Tunes for a Monday Morning
Thoughts about home

Thoughts upon a mid-fifties birthday....

Arthur Rackham

When is one officially "old," I wonder? To me, being "old" seems to come and go, present one day and not the next. There were times as a child when I felt as old as the hills -- and there are times now when I feel like the downiest of fledgling chicks, still flapping my wings, and still just beginning.

Brian FroudOf the two photographs below, the first was taken when I was in Second Grade, in Manville, New Jersey; the second was snapped by my husband in our Devon garden this autumn. The Atlantic ocean, and nearly a half-century of time, stretches between the two. What surprises me is not how much I've changed during those years, but all the ways that I haven't.

"The great secret that all old people share," wrote Doris Lessing, "is that you really don't change in seventy or eighty years. Your body changes, but you don’t change at all. And that, of course, causes great confusion."

An old neighbor of mine, sharp and vigorous well into her nineties, would have disagreed with this, however. She felt that changing as you age is exactly the point. "The thing about growing older, dear," she once told me, "is that you don't ever stop being the age you were, you just add each new age to it. So I never envy the young, because I'm still twenty years old myself, and thirty, and forty, and so on. By the time you're my age, you have so many selves to be, and draw upon, and enjoy, that I can only feel compassion for young people, who still have so very few."

Time

Sometimes I'm actually glad that health traumas caused me to doubt, at times, if I'd live to grow old -- for aging to me is precious and magical, and I'm grateful for it. Thus I love these words from rock-and-roller Pat Benatar's memoir (Between a Heart and a Rock Place):

"I've enjoyed every age I've been," she says, "and each has had its own individual merit. Every laugh line, every scar, is a badge I wear to show I've been present, the inner rings of my personal tree trunk that I display proudly for all to see. Nowadays, I don't want a 'perfect' face and body; I want to wear the life I've lived.” 

Fidelma MasseyTime writes across the body in a language that we must all come to know as we grow and age: the language of experience, loss, revelation, endurance, and mortality. Today, I'm simply thankful for the roads, dark and bright, that brought me to the miraculous present; as well as for the unknown roads, dark and bright, that still lie ahead of me. I'm another year older. I'm travelling a little slower. I carry multitudes inside. But I'm here, well-ringed like the oak trees of Nattadon Hill. And I am only just beginning.

Tilly and the Oak

Fairy Godmother by Brian FroudThe paintings above are by Arthur Rackham and Brian Froud. The sculpture is by Fidelma Massey.

Comments

Happy Birthday, Terri! Honestly, you do not different from your younger self. I know what you are saying about embracing your age. When I was little I would lord my age over kids younger than me, announcing, "I am seven AND a half!" That half bit was so vitally important as it demonstrated how venerable indeed was my age. It seemed so necessary to let everyone, especially those with less age and thus fewer stripes, know just how many years of life experience I had under my belt. So I have refused to give the habit up, and will proudly proclaim at a moments notice, "I am 48 AND a half years old!" ^_^

Happy Birthday, Terri! I am just six weeks behind you, age-wise, but when it comes to serenity and wisdom I have a VERY long way to go! Thank you for your daily posts, hope you have a lovely, lovely day!

(STILL singing Happy Bus, by the way - what an ear-worm! How long does it take to go away? Laaa la la la...)

Wishing you everything you wish for yourself. Warmest birthday wishes Terri

Btw I'm with your neighbour - I'm all the ages I have ever been at different times, depending on circumstance, activity, who I'm with. I frequently feel about 6 and often as old as the hills :)

Your greatest birthday gift, it seems to me, is how graciously the years have added their presence to you Terri. You carry a serenity and grace that can only come with the accumulation of life and living experience.

I turned fifty five in January this year, so I'm only a few short weeks away from the next addition. Every morning I take a step back from the image that greets me in the bathroom mirror. Receding hairline, beard as grey as a badger's arse and a truly frightening similarity to my father that deepens with the passing of every day.

Just what happened to the fresh-faced youth who could drink countless pints of bitter and still be up in time for work the next day without even the suggestion of a headache? Now if I drink more than three pints I'm afflicted with the sort of hangover a Viking would recognise after a weekend celebrating the pillaging of monasteries in Northumbria.

