finding my way, friends, growing old, home, life goes on, memories, natural wonders, photography, simple things, travel

New England girl…

I hadn’t even gotten the title written onto the page when Charley commented in my ear that I was a girl when Hollywood was a prairie.  That may be true, but what the heck.  My trips ‘up north’ usually result in running back and forth, trying to visit everyone, and not spending enough time with anyone.  Especially my life-long friend Kathy in New Hampshire.  But we had a BIG high school reunion a while back, the one where when your parents had it you realized how old they were getting.  And now it was our turn, and I went to New Hampshire and stayed put, and even then it wasn’t enough time together, we hadn’t run out of things to talk about.  Or places to photograph.  I was seeking stone walls, but found much more than that.  Old chimneys that once had families huddled in front of it, or a pot of stew simmering in it.  “Flower beds’ that would make you smile.  Old red barns, and rocky rivers, not unlike the rocky New England beaches, like Duxbury, that had Charley shaking his head.  Covered bridges, and hints of fall colors to come, but not while I was visiting.  Lake Sunapee, on a perfect day.  And the inevitable stone walls, some of them just outside Kathy’s door.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And no, Ozzie wasn’t with me in New Hampshire.  I was playing with the Superimpose app and, like magic, there he was…

connections, grief, growing old, life, life goes on, live and learn, loneliness, marriage, memories, old dogs new tricks, on closer examination, photography, the big picture

It’s just a number…

Nothing fits anymore. Not my clothes, although I’m not really complaining about that. I’ve taken tons of clothes to donate, and now I need to find out where I can donate all this extra skin. But that’s really not what I’m talking about either. ‘I’ don’t fit. All my life I seemed to know where I stood in relationship to the rest of the people around me. But now that I’m really, seriously, old, I can’t see it. Older yes, wiser no. Is it because Charley is gone? When I was going through life with him and I saw him getting older, is that what made me recognize my own age? Because he isn’t here anymore to provide that link, and I seem to be stumbling around a bit.

It started with a chance encounter with a man when I was photographing the sunset one night. He said that I ought to be dating, that there are a lot of lonely men out there. I responded, “I’m not”, lonely I meant. I told him that I have nice conversations with people every day, and then I go home, and that I like my privacy. And I meant that 100%. What I didn’t expect was that after few more conversations with him over the next several days that wasn’t altogether true anymore. He left to go back home and took my 100% conviction that I was 100% happy with him, and I haven’t been able to resurrect it. So now my chance encounters with people have a different sort of edge to them. The last time I was a single adult I was 20 years old, and I see now that I wasn’t as much of an adult as I thought I was at the time. In a lot of ways I have reverted back to that person, in my own mind anyhow. Maybe this explains something that Charley said about working at Publix at age 63, after having worked at the A&P right after high school and all through college. He said that he felt like he was 18 again, which might have been a good thing, but the problem was that he acted it too. He kept getting sent to the office, in trouble for a remark made to another employee, never to a customer. Not reported by the person he was talking to, but reported by a busy-body employee who overheard him. I told Charley that he wasn’t hired for the comic effect, but he couldn’t seem to resist making a wise-aleck remark when the opportunity presented itself. But you know what? I think I get it now, I get that he would momentarily actually be that 18 year old again.

So you happen to have a nice conversation with the guy who sits next to you in a photography class. Nice class, nice company, feels good. In the moment you are just yourself, a generic ‘self’, just enjoying the conversation. Later on you figure out that he is 13 years younger than you are, and get taken aback. Why couldn’t I ‘see’ that when I looked at him? That he was closer to my kids’s ages than he is to mine I mean. ‘Act your age’, they say. How exactly do I do that? Will I wake up one day and not be able to resist sticking a tissue up my sleeve? Or maybe I’ll buy support hose and start rolling them into little donuts around my ankles. Probably not the best look with capri pants and flip flops. I don’t recognize myself anymore. I’ve lost my place. Age is just a number, or so I’ve been told. Step on the scale why don’t you, then tell me that ‘just a number’ doesn’t matter. I’m going to have to try not to embarrass myself while I figure this all out…

