If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder,
he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it,
rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.
~ Rachel Carson

NOVELS ABOUT AGING

At age 30, I had my first close encounter with a person over 90 years of age – in  a novel, not in real life.  Hagar Shipley, protagonist of Stone Angel [Canadian classic by Margaret Laurence] opened my eyes to the chasm that can exist between an elder’s inner life and outer appearances.

We readers learned to love this crusty ‘stiff-upper-lip’ ‘burden’ of a woman in a way made impossible for the family by a fearsome pride, life history on the prairies, culture, and prevailing ageist attitudes. We cheer her on as she comes to acceptance of her life lived, even as she reaches out from the constraints of aging to a stranger.

Ellen Jaffe and I have analyzed women’s writings about old age with a special focus on this novel.  We singled out this quotation in Hagar’s voice:

Some people will tell you that the old live in the past – that’s nonsense. Each day, so worthless really, has a rarity for me lately. I could put it in a vase and admire it, like the first dandelions, and we would forget their weediness and marvel that they were there at all. But one dissembles, usually for the sake of such people as Marvin (her son), who is somehow comforted by the picture of old ladies feeding like docile rabbits on the lettuce leaves of other times, other manners. (Laurence, 1964, p. 5).

 To read more about Jaffe & Ryan,Click Here: The Stone Angel Speaks: Listening to Older Women’s Voices

INVITATION TO READERS

We can learn so much about how aging affects men and women from different backgrounds and in different cultures by reading novels.

I invite you readers to write to tell me which book with an aged protagonist you like best and why? Over time, I will compile a list of favourites for posting.

PUBLISHING OPPORTUNITIES FOR OLDER WRITERS

These e-journals seek stories, essays, and  poems from older writers.

Sage-ing with Creative Spirit, Grace & Gratitude  ||  A Journal of the Arts & Aging

Persimmon Tree

CIVIC ENGAGEMENT SERIES — Writer’s Tip

Summer time is a great time to connect outdoors with children (your grandchildren or someone else’s).  From working together in a community garden, to helping out at the Farmers’ Market to planning creative arts and games for children, older adults can help children get back into nature.  Richard Louv of the Children & Nature Network  argues that we would all be healthier in body, mind and spirit if we spent more time with Nature. Getting Vitamin N is all the more important for young people, as the culture immerses them in indoor technology.

As writers, we can emphasize creativity when we take children into the garden, hiking in the woods, swimming at the sea or lake, or to sit at a picnic table under the trees.  We can encourage them to write about their experiences and to accompany their words with photographs. drawings or collages.  Studies show that creativity is activated by being outdoors, so this might be a good time to get the children to tell and write stories.

WRITING EXERCISES – Tip for August

In the classic Writing the Natural Way, Gabriele Rico presented numerous methods for drawing on the creativity of right brain processes. Clustering is one useful technique to generate words for prose or poetry writing.

For example, one could begin with the core word OUTDOORS – writing it in the middle of a page and circling it.  Then one follows different paths of associations from the core word, circling each new word as you go.  For example, I first thought of “trees-breeze-shade-picnic.” Then, a second path from the core was ‘run-wild-adventure-treasure’; another ‘dirt-seeds-plant-weed-pick-busking corn-yum’; another ‘play-friends-hide&seek-count-find’.

Often after a few minutes of seemingly random work, a particular path strikes as the one to write about. This is called the trial-web shift.  My last path – such a shift – was ‘hike-Mt. Tom-scarlet maples-picnic-Mom’s molasses cookies’.  Write on the topic which emerges, using as many of the words from the other paths as possible.

RESOURCES on the Spirit of Nature

Books

Berry, Thomas. Evening Thoughts: Reflecting on Earth as Sacred Community (edited by M. E. Tucker).  Berkeley: The University of California Press, 2006.

Berry, Wendell. A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997. Berkeley CA: Counterpoint Press, 1999.

Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring.  New York: Mariner Books, 2002 (orig. 1962).

Lane, Beldan. The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality. Oxford UK: Oxford University, 2007.

Merton, Thomas. When the Trees Say Nothing (edited by K. Deignan). Notre Dame IN: Ave Maria Press, 2003.

Strand, Clark.  Seeds from a Birch Tree: Writing Haiku and the Spiritual Journey. Winnipeg MB: Hyperion, 1998.

Suzuki, David. Sacred Balance. Vancouver BC: Greystone Books, 2007.

Websites

National Senior Conservation Corps

Age-Friendly Communities (UN guidelines for easy access to nature for all)

Children & Nature Network

Earth Watch

 QUOTATIONS

The eye is the first circle; the horizon is the second and throughout nature this primary picture is repeated without end.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

When we tug at a single thing in nature,
we find it attached to the rest of the world.
~ John Muir

The earth is full of thresholds where beauty awaits the wonder of our gaze.
~ John O’Donohue

One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.
~ Shakespeare

With this photo taken on the shores of Lake Superior, I bid you adieu,

Ellen