To listen or not to listen

V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #107: listen

~~~

Breaking News! – more bad stuff happening everywhere!

Well, technically, that’s NOT what is announced nightly from my television. But it might as well be…as an earnest news anchor rattles off the News Headlines Of The Day when the show begins. She leaves the one bright spot – a friendly citizen delivering food to a neighbor or making someone smile – for the last 5 minutes of the broadcast. Saving the feel-good news for the end.

So…I ask myself…why do I listen at all? To the TV reports. To news radio. I jokingly (but not really joking) reply…well maybe there will be a cure! a solution! a miracle! Either that’s a sign of my foolish hopefulness or unfortunate naivety. I guess I want to know what’s (mostly) going on. It’s the continuous not knowing that I find so hard to live with.

So I turn on the news and try to pick up on what positives I can. There must be something hidden between the lines to hold on to. If I pay close attention.

However…what would I rather listen to?

The sound of waves hitting the beach. It’s predictable and calming and I don’t have to pay close attention.

This video of Hampton Beach, NH is from last year. Now, due to COVID-19 restrictions, it is next to impossible to access the beach in person. Too many people. Not enough parking.

I could listen to this all day.

 

Looking forward to the other side

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”

Rachel Carson

from the back fence

Behind one sturdy fence lies a river
Rising and falling with every tide
Each day the moon is relied on
Nature carrying us along for the ride

I took a break from a long walk in our local park recently and took a seat…alone…on the memorial bench we had donated to honor my in-laws. My view was interrupted by the metal fence separating me from the river beyond. But I knew what was there.

Bordering trees and plant life often double as reflections on the water’s surface. River banks are exposed when the tide is low and disappear when the tide is high. There is something strangely calming and comforting about this. The predictable pull of the moon. An ebb and flow of the changing seasons and time of day.

Nature at its finest with a lesson at its core.

It was hot as blazes the day I took this photo. What did I expect for July? Exactly what happens every July.

I hold out hope upon hope that a predictable life will return someday.

When we get to the other side.

~~~

BeckyB JulySquares: Perspectives
Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Back of things
SixWordSaturday
V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #105: Quotation

The Next Chapter

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #104: Next Chapter

The focus this week is: next chapter. The implications may be personal, or strike a broader chord.

~~~

book chapter

It is not often that I read a book and stop, grab a pencil (usually a pencil because writing in permanent ink feels just plain wrong) and underline…or trace a vertical line on either side of a Paragraph That Resonates. Resonate was a favorite writing group word when we’d politely critique fellow writers’ first drafts.

Does this resonate with you, the reader? If it does, why? 

One such book on my shelf – which made the cut when we downsized to a condo – had to do with chapters. In fact I bought it the year before we moved, but didn’t read it until 2017 – a few months after settling into our Next Chapter. It definitely resonated.

I rarely buy books anymore. No room. In fact this one is a hardcover…a rarity as well.

The book?

The Third Chapter – Passion, Risk, and Adventure in the 25 years after 50, by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot. A Professor of Education at Harvard University, Dr. Lawrence-Lightfoot is also a sociologist and the author of 11 books.* She was in her 60s when she wrote The Third Chapter, which was published in 2009.

What a title! Who writes about older people and aging with such genuine interest and positivity? I mean…”passion, risk and adventure” don’t generally get mentioned in the same sentence with the over 50 crowd.

She writes with eloquence and detail in an immensely readable account of her 2 years of interviews with 40 American women and men who fit in this age group (50-75). People who changed their lives on purpose and with purpose. She tells the stories of how they got to where they are now – at a stage of life previously ignored or minimized for its potential and significance in our culture.

She had me at Introduction: Facing the Mirror where she begins discussing the process she went through in formulating the idea for this book…wanting to focus on…

…moments when we manage to resist the signs of burnout, make peace with the old/new mirror image, and refuse to be preoccupied with our chronic laments about aging or our sadness about our vanishing youth….

Ah yes. THAT mirror.

And then..

Many of the men and women I interviewed spoke passionately and longingly about how the Third Chapter is a time when they have finally been able to face the deep injuries of their childhoods — assaults that they have ignored, repressed, or fled from for most of their lives….

The stories she shares weave life experiences with an academic slant that I appreciate. She admits her subjects were actually able to embark on these new adventures because they were financially secure and had the means to make the choices they made. But this does not minimize the significance of their achievements.

What it did for me was bring into focus the alternate possibilities that might be out there – far different than what my mother’s generation saw for themselves. At least as far as I knew…from observing my own mother’s experience and struggling world view during her “third chapter.”

Even though I realize I wouldn’t follow in the footsteps of the more adventurous subjects interviewed (this blog has been my biggest adventure so far), it was inspiring nonetheless. There is also validation in seeing how someone steps outside the box of what aging has always looked like.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This attempt at a book review is mostly meant to whet your appetite for this remarkable book. My “next chapter” continues to be a work in progress – especially these days. However…passion, risk and adventure?…still intriguing goals.

*Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot is an author, educator, researcher, and public intellectual.  She has pioneered an innovative social science method called “portraiture,” written eleven books, serves on numerous professional and scholarly boards and committees, and has received 30 honorary degrees.  A MacArthur Prize-winning sociologist, she is the first African-American woman in Harvard University’s history to have an endowed professorship named in her honor.

You just might find…

V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #103: theme song

Let’s have a little fun this week, discovering our current theme song. Post a video, lyrics, or write your own.

