Sunday, 23 May 2010

Getting Older

Salvador Dali 1940
Three Ages

Having posted on the physical effects of getting older in the previous post, I now have a more positive tale to tell.

At the last poetry group meeting the subject just happened to be ‘old age’, a subject which has exercised poets through the ages; some have bewailed old age, others found it  frightening, yet there are those for whom old age has many positive sides.

At these meetings we not only read poems that deal with the subject, which is set in advance, we also discuss the poems and the  poets who wrote them and to finish off there is usually a general discussion of our own perception of the subject matter, both anecdotal and as a result of research. The members of the poetry group are mostly of retirement age; several are well into their seventies. Old age is a matter of personal experience for most, not something which will happen in the distant future; it has either happened already or is not that far off.

I was delighted to hear one elderly lady say :” You know, I am glad of my age. I  feel I have gained a perspective on history simply by living through it. I am enjoying these years of reflection very much.”

I know that this lady is a widow, whose children live some distance away and have busy lives of their own; this happens to be the case for so many older women. She suffers from ME and has to have several periods of rest during the day, which she uses to study and read. I know that she is about to enrol in a correspondence course on science having recently finished a course on prehistoric man.

As so many of you, who commented on the previous post, said : "One door closes and another door opens".

One of the poems I read at the meeting was by Elaine Feinstein, one of my favourite poets.:

Getting Older

The first surprise, I like it.
Whatever happens now, some things
that used to terrify have not:

I didn't die young, for instance. Or lose
my only love. My three children
never had to run away from anyone.

Don't tell me this gratitude is complacent.
We all approach the edge of the same blackness
which for me is silent.

Knowing as much sharpens
my delight in January freesia,
hot coffee, winter sunlight. So we say

as we lie close on some gentle occasion:
every day won from such
darkness is a celebration.

So, Goodbye Tension, Hallo Pension!


  1. I didn't know this poem by Elaine Feinstein. Thanks for posting it.

    It sounds as though your 'elderly lady' subscribes to the idea that retirement is a journey, not a destination.

  2. Thanks for printing this restoring poem. It really resonates with me as does much of what you have written in this post. I am not fighting a battle against aging but currently looking at it and studying it and being glad that I am still here.

  3. Friko - you've done it again. I love this post, brilliant poem perhaps I could say - Goodbye tension and goodby pension! Trying to make ends meet when somebody keeps moving the ends :>)

  4. I really like the Dali painting of the three ages. Why has it taken me this long to really enjoy his work? Maybe it's part of the sharpening of delight expressed in the poem.

  5. I hope I get get to be serene as the years march on, right now, not really feeling it. Enjoyed your thoughts and the poem though.

  6. I am a new reader and I found the poem you posted resonated strongly for me. Love the 'January freesia and hot coffee...' Having just celebrated my 63rd birthday last month, I'm definitely learning about the aging process. Good health seems to be key, and so far, I'm not complaining.

    I noticed your dog looks much like my Jack. He's a flatcoat retriever (well mostly - we found him at the shelter when he was 4 months old)! Also, my blog is named 'miscellany' and I noted you have a label by that name.

  7. Thank you for that poem. And also the Dali. (When we meet, and I know we will, I will tell you a little Dali story.)

    Each of us is born with so many possibilities, and then set out on our trek through decades of experiences, surprises, thinking that we just might know where it is that we are, and where we might be headed.

    Some of this is foolishness, some of it is comforting. All of us have some sorts of adventures available to us every day. Not all of these adventures are welcome. But what a tale begins to accumulate.

    Best wishes, dear Friko. xo

  8. Having just had a conversation today with MFB about appreciating what we have each day, seeing as how the years are passing at lightning speed. The sobering thought occurred to me, that if longevity rates in the Western World are anything to go by, I might only have 15 years left with him. Stupid and useless to think this way, of course, but it passed through my mind anyway.
    I like the poem quite a lot. 'A day won from darkness' is a powerful image.

  9. I read about the loss of music and didn't know what to say that wouldn't sound too Pollyanna-ish. My delight in Life having been so recently sharpened . . . and the fact that I never had any accomplished talent at a younger age . . . and therefore nothing to lose to age and decrepitude . . . all make it easier for me to empathize with this post.

  10. Thank you for the introduction to this poet. One of the things I like most about your blog is that you share your love of poetry - it's so cool that you've started a new blog just for that purpose. Growing old and facing death is one of the great themes. Samuel Beckett is one of my heroes and this is the primary theme of his work.

  11. I like the poem, and your post is nice too. I thought once that it would be nice to be 30 again, but then I think that I would have to go to work every day and would not have time for my blog… The other thing is that I have done so much traveling which would not be easy anymore, like to Algeria by myself (3 times) and other places. I feel that because of my years I have experienced many things. Also being married to an environmentalist, he is always explaining how the future world won’t be the same – less clean waters, more people in an already crowded planet which will create more problems for everyone. So, I am pleased that I am retired and have seen so much, read so many books, and now have more time to read even more books. I was in a plane that almost exploded once (there was a fire in the cargo) and since then I have taken every moment as a gift, and am happy for every extra year I get.

  12. A fine poem -- and yes, I think every day is a gift -- full of small things to revel in.

    At 67, my knees are shot but that just forces me to slow down and enjoy the scenery.

