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Easing the Journey Through Shadow & Light

  • Dawn

Musings on Mortality OR "I'm Not Dead Yet!"

Anti-Anxiety Tool of the Week: Horselips.

Put your lips together somewhere between tight and loose and go bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb.... like a horse. This is hard to do if you are smiling or laughing, and hard not to laugh if you are doing it. It may take a few attempts to find the right balance of looseness.

Be silly. Have fun. More about it here (scroll down to the picture of the horse).

Musings on Mortality OR "I'm Not Dead Yet!"

I never thought it would happen to me. I know that's trite but there was some secret part of my mind that never believed I would get old. Not me! Or, that part thought--very privately--that I might get old but my body would stay, say, in its 40s or 50s.

But now, well into, many of you know it anyway) my seventh (gasp!) decade I notice that my skin, my vision, my hearing, my memory and a few other parts are refusing to comply with that secret part of my brain. They are, in fact, aging. The little upstarts!

In all honesty, aging--and the reality it points to, looming mortality--is sometimes rather unpleasant. And scary.

But really, it's not that bad. I mean there are lots of little annoyances, and occasional big ones, but I still have two eyes, two ears, two legs, two arms and no major illnesses. I can walk two miles; swim lottsa laps; cook a great meal; write silly and/or interesting stories, poems and articles; and wrestle weeds out of the garden with the best of them.

I've also got some great role models for aging. My parents were active and independent into their later eighties, often showering their friends and family with wisdom, hospitality and good cheer. Good genes there too. Dr. Ian Stevenson, one of my bosses at the University of Virginia, continued his research around the world, traveling the backroads of India into his eighties. At 89, my Great Aunt Elizabeth (my middle namesake) flew across the country by herself to participate in the annual board of directors meeting of the YWCA. And the next year, only four months or so after she had broken her arm, she enjoyed square dancing at the wedding of a young relative.

Another great role model? The huge old oak tree I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. I see it from my window every morning during my quiet time. There are several moderately big branches that have died, and those that remain are not as thickly covered with leaves as they once were. But it still stands tall with great dignity, untroubled by "forethought of grief" as Wendell Berry says. It still shelters and feeds an untold number of squirrels and birds and insects. It still shades our side yard, and the house. It is still beautiful, still part of the web of life in spite of its advanced age.

May I age as gracefully as these, my friends and relations.

BUT...I'm not dead yet! (to quote Monty Python). So I'll close with an amusing song made famous by one of my childhood heroes, Pete Seeger. He discovered the words on the back of a place mat at a restaurant in a small town in Ohio. Even though he was only in his forties at the time, he really enjoyed the poem so he wrote a tune for it, and added a few lines of text. It must have helped--he was still singing it fifty years later!

Here he is, singing the song on YouTube. The first part features one of his great banjo solos but if you want to skip to the song, start at 1:00 minute.

The photo below was taken at President Obama's inauguration in 2009 when Pete was 89. What an inspiration.

Get up and Go


How do I know my youth is all spent? My get up and go has got up and went. In spite of it all, I'm able to grin When I think of the places my get up has been.

Old age is golden, I think I've heard said But sometimes I wonder as I crawl into bed.

My ears in a drawer, my teeth in a cup,

my eyes on the table until I wake up.

As sleep dims my vision, I say to myself Is there anything else I should lay on the shelf? But nations are warring and business is vexed, So I'll stick around to see what happens next.


When I was younger, my slippers were red I could kick up my heels right over my head. When I was older my slippers were blue But still I could dance the whole night thru.

Now I am old, my slippers are black, I huff to the store and I puff my way back. But never you laugh, I don't mind at all, I'd rather be huffing than not puff at all.


I get up each morning and dust off my wits Open the paper and read the obits. If I'm not there, I know I'm not dead So I eat a good breakfast and go back to bed.

How do I know my youth is all spent? My get up and go has got up and went. In spite of it all, I'm able to grin When I think of the places my get up has been.

Until next time,


Photo credits:

Horse, anonymous

Three women, Eldergym

Two women, NY Times

Couple, anonymous

Pete Seeger, US Dept. of Defense


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