PS… I wrote this a while ago as an ’emergency’ post in case I’m stuck.  And since I was hanging onto the post it gave me a chance to retake the photo if I saw a lower number on the scale.  This is at least the 4th incarnation of the photo.  So there I was at the pool the other day and an 80-something year old guy told me, “Just making it back and forth across the pool is a good thing for people our age.”  Evidently I’m the only one having trouble realizing how old I am…

Chinsegut Conservation Center, coping, growing old, healing, losing battles, memories, natural wonders, nature, photography, solitude

A new you, I mean me…

Nature photography is new to me. For years I thought that cameras were for taking pictures of the grandchildren only, so in a sense I’ve reinvented myself as far as photography goes. Taking photos of sunsets and butterflies are one thing, always beautiful, but a trip to Chinsegut Conservation Center provides more than just the obvious photo ops. A locust chrysalis, which I would never have spotted if it hadn’t been pointed out to me, isn’t pretty, but in reviewing my photos from my trip there it’s the chrysalis that’s on my mind.

Seeing it made me think how nice it might be to just shed your outer, worn out, and thoroughly abused self, and re-emerge as a newer, fresher, you. Or me.  But knowing what you know now so you don’t make the same mistakes over again. Reinventing yourself so as to face a world that reinvented itself while we were busy and not paying attention. A world that dotes on youth isn’t such a friendly place these days. I know I’m not the only one who feels like I’m the same person I always was, but better really because getting older really does make you wiser. Easier on yourself. But you don’t look better, just older, and stepping out into the world, this crazy youth-worshipping world, when you left your own youth behind years ago, leaves you where, exactly?

I’ve spent the last three years at home, telling myself that I was happy, but in reality I was using the house as a chrysalis, hiding, safe, because I didn’t know what else to do. And telling myself that I was happy, and loving the privacy. No witnesses, except the dogs and they don’t judge. And now I think wait a minute, is this all I want or need for the rest of my life? And I imagine various Hallmark movie scenarios of what life could be. Then I walk past a mirror and think, who are you kidding?

Mother Nature gets it, at least as far as locusts go. When they have become worn and tired, and have been buffeted around by life a while, they can just shuck their old shell and reemerge as a new and improved version. I’m thinking that I wish people could do the same thing…

1017chinsegutexoskeletons

coping, courage, grief, growing old, healing, life, life goes on, live and learn, photography

Baby steps…

I thought I had it all figured out. The rest of my life, it was set. I told my granddaughter that we were both going through the same stage of life. She, starting her second year of teaching Kindergarten in Bucharest, and learning a lot about herself at the same time, and me, figuring myself out now that I’m ‘on my own’ for the first time in my, ahem, many, many years. I think I had built a wall around myself, and felt safe. I was happy on my own, I told myself. Privacy is fantastic, not that I’ve changed my mind about that, but recent events have me questioning myself, and all my carefully thought out expectations for the future have come into question. A chink in my armor so to speak. Life was a jig- saw puzzle, pieces neatly in place, and it took a hurricane to toss the pieces into the air leaving me to figure it out all over again.

I once asked Charley if he was waiting to die. Not my finest moment since that’s exactly what he was doing, unbeknownst to either of us at the time. It was said because his big plan for the day was to take a nap. I had expected that we would go exploring the state parks, or to the beach, anything that got us out of the house and enjoying the freedom of retirement once we lived here full time. I thought we’d compete with each other to make light, healthy meals every day. Summer-y meals. I guess I neglected to run any of this past him however, because it was meat and potatoes, and naps every day. In truth, and in fairness to him, he probably didn’t feel well for a long time before symptoms became evident.

