‘Tis one day after my birthday and though I can’t say that I actually feel more aged, the calendar doesn’t lie about linear time. Fortunately, linear time (chronos) isn’t the only kind of time; there’s another sort (kairos) that swoops, swirls and flows over and under linear time in sort of a paisley pattern. It is where our memories, dreams and possibilities take us. It is how time seems to fly when we are busy and having a good time, but drags in times of waiting or boredom. It is how we can meet a friend we haven’t seen for 50 years and pick up a conversation as though it were yesterday. If you question this, check out the recent 60-Minutes documentary on the Hubble Space probe. The probe is going back in time and finding “ago” still there. This must be why I find it so easy to remember my junior prom but forget where I put my glasses.
It was a bit daunting to realize, at our family picnic a couple of weeks ago, that we are now the elders of the tribe --- at least at that event. One niece commented that I sort of straddle two generations since I am so much younger than my siblings --- but ---the awareness of generations passing was very vivid. Those swirls of time that I mentioned above explain why being an elder comes as such a shock; inside I feel that I am who I am and I don’t necessarily fit a category of age or much else, and that’s true of people around me too. It was interesting to see how others are dealing with the issues that come with finding one’s self in one’s fifties, sixties or seventies. For some, there is observable depression involved (which I will address in another essay) but for others, there is a sense of, “Yes, my knees hurt and I may need surgery, but isn’t life an adventure?”! One’s personal perspective and attitude is the key to feeling good about life.
We felt great about life when, a couple of weeks ago, we were catching up with former colleagues who worked with 4-H, and are now “retired”. As we’ve always known, people who retire from Cooperative Extension simply go on doing all sorts of things that are helpful to the world in general; they just don’t get paid for it anymore. And of course, they also participate in activities that keep them growing and interested; bird-study, gardening, traveling, mentoring, writing, etc. I am always inspired by the experiences that people share at this event. A few are older than I and still zipping along and that definitely gives me hope and confidence for the future. One can look at the outside person and see difficulty in moving, shaky hands, slower words, perhaps a cane ---- but the smile and bright interest tell us that the inside person continues to be vibrant and interested, and houses a spirit as young as always. Retired Extension people subscribe to this thought: “Still round the corner there may wait, a new road or a secret gate.” JRR Tolkien*
Spencer Picnic began yesterday. This is a combination carnival and Old Home Days; a four-day event, with a parade, music in the park, food, talent contest, rides and the usual “Miss and Mister Spencer Picnic” competition. Fortunately, the rain stopped and the sun shone that first day. Kerm spent last night helping in the food booth ---- not at the grill, thankfully. Anyone who works the grill comes home saturated, even dripping, in grease; clothes, beard, eyebrows! I really do very little with this event, for while I am supportive, I must admit that my actual time there is brief. Crowds are no longer my thing--- if they ever were. But I do manage to put together a gift basket to support our local foundation, Inspire. A very energetic person then wraps all the donated baskets in festive cellophane and ribbon, and they are raffled off to earn monies for scholarships, services for the older population and programs for kids. It is fun to gather stuff for my “Home and Garden” basket; I can shop with a clear conscience since it is for a good cause, and I’m not personally accumulating more stuff.
Photo from Spencer Picnic Facebook page
Most small communities plan occasions to encourage identity and connection; Spencer Picnic, Owego’s Strawberry Festival, the Candor Fireman’s Carnival, etc. While these events take a huge amount of work, the results usually bring forth a camaraderie that lasts at least until the next election. I find the upside of living in a small town outweighs the downside immensely. We’ve seen again and again how caring people can be. Most recently, Kerm’s truck died at the end of the driveway, and partly into the ditch. He was on his way to a meeting so he simply came back up the driveway and took the car. A friend called to tell me the truck was slightly in the way of her lane of traffic and we might want to do something before dark. A neighbor called later to offer his truck, knowing that there would be Food Pantry deliveries to be done later in the week. I think we all try as we can, without being too intrusive, to keep track of each other, be there in times of need and hold each other in prayers. Of course there will be occasional gossip, judgmental comments and sometimes even bitter divisions about community issues. But in a crisis, these things are put aside and the good in people shines. Those who live without this neighborly element in their lives are missing something wonderful.
As summer dwindles, we try to pack in all the things we envisioned doing when summer began, like exploring more of our beautiful Finger Lakes region. Last summer, along with friends, we did a two-day trip to Skaneateles. This year, these same friends have spoken of doing a trip to Mumford to see Genesee Village and maybe take an Erie Canal boat ride. But we’d like to also do some exploring on our own ---- finding some of the hidden and delightful waterfalls we haven’t seen or the cottage shops that abound. And of course, there are all of the more mundane late summer jobs that need doing; pruning the shrubbery (our holly will soon be taking over the sidewalk), continuing to harvest the prolific cucumbers, canning tomatoes and juice and digging up the foundation plants around our porch. We will be making some changes in the porch that will, we hope, give us as well as our friends, easier access to our front door. As arms and legs refuse to remain flexible and strong, we need a little more help from our porch steps and railings. Time may be our friend or our foe, but we can’t escape the need to work with it.
Speaking of aging and time, we were recently sent a humorous and delightful song about being on the “green side of the grass”. It was a song full of chuckles and also one to inspire a little thought and gratitude. Many thanks to Gretta who sent it our way! No good comes from bewailing the diminishing of our bodies. Perhaps being less physical will give us more time to work on our spirits which, over the busy years, we’ve undoubtedly, neglected. “It is the best sign of a great nature, that it opens a foreground, and, like the breath of morning landscapes, invites us onward.” Emerson**
*JRR Tolkien –British philologist, poet & author, university professor, known for Lord of the Rings trilogy. 1892-1973
**Ralph Waldo Emerson – American philosopher, essayist and poet. 1803-1882
Carol may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.