~~~

A “theme song” – let’s call it my pandemic theme song – has been looping through my mind ever since COVID-19 erupted in the United States back in March.

The chorus from You Can’t Always Get What You Want by (who else) The Rolling Stones popped into my head almost immediately.

It also happens to be embroidered on a large 14″ x 18″ patch of denim. Which is framed and hangs on the wall next to my desk where I write every day.

Whenever I look up, there it is in glorious shades of pink and purple. A good friend of mine from high school made it for me in 1972. She was kind of a hippy back then and is now a cloistered nun. A story I touched upon last year.

abby patch2

 

I mean, seriously, it does make perfect sense.  You can’t always get what you want…most of us learn that fairly early in life if we’re lucky…and I often feel comforted by this timeless bit of wisdom. The Stones immortalized it, but it is actually true…duh.

I try to keep this nugget of humble logic in mind…as I wake up each morning…open my eyes…and remember. It’s not a dream. The world is still under siege. We are still waiting for “normal.”

The Stones did a wonderful virtual Zoom rendition of this tune on April 18th, 2020 for the “One World: Together At Home” concert in support of the World Health Organization. How fascinating that – out of all the songs they’ve recorded – this one was chosen for such a monumental moment in history. It makes perfect sense to me.

I may desperately want to see my family and friends in person…but I am still grateful I am not stuck in a long line of cars waiting for food. Or worrying I may lose my home or business. The financial impact on my family of 2 is not nearly as severe as it is for so many others.

Even though the April 18th performance doesn’t include the opening verses sung by the London Bach Choir, I highly recommend it.
(Bonus: you’ll get to see Charlie Watts playing air drums)

 

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

I saw her today at the reception
A glass of wine in her hand
I knew she was gonna meet her connection
At her feet was her footloose man

You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes, well, you might find
You get what you need

And I went down to the demonstration
To get my fair share of abuse
Singing, “We’re gonna vent our frustration
If we don’t we’re gonna blow a fifty-amp fuse”

You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes, well, you just might find
You get what you need

I went down to the Chelsea drugstore
To get your prescription filled
I was standing in line with Mr. Jimmy
And man, did he look pretty ill
We decided that we would have a soda
My favorite flavor, cherry red
I sung my song to Mr. Jimmy
Yeah, and he said one word to me, and that was “dead”
I said to him

You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You get what you need

You get what you need, yeah, oh baby

I saw her today at the reception
In her glass was a bleeding man
She was practiced at the art of deception
Well, I could tell by her blood-stained hands

You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You just might find
You get what you need

You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You just might find
You get what you need, oh yeah

by, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger
Released in 1969 on the album Let It Bleed

Covid Push

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #101: Decisions

~~~

dark clouds

I’m done two weeks from tomorrow!

My friend of over 30 years called a few days ago with the news. She had made the decision to “retire” after 35+ years from her job in outpatient healthcare at a physician’s office owned by a local hospital. I put quotation marks with retire because her decision was made out of desperation. It was not made easily. It wasn’t what she had planned.

It’s the Covid push.

I had not heard the term before, but she mentioned it as an afterthought. We’d had many conversations over the last few months about the challenges she endured at work. The powers that be prioritized her schedule to include in-person visits throughout the entire pandemic. She has been terrified. At high risk herself, she was also counseling high risk patients. One after the other…when tele-health video visits would easily have sufficed.

Let’s remember, however, that insurance companies reimburse health care providers the most for in-person patient visits. Then there’s tele-health video…and the lowest reimbursement? Telephone counseling. It’s all about the money…don’t get me started.

My friend is an excellent practitioner and educator. Caring, thorough and the ultimate professional. She is also hoping to be around for her adult daughters and grandchildren for many more years to come.

It’s just not worth it anymore. I can’t do it.

I had never heard those words from her before. But there they were. Her husband, a teacher with the same risk factors, had been teaching at a public high school. He also “retired.”

They scrambled to restructure finances and find other health care options. But for the first time in many months, I heard relief in her voice.

The decision had…finally…been made.

Lens-Artists Challenge: One Single Flower

Lens-Artists Challenge #101: One Single Flower

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: One Single Flower

V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #100: Pause (...long enough to quiet the noise…)

