Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Visit to My Bookmark Library

I have a large aging bookmark library and I thought it might be fun to share some of those bookmarks with you. I often bookmark articles I find interesting, like this one from Time Magazine on the powers of the aging brain.

That's a subject I find fascinating. There's plenty of reasons why every older person should know more about it, too. Current research sheds light on the positive integrative capacity of the mature mind. Why obsess about senior moments? Instead, engage in the deeper qualities of the mature mind.

I often refer to this link to poetry about aging from The Academy of American Poets. I love poetry and it's interesting to see whose work and what poems are included here. Not all the poems listed have hot links, but if you've the inclination, you can find them online elsewhere. Forgetfulness by Billy Collins and Touch Me by Stanley Kunitz are two that I am very fond of.

I have bookmarks for positive articles about older people, like this one from the Seattle Times about 91-year old  Eileen Allen, who wrote a book titled I Like Being Old: A Guide to Making the Most of Aging. I have not read the book yet. Have any of you?

Since life review is one of the tasks of aging, I have some links that relate to that. This one from Psychology Today is about the healthy qualities of nostalgia. Nostalgia often gets a bad rap. Not in my book. I take pleasure in returning to beautiful experiences I've had in my life. And this article points out why nostalgia can be a tool for wellness.

Here's a link to some of the photographs of Dr. Jeffrey Levine, a geriatrician whose interest in aging has led him to photograph older adults.

This link will connect you to a documentary Over 90 and Loving It.  

All of these links provide positive news, fresh perspectives and pro-aging support. There's a whole lot more in my bookmark library on aging, but that is enough for now, most likely.  Enjoy!

Here at Casa de las Flores, I've been recovering from a badly sprained ankle. Several weeks ago, I fell. It was a surprising fall and something that seemed as if it should not have happened. It occured when I stood up from sitting in a chair in my living room. One of my feet had fallen asleep very soundly and would not hold my weight. Down I went.

I crawled around, used crutches and rested for the first day. Since then, it has been a gradual process of healing, homeopathic treatment, gentle massage and rest. I have been a very healthy person all my life, and the several falls I've had in the past 5 years have occasioned a fair amount of contemplation about vulnerability and limitation. We don't like being vulnerable, but there is a great deal of instruction in it, as far as I am concerned.

I will write more about vulnerability and its uses at some other time. Since that fall, I have gotten into the habit of checking in with my feel before getting out of bed or out of a chair, to make sure we are having a connected conversation. The body is a strange and wonderful thing, isn't it?

I am in the process of developing some workshop and course formats for creative and conscious aging. I will present an introduction to one of these, titled "Playfulness, Pleasure and the Art of Aging" at the Sage-ing Guild conference to be held in North Carolina in October.

I really enjoy working with folks in the workshop and class setting. Right now, though, I have to develop the outline for what we will do together in these gatherings.

In the you never know what will happen next in life department, an old friend from The Gentle Brothers and Sisters, a ministry of healers I have been part of for a very long time, just invited me to be her guest on a Mayan cruise in December. What a surprise! And how moving to  be the recipient of her generosity in this way.

I have wanted to see the Mayan ruins for years! And what a beautiful gift she is giving me. I look forward to spending this very special time at the end of the Mayan calendar with her at the Mayan ruins.

We had a day of rain here yesterday, and it is still cloudy. My nearby neighbor is having a neighborhood potluck this evening. I hope the weather stays clear for that. My fantasy about getting older used to be removing myself from the world to a teepee in the woods and really getting into being a rather unconventional old woman. I am very attracted to living in nature that way. And perhaps I shall have the chance to do that, or to go on a journey in a gypsy wagon. Or perhaps not.

I am not living in a teepee, long hair wild or in dreadlocks. Now I have to laugh at this notion.  How would I cook? What kind of heating would I use? What about bathing and the toilet? I've lived in schoolbuses, yurts and cabins but now I am living in a charming somewhat rustic house on a beautiful block of old houses in a small Oregon town called Phoenix.  I am surrounded by really nice neighbors. I have a gorgeous garden full of roses, daisies, herbs, lilies and many other flowers in the front yard, and a fine collection of greens growing in the back yard gardens. I am content with this style of living for now, and with my engagement in the art of aging. Not self-satisfied, but content. And being content is a good thing. I can't claim to be content all the time. There are hours and days when I am filled with what Isadora Duncan called a "divine unrest." Which has its own delights.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Some Talk about My Walkabout with Aging

Walking and dreaming in the dark,
trusting, feeling my way around

I am inspired thanks to Betsy Lewis' new venture The Walkabout Woman Project (on Facebook) to view my journey of the past 15 years as a walkabout. 

Walkabouts mean different things to different folks. A walkabout could mean a trip through the bush/wilderness, something with the feel of a a rite of passage, undertaken in order to explore new territory both outer and inner. 

