Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wearing Autumnal Robes

Sonnet 73

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the deathbed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourished by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

 -- William Shakespeare

This Shakespeare sonnet is one of my favorites. It speaks so poignantly of the kind of thoughts one tends to have as an older person. The autumn season, glorious and pensive, accentuates our contemplations of impermanence and aging. Or perhaps I should just speak for myself. It accentuates my contemplations of aging and impermanence, of this later stage of life which moves toward the inevitable end. Of course, right now, I am right perky, but as Jane Kenyon noted at the end of one of her marvelous poems titled Otherwise:
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.

Shakespeare says, "To love that well which thou must leave ere long." What a wonderful line. I loved it so much that I included it in Sex after Sixty, one of the 20 songs in A New Wrinkle, the musical revue on aging that I created with composer Laura Rich. (You can read the lyrics for that song at the end of this post.) 

I have not forgotten about our as yet unproduced musical revue, though I have not written about it in many months. The revue is very close to my heart,  a piece of social change theater with important messages about the power and beauty of aging. I imagine it being well produced and shared widely. I hold that vision steadily in my heart.

Yesterday Laura Rich and I went to see The Tempest at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It was a gorgeous production. Great acting, costumes, set and choreography. Completely delightful. Of course, I loved spending the afternoon with Laura, who is very dear to me. My imminent leavetaking has galvanized meetings with other friends, too. I had lunch with dear Barbara C. the other day, too, and spent time with Lisbeth as well. 

I'm not sure whether I will return to take up life here again, or whether I will decide to live mainly in Mexico. I imagine that is why my friends are wanting to say goodby, not knowing when we will meet again. The flurry of get-togethers with friends reminds me of how fortunate I am in that territory.

Up the street from where I am staying with Franny, another woman whose friendship I am grateful for, there is a lovely house, elegant and warm. The folks there have put a skeleton who sports a big feathered hat on their porch to welcome the Halloween season. Halloween is well-celebrated in Ashland. A wonderful parade of children and adults in childlike moods appears on Main Street, followed by dances and other events. I will be in Guanajuato then, settling into Aunt Lucy's Guesthouse. Today, that seems a little surreal, as I look around at my messy half-packed room. It will be real enough in a week, when I board the plane.

Early this morning,  I read a message on Facebook from a young woman I have never met. She is a friend of a friend. She was sounding quite desperate and suicidal. I had to write to her to encourage her to go on, to relax into the darkness and befriend the one inside who is so sad and scared and angry. I hope she finds the help she needs to climb up out of the abyss she's in. I really do. I am praying for her. She is on my list.

Every day there is something. A friend, a family member, a stranger. Today on the bus a man who sat nearby told another man that his daughter had just been stabbed 5 times by her former fiance. "It's hard," he said. "She's in the hospital in Eugene in intensive care. One stab hit a lung, another her heart." 

Suffering is pervasive. I feel for that father, for the young woman, and for everyone, because we all suffer. And yet, and yet..... In a recent teaching in the Bay area, Khenpo Namdrol uttered one sentence that shocked me open. "There is no suffering." This is the work. This is the work. Having an expansive, open view and also not turning away from suffering. 

There is a story of one Tibetan master who never stopped crying and I can understand why. And yet, and this difficult time on the planet, I aspire to maintain an uplifted way of being in the midst of everything. I aspire to that, but it is not easy sometimes.

This Tibetan calligraphy was done by the previous Karmapa, and it is the word Compassion. It is a beautiful reminder of what a boundless quality compassion really is.

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
        ---Dalai Lama

"If your compassion does not include yourself, 
it is incomplete."
  ---  Jack Kornfield

The Radical Age Movement

If you have been reading the Sage's Play blog for awhile, you know how passionate I am about shifting current attitudes about aging to those that are more positive and uplifted. 

I want to share news about a new website called The Radical Age Movement created by Alice Fisher MSW, who works in the office of New York State Senator Liz Kreuger and Sheila Roher MPH, a veteran of the feminist and LGBT movements. Both women see aging as an issue that requires a social movement approach to catalyze change. 

I have always felt this way too. That is the main reason why I created our musical revue A New Wrinkle, to communicate issues and topics in a format that could reach a lot of people. 

It is great to see the work of Liz and Sheila expand and gain a wider audience. Take a look at what they are doing. It is exciting to see more and more advocates of radical, positive, creative aging appearing....the more that happens, more easily change is gonna come.

Here are the lyrics to Sex after Sixty, a song I wrote in response to hackneyed popular attitudes about sex and intimacy in later life. Sending a warm smile to each of you, wherever you may be.

Some old people are like Sophocles
They think it is a big relief
That as they age, libido leaves.
It’s just as well, some will say.
O lalalalala
“Too old for that. They’ve had their day.
Their sex life’s in the past. It’s gone.”

Correct me if you think I’m wrong
you don’t expect the ancestors
to roll out in the meadow grass
under the trail of shooting stars
voluptuary luminaries.
That’s how much you know
about love’s  glow—shine.

Peace to those who find it muy placido
To be released from their libido
And to those who still smoulder—a little bit slower—
While doing the fandango and tango
with their well-seasoned mango
from here to Durango.

Don’t you think it’s good news
that pleasure’s not reserved for use
the beat goes on
so even when you’re old
you still like your jelly roll? Uh huh.

Ahhh s-e-x….a passionate embrace
a gift that opens out to brilliant space.
Within it all, this is our song
“To love that well
which thou must leave ere long.”


  1. I love this, Gaea. Having worked in the Caregiving field for many years, I met many people into their 90's that still enjoyed sex, needed it, wanted it and some even who said it's what has kept them alive and together for so long. That, and dancing. Beautifully written. Thank you.

    1. Leslie dear, I appreciate your comment here. Yup. Hope I get to see you before I leave, but if not, will be thinking of both of you with love.