~~~

 

purple iris

I find this to be a congruous set of challenges happening in the same week. In particular, V.J.’s subtext to the topic of Pause…about quieting the noise. There has been way too much noise for me lately – on a personal level – more than I can often handle and process like I did “before.” To focus during the day. To sleep at night.

At the same time, I recognize the need for information, education – and change. All the noise urgently and justifiably vies for our collective public attention simultaneously. Ignited by fear. Anger. Not being heard. Not being properly informed.

I have no answers for any of this. I am just one single person among millions who are worried, tired and anxious. Many have more concerns than I do. Many have less.

raindrop flower

Let’s try to get out of our own heads and pause. Take time to listen and hear and read what others have to say. With open minds. Whether it be the scientists with news about the pandemic and what to do next. Or our fellow citizens protesting for justice and racial equality. Or even the politicians who will shape policy – one way or the other. Let’s reflect. Reach within for empathy. And…again…listen.

And…make a commitment to get out and vote when the time comes.

What does this have to do with One Single Flower?

A mass of flowers draws my attention briefly. After a while they blend in together. In the relative quiet of the walking path.

But the single flower…the one tiny flower among many? That’s what stops me.

yellow flower

The one all alone “out standing in its field” as if to say Look at me! I’m important too!

lone daisy

The one single flower…making itself known.

 

No Words

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #98: No Words

This week’s focus is inspired by the events unfolding in the news, but is not limited in its scope. There is much in life that leaves us speechless – both tragic and awe-inspiring. This week, think about the moments that leave you searching for words. Responses can be written, photographic, artistic, or musical.

~~~

The evening national news had just concluded. The entire broadcast consisted of live coverage of the Black Lives Matter protests happening around the country. Reporters conducted interviews with protestors, political figures and children struggling to understand what was happening.

The interviews that stood out for me the most were with African American mothers and fathers. I saw such profound fear in their eyes. Longstanding fear for their children’s safety – especially their sons – both young and grown. They voiced long held terrors…Will their sons return home for supper unharmed? Will they return after a run? Will they return at all? Or will they be targeted by a white member of the community or by the police just because they are black. Look what happened to George Floyd. And so many others – both male and female – like him.

Goodbye and be careful son…takes on a whole new urgency.

I turned off the TV and asked my husband:

What would it have been like if we had needed to worry about our son’s safety every time he left the house…because of the color of his skin? When he left to ride his bike. When we left him off to play basketball. Or baseball. When he drove the car to his friend’s house. Or to the mall to go shopping at Christmas. What if he got stopped in the car…or out in public…for any reason at all? What if?…

Because we did worry about his safety. About what we thought were the “usual” parental concerns. Accidents. Behavior. Illness. Choices.

But due to our privilege as white Americans, we didn’t – and we don’t – experience the searing ongoing daily unimaginable life and death worry about safety that African American parents have always lived with.

What would it have been like?

What would it still be like…?

My mind screeches to a halt. My eyes fill with tears.

I have no words.

waiting for bus 1996

Patience

sky

 

V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #97: risk-reward

Using the the prompt words is not required, as long as you demonstrate the concept of risk-reward.

~~~

And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.

Erica Jong

 

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve navigated more than enough life changes in the last few months. (And that doesn’t even begin to address a one-more-thing aggravation that WordPress is up to tomorrow…June 1st…when the powers-that-be change the editing format whether we like it or not…)

On the much more important front…

Everything…now…is about being careful. Staying safe. To reduce your risk of catching the virus. 

I get it. I really do. I struggle with health issues. I am a living breathing high risk demographic.

Vigilance is required. There is no relaxing since every action involves weighing the risk to your health. And the health of any person nearby…or at least within a 6 foot radius.

I know I am not alone.

Every action triggers a question…
Do I wear the mask in the car?
Do I wear the mask down the empty hall and one flight of stairs to get the mail?
Do I wear it into the garage where everyone parks?
If I don’t wear it everywhere, will I breathe in a virus particle and not know it?
Have I already done it and will it make me sick?
Now what…?