Some people look at a walkabout as a walk with no particular goal, something that brightens one's perceptions with its freshness and openness. Even an informal stroll by a public figure or royal family to display themselves to all and sundry is sometimes called a walkabout. 

I have not yet done a walkabout in the wilderness. That remains to be done. This walkabout I've been on has often taken place in the territory of my imagination, then spilled out into the outer world.  I have to say that in my experience the territory of the imagination and the unconscious is quite a potent, mysterious, and unpredictable wilderness, sometimes bestowing richly illuminated insights, sometimes terrifying in its weather and the conditions of its revelations. 

I began doing this walkabout with aging because I wanted to make sense of the events, patterns and meetings of my life. I have been writing about this for years. In the process, I realized I was doing what gerontologists call life review. This life review is a walkabout on its own. I highly recommend it as a tool for deeper self-understanding and integration. An article I wrote about life review and one essay titled The Fruits of Life Ripens are available as pdfs at the Sage's Play website for any of you who wants to read more.

A few years after I began the journey of life review, I started working for Medifecta Healthcare Training, a company that develops and markets training materials for caregivers of elders, both family and professional. I still work part-time for them developing scripts and other written materials. This work exposed me to the field of aging. I became fascinated with the topics and issues, the thought leaders, the perspectives and assumptions that fueled those views. 

I began to do a lot of reading and independent research. I realized that my view of aging as a powerful time of life was a rather minority view. Media and the popular imagination often frame aging as a dispirited time of decline and loss --or at the other extreme, as a time when one must continue hyperactively imitating youth in order to pass for young. 

For years, my walkabout was rather solitary. During those years, I continued to develop my thinking about the importance of aging as a stage of human development and to look at the importance of spirituality and creativity in the later years. Several years ago, I decided to start a venture called Sage's Play as a vehicle for programs that focus on creative and conscious aging. 

Deepak Chopra talks about breaking free of the hypnosis of social conditioning in an essay he wrote in Audacious Aging, one of my favorite anthologies. That book contains 33 essays about aging that will knock your socks off, turn on the AHA! lights and give you inspiration to fulfill Auntie Mame's injunction to "Live, live, live!" Remember Auntie Mame? She was a dramatic example of an adventurous older woman.

For me breaking free of the hypnosis of social conditioning is an ongoing commitment. 

Playfulness, wordless, spontaneous
swimming in the waters of the

As an artist and as an older woman,  I value freedom.
And playfulness. To me, playfulness is something
many of us could have a lot more of. Don't you agree?

I am in the process of developing a workshop format
that will give free rein to playfulness. I am excited about that because I like to play, and I really enjoy playing with others, too. I am calling it "Playfulness, Pleasure and the Art of Aging."

My walkabout led me to sign up for a big vision. I decided I wanted to write a musical revue to catalyze a new paradigm on aging. That was over 3 years ago. I began to write songs, or should I say they poured out of me as if they had been standing around waiting for the chance to be expressed.

I decided to name the revue A New Wrinkle. One day I thought to myself, "I need a composer!" Following an intuitive hunch, I called artist Gaelyn Larrick (whom I did not know well at all) and asked her who she could recommend to write the music for the 12 songs in the revue. At first Gaelyn hesitated, but then she said, "Well the only person I know who could do that is Laura Rich."

And so the magic of my collaboration with Laura began-- because there is plenty of magic in the universe, if we open up to it. Laura has created a wonderful score for A New Wrinkle. Not only that, but she is a delightful person and friend.  All the song lyrics and mp3s of 4 of the songs are available at our website.

Okay, so I have no idea what the universe has in store for A New Wrinkle and its own walkabout out in the world, but I do know what great learning curves, new friendships and collaborations, dark nights of the soul, and exhilarating creative experiences I've had on the journey to birth A New Wrinkle. 

Right now, we are launching a fundraising campaign to raise $15,000 to produce a staged run and film of A New Wrinkle. I just finished creating a 6 minute video to use as an introduction for the campaign, which will be launched on IndieGoGo in a few weeks. 

Some days, I get motivation when I read the messages on this lovely poster below, which is the manifesto from coach Laurie Foley's Courage Studio. It takes courage to create and share art.

Left brain details, structure, organization, planning
leading to creative expression and growth

I never dreamed where my walkabout in the fields and forests of my own aging and my commitment to shift our society's views of aging would take me or the challenges it would present.

And this is a walkabout that is not completed yet. Its mysterious surprises continue to unfold.

Here's a beautiful way of looking at the walk, from the Navajo Blessing Way Prayer.

"In old age
wandering on a trail of beauty
may I walk."

May it be so. To all Walkabout Women and men too, love and support on your journey.

P.S. My essay "Aging as a Profoundly Creative Act" is featured at The Wayfinder Post!