But of course your old neighbour had exactly the right answer; the fresh-faced youth has gone nowhere; he's still with me, peeping out from a forest of wrinkles, jowls and a carefully accumulated beer-belly. Bless him, he seems a little bewildered by all of the changes, but I suppose that's all part of the fun. The only thing that doesn't seem to have any answer is why, in the last couple of years or so, have I started to grow hair on my ears? If Clare doesn't regularly ply her scissors I develop tufts like an angora rabbit. One of life's mysteries I suppose.

Happy birthday again Terri, you're one of those lucky people who improve with the passing of the years.

Make that "you do not LOOK different than your younger self". Sorry for the typo, and again, Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday, Terri. Many thanks to you (and Jane Yolen) for aging so beautifully and powerfully, giving me (close to 40) such good role models to follow - much needed these days when youth and a youthful ideal of beauty are so constantly put before us in the media, women and men alike. Thanks for gracefully, steadily forging another path and sharing it with us on Myth and Moor. I love the art today, the Pat Benetar quote, and your neighbor's advice. Also, the picture of you as a kid is just too adorable.

On the Edge of Seventy-Five

The mirror does not know me,
The picture does not show me,
The shadow not define me,
The dress size not outline me,
The wrinkles do not map me,
The grey hairs do not cap me,
Nor memory lapses stop me.
Both age and knowledge top me.

I will be both young and sage,
A soup pot of both youth and age
To ladle out to those who thirst.
I carry with me what was first.

©2013 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

Happy Birthday, Terri, and thank you so much for this beautiful post.

Wow! Thanks for giving me the words to say what I didn't know how to say. I can relate to every single word of this! I never understood why people want to be young again, it's the worst possible wish since it will never happen and will keep you from living.
And the notion of having all of your previous years rolled into your current person, that's so exactly what I've tried to say for 45 years but never knew how. I love the tree analogy!
Thank you! And happy birthday!

Hi Terri,
Birthdays are mere numbers! It is not how old you are but what you can still make of life. Some 19 years ago I was diagnosed with a condition which was not going to leave me and I vowed then to enjoy every year like it may be the last. Try doing something new when you get the chance. At 61 I went on a zip-wire! This year having just reached my 65th I trekked China. Life is a blessing so enjoy it.

P.S. I really enjoy reading your blog as Dartmoor is my favourite place in the U.K. and who could not love Tilly. Have a super Birthday!

Well Terri what a lovely thought provoking post. I would aggree with your 90 yearoldfriend. I am now 66 and honestly I still do not think of myself as old.The word old is a strange one.If it refers to an antique it implies value but somehow this has not filtered into the way we look at our species in the modern world. I hate to be patronized and do not want to be made a pet of by young people who forget that I am an individual!Cruelty to elders is an awful thing and frightening for people as they age.I love my life even if I get a bit low sometimes and I certainly enjoy learning every day.The gift I have found in getting older is the enhanced apreciation of beauty in all its forms.Taking time to gaze and wonder. Have many more happy birthdays. You are an inpiring woman love Angelax

Happy Birthday Terri. Anther lovely post sharing the wisdom you have gathered along the way and then your pictures show us how beautifully you wear the years. Hope the day is fun.

Happy birthday! You have captured a lot of what I have been thinking about age myself recently; I was born in this week as well, and will carry your words with me into my 48th year as an extra birthday gift! Thanks as always for sharing with us all.

Brilliant Jane! Captures it all perfectly!

I love the two photos of you!

I resonate with what your old neighbor said, and I think about what Lessing said, too, and think its also true. My essence - soul (?) - seems to reveal itself more and more over the years as I strip away the layers that don't belong to me. All those years of experience and learning - those are the rings around the heart-wood of me. I am getting closer to knowing the stillness that lives at my center, maybe.

Happy Birthday, Terry, and thanks for this very positive view of aging.

I recently picked up a copy of Wood Wife when I was visiting the Desert Museum in Tucson, and it enriched my experience of being there. I feel, as you did, that I will have alot to learn from the desert, and from the Native American and Mexican legends that pervade the air.

I also have read your anthology The Armless Maiden, and am grateful for the courage it took to put that book together.

I am glad I have discovered your blog.