And that isn’t even the complete list of questions that ricochet in my mind when I am out in public. When encountering other grocery shoppers in the one way aisles…what is wrong with these people who aren’t wearing masks? Do they really not care about the risk to themselves…or anybody nearby?

Trying to make an informed decision about even the simplest activity becomes increasingly exhausting. Nobody in charge seems to really know what is going on. Critical thinking can grind to a halt at a moment’s notice.

I used to be a risk taker. To a point. At least I thought so. I climbed trees. Crawled across a roof. Jumped my bike over curbs. I hitchhiked. Smoked cigarettes until my late twenties. If you think about it, every action you take involves a risk of some kind. Perhaps we just adapt.

But this is different. This pandemic. I am older and supposedly wiser. They say you get more afraid of risk as you age. Whoever “they” are don’t realize that many of “us” are much younger in our heads. So there is still a bit of a risk taker inside me shouting I don’t like it ONE BIT that I can’t jump (well more like walk carefully) on a plane to go see my kids and grandson…or share a table with a group of friends at lunch…or walk on the beach.

The clock is ticking. I’m wearing a mask, keeping my distance and not getting any younger. I don’t have much more patience to be patient.

The rewards are far too precious.

Bits and Pieces of the Past

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #95: bits and pieces

SixWordSaturday

~~~

ticket stubs

 

I saved these ticket stubs…scraps of paper…bits and pieces from my past. I found them tucked in a drawer, old jewelry boxes and a business card case. Ancient rubber bands barely held some together. I smiled as I arranged them for this photo.

Allow me to share a few ramblings…

I remember…seeing Whoopi – my comedy idol – and waiting in the theater’s back parking lot afterwards hoping to see her.

There was the night we saw Bruce Hornsby and his heartfelt tribute to Jerry Garcia who had died a few weeks earlier.

A concert I never thought I’d attend had been #1 on my bucket list for years: Barbra Streisand. Tied for #1: Carole King. And there was Bonnie – could never get enough of her. And Bruuuuce…you know who I mean. Amazing.

When we took the kids to see the one-of-a-kind Harlem Globetrotters – back in the days of the basketball and Chicago Bulls craziness that consumed our family.

When You’re A Jet….a local professional theater did this fabled Broadway musical justice beyond our expectations. Again, a favorite.

And…Writers! Anna. Elizabeth. Joyce. Sonia. Atul. Inspiring and captivating…they welcomed us all into their world for an hour that went by much too fast.

I shared most of these events with family and friends. In theaters and concert halls both large and small. In New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts and Washington, DC. Singing, laughing and can’t-help-but-get-out-of-my-seat dancing…ain’t too proud sweet darlin….

I attended a few of the writer’s talks alone and will admit there was no singing and dancing, but laughing…yes.

Unique memories of a time gone by.

As far as I know, all of these once packed venues are closed for the foreseeable future. I hope that someday we all have another chance to collect more bits and pieces like these.

 
This song has been going through my head ever since seeing V.J.’s prompt. So in the spirit of live concerts please enjoy…

 

Sprinkled

Double inspiration this week…

Lens-Artists Challenge #95: All Wet

I hope you’ve enjoyed my departure from the everyday challenges of our COVID-19 world, and that you too have some archived wet images to share.

V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #95: What a Child Knows

This week, let’s tune into the wisdom of children, or look inside to reconnect with our inner child and innate wisdom.

~~~

If you own a home…with a yard…you often end up with a lawn that gets a bit finicky every now and then, especially in the summer.

In other words it gets crunchy in places.

Back in the days of such situations…when rain became elusive, we dragged out the green 25 foot garden hose and attached our sturdy “oscillating” lawn sprinkler. It needed to be positioned just right – in order to direct the much needed drink of water to the thirsty spots on our lawn. This took patience.

You also had to calculate exactly when to dash out of the way to re-position the sprinkler when necessary.

No sense in soaking yourself, the driveway or creating a river into the street.

Just the grass needed to get…All Wet…

With special attention paid to the Brown Spots.

sprinkler

 

Children meet up with a lawn sprinkler…and it’s a whole different story.

Never mind the grass. Or crunchiness. Who cares about brown spots? They sure don’t.

Water shooting high into the air out of a rotating metal bar with holes in it…is not about soaking the grass. Not at all.

It is really just a mechanism designed to get them all wet and cooled off in the hot summer sun.

Including a variety of delightful shenanigans…

Enjoying every sunlit moment.

They know.

backyard001