And since he’s been gone I hadn’t changed my ways, until I started taking pictures. That is the single thing that has gotten me out of the recliner and out into the ‘world’. My little part-time job at the bakery provided enough social interaction that I was happy to be home every night. Me and the dogs. But I recently asked myself if I was waiting to die, and I didn’t like the answer. So I’ve gone back to the Y to swim laps, and started eating (and feeling) better. It feels good to get moving again, I’m probably lucky it wasn’t too late. Well, it really is pretty darned late, for some things, but maybe not for everything.

Now what? What might life have in store? Really I have no clue, but baby steps are in order I guess…

1012babysteps

childhood, coping, faith, growing old, home, live and learn, lizards, memories, moments, nature, photography

Lovely woods…

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep.
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

From Robert Frost’s Stopping by woods on a Snowy Evening

This favorite poem came to mind as soon as I saw the above image in my camera. But the thoughts that followed involve the only other Frost poem that I know (and love)…

From the Road not Taken…

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

It is way too easy to dwell on the notion that if only you’d chosen that other path then everything would have been perfect. The assumption that if one choice hasn’t been perfect, then the other choice would have been perfect.  It took me longer than it should have to figure out that I was still looking for happily ever after even at this late date.  And when you look at the lead up to the words we all remember, that he would be telling this in ages and ages hence, perhaps it has always been tempting to look back on your life to look for places where a different choice might have made a difference.  I wonder what life might have been like had I not left home at such a young age. I’ve never felt connected to any of the places I’ve lived, and never fail to have that feeling of being home when I’m back in Massachusetts.  But there isn’t any point in wondering such things.  That ship has sailed.

I need to think of a saying that is framed on the wall at my daughter’s house…

Heather's sign

Or something I saw on her Facebook page…

alright

When did my daughter get so wise?

coping, growing old, life, life goes on, live and learn, on closer examination, photography

Fitting in…

I’ve been thinking about the term ‘fitting in’ lately, because I’ve been going to the Y again, swimming laps. That’s my favorite form of exercise because it’s so easy on the joints after being on your feet at work, and leads to the most pleasant tension in my arms and shoulders later.  Walking into the Y I couldn’t help but notice that I totally look like of 95% of the people I see there.  Past their prime, gray hair, laugh lines, or possibly worry lines, but lines on their faces deposited by the years.  I like to think mine have been earned.  I may look like I belong, but I feel like an outsider.

The ladies in the pool drive me nuts. There always is one queen bee, with her minions bobbing around her, all wearing their sequined visors and all being ever-so-careful not to get their hair wet. The queen is holding forth on one of two subjects usually, her health problems, or how rotten her kids are. After my laps, and because I jump right in to swim if I see a lap lane open with no warming up, I grab a noodle and try to do some stretching as I also bob in the ‘well’. It’s impossible not to listen, and it drives me nuts. Sometimes there is another non-listening lady or two and we’ll catch each other’s eye and I know she is thinking the same thoughts as I am.

And the men are no better. I don’t think I have ever been there that there isn’t an older man in one of the three lap lanes that are directly in front of the lifeguard chair. Not swimming. Nope, they are chatting up the 17 or 18 year old lifeguard, who is a captive audience for their chatter. I’m convinced that they think that this adorable young girl is totally fascinated with what they have to say. Personally I have my doubts. The last time I was there the ‘older’ man was 47 to the lifeguard’s 18, so 19 years older than the lifeguard, but a bit younger than the men I’ve seen usually are. He was thoroughly enjoying himself until a gorgeous hunk of manhood in the form of one of the young members of the swim team showed up and began chatting with her. Pool guy never said another word. I wonder if he felt silly… probably not.

So I may look the part but I don’t feel like I fit in.  I don’t know where my niche is these days.  And belonging, that’s another issue altogether.  Where do I belong? Such a loaded word.  I’ll just keep swimming so at least I’ll be in better shape if I ever figure any of this out…

Oh, and the goggles.  I lost mine, and the only ones I could find were at Walgreen’s, in the clearance bin, and for ages 3 and up, way up, which would be me, and cost 40 cents!  They turned out to be great so I’m going back for the other pair tomorrow.