aging=death. It’s a ridiculous phrase. It’s added as a descriptive term to advertising far too frequently. It’s understood to be undeniably positive, promoting everything from diets to yoga, face cream, lipstick, underwear, to acai berries. Let’s be truthful. Anti aging = anti-nature. Can’t be done. Don’t waste your time or spend you $$$. Or give it credibility.

We all age at different rates. If you’re like I am, you have already looked around at people your own age, wondering how some look so young, or what happened to make others look so old. There’s a wide variation among us. Some things in life accelerate the aging process, but if you have the pleasure (let’s hope) of living a long life, YOU WILL AGE SOONER OR LATER. Better to face it, than to flee.

Just as mid-life provides us with an opportunity to examine our lives and make changes as necessary, ageing provides a similar opportunity if we can jettison all the nonsense that surrounds it that just isn’t worth the dwindling time we have.

The somewhat obvious spin-off of anti-ageing rhetoric is designed to make us dissatisfied with ourselves and our naturally ageing bodies and minds.  It does just that if you don’t have your ears perked up and call it out for what it is.  It’s ultimately anti-life.

I don’t want to be approached by a pretty young thing patronizingly offering me a creme to make me look younger. Fuck off.  I’ve earned my place in life and I’m quite ok thank you very much. I’m not ashamed to look my age although I must admit to being a little too happy when I’m told I look younger than I am!  Old thought patterns don’t let go so easily.

I have zero desire to strut around in very high heels to make my body look better.  I’ve already played that painful game.

Now that I am approaching my late 70’s, I see ageism all around me. In myself too. We are SO culturally conditioned. I don’t like it in myself . I resent it in others . But, I’m becoming more and more aware of it. I’ve decided to become active in identifying it when I see it and calling it out. Others are doing it too. It’s well past time to be realistic, don’t you think?

… the success of the anti-ageing industry that caters to the needs of the elderly, like alternative medicine, it owes much of its success to its fundamental, albeit ambiguous, relationship with science. This particular sector in consumer society is shrouded with an aura of science that is used for the promotion of a variety of goods. It thrives on symbolic uses of science, while passing over its requirements for experimental evidence, peer review and official regulations. The aura and the discourse of science are skilfully applied for product enhancement in response to a fast-growing demand from the ageing public (see McConnel & Turner, page S59).

The anti-ageing market is replete with products: yoghurt cures, enema regimens, cell injections, magnetic devices, skin creams, herbal elixirs, glandular extracts, hormonal therapies, vitamin supplements, fad diets and exercise programmes. They give us anti-oxidants to neutralize oxygen-free radicals; chelators to bind heavy metal ions such as copper and iron; dehydroepiandrosterone to rejuvenate the immune system, improve brain function and relieve stress; growth hormone to increase muscle mass and function; retinoic acid to decrease skin wrinkling, and many more.  EMBO European Molecular Biology Organization

The Quiet Lives of Old Photographs

The photographs of my life huddle together in the darkness, secure in a bedroom cabinet. They now lead quiet lives, disturbed only occasionally. They once brought only pleasure to me and upon inspection, wonder. Now going through them brings a quotient of sadness too. The scale began to tip about 10 or 15 years ago. Their nearby presence exerts an energy that often tempts me to pay them a visit, but one that I usually resist. It’s a bottomless journey, that once begun leads down a road that’s too nostalgic. It invariably leads to sad emotions that I’d prefer to not indulge. It does show a rich lifetime of family times, travel, holidays and joyful events. The photos allow me to visit people who were once an important part of my life, now no longer available for one reason or another or sometimes for no reason I can state.  They just faded away.

Were my eyebrows really once that full and dark? Gazing at a photo of myself holding my infant children in my arms, I can still feel my daughter’s softness and inhale her sweet baby scent. Those sacred pleasures vanished too quickly. Pangs of times passed too quickly and unconsciously.  Another photo yields a glance of smiling faces at a school graduation. That was long ago, when there were more beginnings and a door closed meant that another door would soon be opening.

home from college, visiting my Dad

Yesterday, I uncovered a long-lost photo of my mother in her 20’s with a man other than my father. She and her gentleman friend looked very happy. I remembered her telling me many years ago that this man was her boyfriend before she met my father. They were close to engagement. And then they weren’t. The road not taken, but still present in my stash of snapshots. Does the gentleman still have a photo of my mom that his children puzzle over?

There are so many photos! My short-term attempts at organization have always run out of steam. I can never throw out enough of them to even make a small dent in their number.  Now they lay, slightly deteriorating by the day, in boxes, albums, and stacks. They give testament to a life and youth gone by. They recall young children, departed relatives, exciting trips to Europe and Japan, important birthdays, a long-lost pet. I want to bring them to life, if only for a brief visit.

The gang in Brooklyn on Halloween Eve, many moons ago!
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A gorgeous early summer day near Stockholm.

I almost gasp when looking at photos of a long-ago party at my house, celebrating the visit of Doug Elkins Dance Company in 1998. Everyone was sooo young and so drunk.

Just Married, saying goodbye to parents as we head out for the honeymoon.  1963!

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New Year’s Eve 1999

I found a photo of my mother with her arms around two of my daughters, probably taken 40 years ago. They all looked relaxed and happy. This photo brought me joy because my mother hated to have her picture taken, consequently, I have few photos of her where she seems happy and looks the way I want to remember her. She died of Alzheimer’s so my last memories of her are painful to recall. This photo helped me make her real and healthy again. The image is now on my desk and in my heart.

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My favorite look (for many years)

Thousands of digital photos sit right under my fingertips at my computer’s keyboard. They’re so easily accessible, and visited more frequently. They’re available for immediate recall and better organized.  I imagine that my grandchildren will have no boxes of photos to store.

Once again there came the time to put these memory capsules back in their cupboard.  After writing about them this time, I lovingly put them away, and even managed to feel happy.

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meeting the final grandchild!