••• The International Writers Magazine: Life as we live it
Observations 2: View from the Lazy Boy
Air Rage: readers who’ve read my “Observations” on the current state of airports and airplanes know that I consider them the equivalent of Hell. So they won’t be surprised that I wasn’t too shocked by the recent spate of news stories about air rage incidents. Considering what the airport and airplane experience has become --- security lines, luggage charges, fights for loading carry-ons, minimal leg room, tiny rest rooms, no more amenities such as pillows and blankets and, oh, yes, food (bad as airplane food has become), air rage incidents were bound to come. I only wonder if they’ve been going on all along and we’re only hearing about them now because everyone has an iPhone or similar device and so they’re being shown on television (and over and over).
Sports: as kind of an antidote to the above, let’s turn to sports. There are many reasons for liking sports and making them a part of your life --- rooting for your home team(s); the energy, desire, grace and even courage of athletes; the excitement of a competitive match; the clear cut (mostly) rules and the definitiveness of winners and losers. But what I think is the fascination of sports is its unpredictability. And then there’s the occasional miracle. The most recent of these that I can think of is the fourth game of the NBA playoffs when the Boston Celtics, having lost the first two games at home, went to Cleveland without their star player, Isiah Thomas (didn’t the Kings one have someone of that name; guess he wasn’t good enough to make the team) and improbably won game three. I’d say that qualifies as a miracle, showing what a determined group of people can do and brightens a usually dismal world (see above again).
Civil Discourse: I don’t know if air rage is a symptom of the current state of civil discourse but I do know that civil discourse is, if anything, in the saddest state that I can remember. A recent Wall Street Journal article that’s headlined “Civil Discourse in Decline: Where Does It End?”, begins: “A Republican congressional candidate body slams a reporter. A Democratic party state chairman hurls obscenities at the president and dissidents in his own party at a public meeting.” The article goes on from there and readers can supply their own examples. (Note: readers with strong political please don’t get upset; as can be seen from the above, both parties offer plenty of examples of the current craziness. I won’t even mention Kathy Griffiths, even though I just did, but only to say that I hope her stunt represents a new low in the decline of civic discourse and maybe things will go up from there.
Aging: readers have probably noticed that in recent years I’ve been writing more about aging, possibly because that’s what I’ve been doing more of. At any rate, I noticed that in an article on the British writer Penelope Lively, who’s 84, she says that “old age birthdays become more like childhood birthdays where there’s a huge difference between being 8 and being 10. Well, there’s quite a difference between being 84 and 85.” Readers may also remember that I wrote a book called “The Views From 85” (available on Amazon for 99 cents; had to get in that plug) and now that I’m a bit closer to being 90 than 85 I’ve noticed the same thing.
I’d like to turn to another writer, the poet Donald Hall, who has a book called “Essays After Eighty.” The first essay in this book is “Out the Window,” in which he writes: “Today it is January, mid-month, mid-day, and mid New Hampshire. I sit in my blue armchair looking out the window. I teeter when I walk, I no longer drive, I look out the window.” This resonated with me because I also teeter when I walk, I still drive but very cautiously, and I find myself more and more often looking out the window. From his window, Hall sees birds and snowbirds, squirrels, green leaves and an ancient barn. From my window I see the houses behind ours but over them also green leaves (in summer) and the (usually) blue sky beyond that. I also see the birds at our bird feeder.
Why are we so drawn to looking out the window? I’m not sure. The green of the leaves and the blue of the sky are restful. Maybe looking at trees and sky reassure us that there is a world that will always be out there despite all of our old-age aches and pains and our eventual demise. In the end, I don’t really know.
What I notice between the ages of 85 and 87-plus is that life has become more problematic. Every day presents a new adventure, often a number of misadventures. First, I have to hope I’ve gotten a decent night’s sleep. Then, when I get up I have to stretch out my stiff limbs. I have arthritis in all of my joints so I’ll be hurting somewhere; it varies day by day. I’m very conscious of avoiding falls at any cost. As mentioned above, I can still drive but cautiously; I know I’m being cautious when the driver behind me blows his or her horn. When I was a young guy and saw an old guy in a cap in the car ahead of me I’d know I have to get around him. Now I’m the old guy in the cap so let that driver go around me.
I also notice that I’ve much less energy than when I was a young 85. I’ve cut down on my activities and I’m usually just as glad when we have nothing on the agenda and can simply stay home. Yes, I’ve even thought that I might stop writing “Observations” (and “Favorite Restaurants.”) Okay, I can hear you out there saying “Good idea,” but no such luck. To quote Donald Hall again: “New poems no longer come to me, with their prodigies of metaphor and assonance. Prose endures. I feel the circles grow smaller, and old age is a ceremony of losses, which is on the whole preferable to dying at forty-seven or fifty-two. When I lament and darken over my diminishments, I accomplish nothing. It’s better to sit by the window all day, pleased to watch birds, barns and flowers. It’s a pleasure to write about what I do.” So I too will continue to look out the window and to write these “Observations” as long as I’m able to.
© Martin Green June 7th 2017
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