Welcome to The Coffee Shop, just for you early risers on Monday mornings. This is an Open Thread forum, so if you have an off-topic opinion burning a hole in your brainpan, feel free to add a comment.
You know you’re getting old when you get that one candle on the cake. It’s like, ‘See if you can blow this out.’
― Jerry Seinfeld
I can remember waiting eagerly for my birthday to arrive, expecting it to be the day I’d become a cool grown up. It always seemed like next year would be the year it was going to happen, until next year arrived. I guess I was a slow learner because I didn’t really stop hoping for it until I turned 31. Then it seemed like I’d passed go, and missed my chance.
Next year will be my “Bookends” year — the Simon and Garfunkel song with the line:
“How terribly strange
To be seventy”
and it will be terribly strange.
Birthdays are a time to make a tally of what you can count on, what’s gone missing, and what you need for whatever comes next.
My assets seem of doubtful use,
I have a wealth of irk about machines
but ladder balance is nearly spent,
bones reshape, and fingers fumble
brain bursts with buried treasure,
Words ensnarl on threadbare tongue
days embezzle late night dividends;
cast-iron stomach now seeps rust,
tired eyes yearn for retirement.
Speedometer edges near seventy,
pushing my gas gauge closer toward E.
what still works needs an overhaul,
and then I’ll get back on my way.
I do, however, find this poem about an Underground Railroad Conductor by Marilyn Nelson inspiring. Maybe I’ll be a cool old grown up.
Nancy Morris, widow, ca. 1838
When did my knees learn how to forecast rain,
and my hairbrush start yielding silver curls?
Of late, a short walk makes me short of breath,
and every day begins and ends with pain.
Just yesterday I was raising my girls;
now I’m alone, and making friends with death.
So let the railroad stop at my back door
for a hot meal. What do I have to lose?
The Lord has counted the hairs on my head
and made a little space under my floor.
All I ask of life is to be of use.
There’ll be time to be careful when I’m dead.
Birth is a one-way ticket to the grave:
I’ve learned that much slowly, over the years,
watching my body age. Time is a thief,
and what we give away is all we can save.
So bring on the runaways! I know no fear.
Let life have meaning, if it must be brief.
She and I have only a few things in common: arthritis, age, wanting to be of use, and knowing “what we give away is all we can save.”
I also appreciate these words from Muscogee poet Joy Harjo.
Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people are you.
Remember you are this universe and this universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.
“January Statement” by Nona Blyth Cloud
“Conductor” © 2015 by Marilyn Nelson – Namelos Editions
“Remember” from She Had Some Horses, ©1983 by Joy Harjo – W. W. Norton