Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Year End Round Up

I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what I've covered this year in the Sage's Play blog. Here's a summary, starting in January 2010. Blog posts marked the passing of human potential figure George Leonard, feminist theologian Mary Daly and gerontologist Dr. Robert Butler.

Some of the film and video mentions included:
Elizabeth Gilbert's TED.com talk on creativity
Dan Buettner's TED.com talk on longevity and cultures that support it
A new documentary on the life of local activist/artist Dot Fisher-Smith
The German film Cloud 9 for its fresh take on late life romance
A trailer from the film on women and creativity "Who Does She Think She Is?"

Book reviews included:
The Making of an Elder Culture by Theodore Roszak
The Longevity Prescription by Dr. Robert Butler
Audacious Aging, an anthology edited by Stephanie Marohn
The Measure of My Days, Florida Scott-Maxwell
Somewhere Towards the End, Diana Athill

I think there were more book mentions and recommendations, but that's good enough for now. I spotlighted well-aged singers and often included film clips of their singing. BB King, Leonard Cohen, Etta James,Yoko Ono, Chavela Vargas and Judy Collins were included. I talked about a grandmother who has become a very popular international DJ-- Ruth Flowers, aka MamyRock and shared news about the work of 91-year old artist Vollis Simpson and dancer Twyla Tharp. Other posts featured 91-year old yoga teacher Tao Porchon Lynch and yogini Iris Lambert, who's a bit younger. I shared news about the theater troupe Crackpot Crones and talked about Peg Rubin's Center for Sacred Theater.

I suggested that we develop an Elder Hall of Fame and noted some of the folks I would nominate for it. The Elder Hall of Fame is still one of my favorite notions. In between all that, I talked about creativity and health, my own creative process and projects, mortality, Buddhism, poetry, friends, relaxing in hot springs, housing, travel and of course the weather.

I am not surprised by how many vibrant, creative, innovative older people I discovered during the year, whose work and lives I shared in this blog. But there are many people who might be surprised. They still subscribe to the Decline Model, and regard aging as a terrible time of life, something to be avoided at all costs. I hope the consciousness-raising music of the Church of the Radically Alive Elders reaches their ears soon.

Here's a quote from Malidome Patrice Some's Of Water and The Spirit, a book I really love. The book itself is about the power of initiation. This quote speaks about the place of elders in society. "Elders and mentors have an irreplaceable function in the life of any community. Without them the young are lost--their overflowing energies wasted in useless pursuits. The old must live in the young like a grounding force..."

This is what we must remember and live into. Otherwise, we will continue to buy into the values of a society where perpetual adolescence is the goal. As I've said before, I was young already. Now I'm in the new growth stage of oldness. It's a good, gentle, powerful, creative, compassionate, wild place to be. Let's "act as if" elders are already valued and respected. Eventually, it will catch on.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and looking forward to more friendship and collaboration in the fields and gardens of positive aging in the coming year.

P.S. I plan to take a bit of a blog break--that's good for the soul from time to time. Happy trails to you until we meet again.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Landscapes of the Inner Life

Music pours out, as if I was born to it, or it was born of me through dimensions, layers, lifetimes. I am searching through dreams, thoughts and memories for the words and soundlines to bring this story through. Long ago, before any maps were made, there were people who found their way across vast oceans, sensing and imagining their way over distances where none of their known ancestors had ever gone before. Of course, the ancient people used their ordinary senses, looking out across the endless water, feeling its currents, the movement of winds and the play of weather, day after day, month after month. Physically traversing those distances, with all the rigors of the body and the elements, they also believed themselves into the space, bringing the other shore to them magnetically. Way-Finding they called it.

We each have our own Way Finding. My own predilections always draw me back to the white marble room, an immense lustrous chamber with high vaulted ceilings and tall arched windows. It is a dear, familiar place, a refuge from the rush of the modern world. I have spent many days and nights there, reading, feeling the sun on my face, looking out at the stars and moon.

Sometimes I wish that I were still living in a time when we could bury ourselves in solitude, when the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge and the work of the soul’s metamorphosis had at least as much collective import as did outer successes. I yearn for that amidst the depredations of the current era. Inwardly, I yearn for leisure, spaciousness, and grace. Outwardly, I yearn for great forests, glens, prairies and all the undiminished richness and variety of Nature to sing out in ecstatic splendor, drowning the sounds of machines, drowning not only their sounds, but their imprint on our lives, our enslavement to them.

In this marble wonderful room there is a globe that stands on a long wooden table. Aside from the table and two chairs, the room is very empty. But it has a sense of space, light, and depth that never fails to refresh and renew me. Texts with gem-like illustrations, their pages edged with gold, fill one wall of the room. The instruments and substances of alchemy are also set out on the wooden table. In that room, I am the woman whose forehead shines with light. I am my own beacon.

My house has many other rooms. From the beautiful white marble room, a heavy wooden door opens out to a narrow hallway. I must take the lantern with me. The hallway winds and turns, its stairs descending deep into the earth. The air here is old and dry. I remember the first time I went down these stairs with this same lantern, arriving at a doorway covered with heavy, deep red brocade cloth. I gently pulled the cloth aside and looked into the room that appeared before me. It was not more than ten feet by twelve feet large, illuminated by votive candles set on a ledge that ran along its walls. Its ceiling was low, its dark walls were hewn from black rock. Three icons hung on the walls-- one of Jesus, one of the Black Madonna, and one of St. Michael. In the candlelight, their golden halos blazed out from the dark backgrounds of the paintings.

I saw all this instantaneously, the way the mind's eye takes things in. At the same time, I saw an ornate, jewel-encrusted coffin in which lay an old King, strong and undecayed. His deep red robe was embroidered with flowers sewn of golden threads. His beautiful golden crown was set with rubies and emeralds. It took me many months to bring back the memory of the Queen who lay beside him like a still flower. She had a perfume, not of death, but of the ineffable.

The sheer wonder of the place drew me in. I was thirsty for the things that showed themselves to me there, though I cannot now put words together to explain what they were, nor would I wish to. I hope you do not want me to explain the subterranean chamber or the marble room. Every definition I fix on them confines their numinous resonance. I do not wish to flatten or inflate them. Let them be just as they are. Let them remain or fade away as they will.

Of course I have a Tower. To my mind, no house is well done without a Tower reaching out to meet the sky. This is a story of my house and my journey. Of course that makes me fall over laughing. Why? Because as Lorca once said in a poem, “My house is not my house, and I am no longer I.” It is not real or solid, none of it. It has no substance. I have no substance. The whole thing is dreamlike, as much a dream as the splendid and transformative marble room to which I return again and again.

As I approach my seventh decade, I return to these landscapes of my inner life and those that comprise my outer story and I reflect on their patterns, meaning and luminous, empty nature. Even when I am washing the dishes in my kitchen part of me lives in these mythically resonant rooms of dream and imagination, in the woods and fields, the white marble room, the Tower. Even when I am deeply immersed in my inner life experience, everyday activities draw me to them, reminding me that they too also have an unpredictable, mysterious depth. In the midst of family and friends, with the appearance of both invited and unexpected guests, the mythic drama of the present moment spills forth. Decade after decade, treasure accumulates.