  13. Ihr habt also eine "Deads poets society" gegründet: Carpe diem! Ich wusste überhaupt nicht, dass solche Abende heute noch möglich seien! Wunderbar eigentlich!
    ... entschuldige die kleine Verspätung meiner mail, Friko, sie ist aber jetzt - in einer schrecklichen Aufmachung (hatte sie vorbereitet, damit ich das Geschriebene nicht, wie so oft, während des Schreibens wieder verliere und aus dem Cut und Copy ist dann sowas rausgekommmen...)- angekommen! Schöne Grüsse Dir und doch alles Gute Deinem "Beloved"!

  14. A nice post and a really good poem which I can understand and sympathise with. The nice thing about getting old is that you see the same things come round again – but this time you know which ones to avoid!

  15. Oh yes, good poem and post. As one of your older readers (78), I am now familiar with old age. But only just. Jerry, who is my age agrees with me. We didn't really begin to feel old until this year. Now we tire more easily, plan for the future less. But we still enjoy life and living in all its small manifestations. And we love.

  16. I watched my elderly neighbour go from 75 to 90 and was impressed by her acceptance of increasing frailty combined with her delight in new things and endless curiosity .
    A recipe to follow , perhaps ?

  17. Thank you, Friko, for this wonderful Feinstein poem. You've certainly lifted my spirits today!

  18. Martin H - wouldn't it be brilliant if we could all see it at least as continuing the journey instead of all this moaning oldies do. Me included, I am good at moaning.

    Tabor - looking at it and studying it? well, I suppose, studying is studying, whatever the subject. It's staring me in the face and I am not quite sure yet, how to react.

    mollygolver - that's what ends and goalposts are for, to get shifted. Otherwise, how do we move ourselves? When we reach the ends, we'll arrive at our own end. Anyway, that's my theory. Can't think of anything better.

    Paul C - Actually, that is probably true; getting older gives you the time to look for longer and therefore see more? Maybe.

    Argent - your are probably just too young. Don't worry, that'll pass.

    Amy B - thank you for visiting and commenting. I shall visit your blog asap. Benno is a shelter dog too.

  19. Frances - How do you know that we'll meet? Are you clairvoyant as well as wise? Your comment is, as always, the comment of a lady who has lived her life well and has come to a very satisfactory arrangement with herself. One day I will know your story.

    Deborah - I know, numbers can be quite frightening. But numbers don't count (ha, a pun!), it's the quality that does. 15 years of misery can be a very long time, yet 15 good years are over in a flash. I know what I'd rather have. How long are you planning to stay in Canada?

    JUne - thank you for explaining and showing compassion. As for the rest, I simply don't believe it. And I don't mean to trot out the platitude of 'we all have some special talent or other' blah, blah; your blog is written by somebody with a clear eye, a love of words, an aptitude for communicating. Is that you by any chance?

  20. Mark - Poetry is important to me; my poetry blog is sheer self-indulgence, I am not trying to please anyone at all, just myself. Samuel Becket is rather heavyweight, I can grasp him more easily when I watch a performance rather than read him on my own. I never come to the end of him.

    Vagabonde - I have said it right from the beginning of our acquaintance, you understand what it is that makes your life suit you and you go out and take it for yourself. That is an admirable ability and it surely won't leave you even in old age.
    The very best of luck to you, perhaps we could be fellow travellers for a while.

    Vicki Lane - I doubt you have all that much time to stop and smell the flowers? Haven't you started the next book yet?
    You are to me another admirable spirit, going for what is necessary to you. Oh yes, I have read your various websites!

  21. Renee - Na, so dead sind die poets nun auch wieder nicht, einige von ihnen leben sogar noch!
    Und warum sollte es heute keine Dichterzirkel mehr geben? Es gibt auch noch genug Leute, die gerne Gedichte lesen und schreiben, viele von ihnen sogar hier in meinen commenters!
    Danke fuer deine guten Wuensche.

    Mike - thank you for visiting and commenting; I have visited your blog and see that you have been round the block = as they say. I shall come over and get to know you.

    20th century woman - what a wonderful comment! All of it, but particularly the last three words 'and we love'. What else is there at any time in life.
    So, you've only been getting a bit tired recently? Glad to hear it, I get tired all the time!

    S & S - Most definitely! Could you ask her for it? You'd have a very keen following if you could distil and post her secret.

    francessa - Lange nicht gesehen! thanks for coming over. I know that you are a poetry lover, perhaps you'd enjoy Friko's Poems and Pictures?

  22. We've just come to the end of a family wedding-weekend. There's nothing like such an event to bring together people from one's (distant) past. We've all aged - some more happily than others. I'm not (really!) a Pollyanna, but I am by-and-large, satisfied with where I am, how I look and how I feel. Life is finite. I get one ride. I figure that the end is the same whether I'm happy or not, so I might as well be happy at each stage.

  23. I love this poem. I read it years ago and liked it then but now, having faced serious illness and taken a terrified sideways look at my own mortality, it chimes strongly with me. And I also share the sense of surprised pleasure in getting older. I am not old. Well I suppose it depends on the company. I would once have thought the 55 I am now impossibly old. But I have no wish to be younger and a constant appreciation of what I have now. As Pondside says, it will all end the same way, so best to take what you can along the way.


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