The funny thing about you aging, Terri, is that I don;t see it. You look exactly the same as when we met all those years ago, and as you had an old soul then, it has just gotten younger and wiser with time.

But happy birthday anyway. You are certainly in a better place than you were at birth. And have given so much to the world in your time here.

xxxJane

How can such playful inspiration be wrought from "old" hands? Come on,unless "old" comprises the amazing ability to channel artists past fancies into written song. I believe, when one gives so much from their creative garden as you do, the soul spontaneously replenishes itself. Also, I'd like to add, when your inner child sings as much as yours does you can't help but vibrate "Forever Young". As within,so without.
Happy Birthday young lady!
Best wishes from a sixty-fiver still kicking up her heels!

Beautiful post. Happy Birthday, Terri. May it be a prosperous, peaceful, and perfectly wonderful year for you and yours.

My favorite quote about aging comes from Ann Landers:

"At age 20, we worry about what others think of us. At age 40, we don't care what they think of us. At age 60, we discover they haven't been thinking of us at all."

Wish someone had told me that when I was young, it would have saved me a lot of useless angst worrying about what other people think, instead of just getting on with things. As you seem to do, wise lady.

A pat on the head to Miss Tilly.

Blessed Birthday! You know, I got the idea, around the age of 12, that I would never live a day past 27. My childhood was traumatic, and I've always had health problems, so an early demise just made sense to me. You can't imagine my joy and surprise on my 28th birthday! And every year since then, I greet my birthday with such joy and inner celebration, because I'm honestly always a little shocked (and very grateful) to have made it one more year. It's only now occurring to me, but in a foggy way, that I may be "old" someday.

My goodness, Terri, you certainly did look just like yourself very young indeed.

Your neighbor knows whereof she speaks.

I wish you a very happy birthday with many happy returns. May you be young in possibilities and old in experience.

Pamela

Happy Birthday Terri and may you have Many More Happy Returns!
Oh & I love this quote from Keith Richards, "Getting old is a fascinating thing. The older you get the older you want to be."

Wow! I so needed to read this. My Birthday is on the 9th and I'll be 45. For some reason it is the first time turning any age was bothering me and I can't figure out why. But as I sat here reading this beautiful blog, I started to cry. Perhaps I felt a bit lost, but you've brought me home. I feel alright now. Like all the puzzle bits are back that make up me.
Happy Birthday, Terri and thank you for the gift that is you.

My wife & I sincerely wish you a most Happy "Happy Birthday!" & may you & yours, and all those you hold dear be blessed ~ as you've blest this World through the works & wonders you have created along with the magic that you have helped others present to the World ~ keeping all of us young at Heart.
Peace.

Ah, a glorious attitude ringing with truth! Patina is hard won and not nearly appreciated enough; wisdom comes from all those ages we are. Happiest of birthdays!

And wouldn't it be just all right if I could spell my own name... :D

Happy Birthday, Terri. May you experience all the joy you give us, your readers, ten fold and twice over!

20, 40 & 60...that's really funny. I suspect 80 is 10 again in a way, because one has no
pressure to be anything. My Grandmother Holliday confided to me at 87, I feel like I'm 38 until I look in the mirror.

Happy Birthday, too. Your birthday is close to my youngest son's (his older brother is the the head
injured one) . My youngest son was born to entertain. I am sure when he learned to stand up and do
little funny things he liked our laughter. He is dependable, talented, wise and generous. He doesn't
like to be praised. Like somebody else whose birthday around this time.

I never thought much about getting old. When I retired from my job I was delirious with joy. At last I
could pick up where I left off writing, and other pleasures I had no time for. Every day is (forgive me)
a Holliday.

Happy birthday. Thank you for all that you have given in your life which has blessed others. I wish you much joy, health, and happiness.

Happy Birthday. I hope it brings joy, magic and many wanderings through the landscape of myth.

I feel a bit overwhelmed by the kindness of these messages, as well as the wonderful poem from Jane. Thank you all for your generous words, and for being part of Myth & Moor.

Happy birthday and two days! Your post is very beautiful and thought provoking. Thank you!

A belated Happy Birthday! Wishing you many many years of the life of the imagination to come. (Selfishly, I admit.)

I love this post so much and it speaks to me... A belated Happy Birthday Terri!

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