Friday, November 20, 2009


Amazing how flexible we humans are.

Six weeks ago I stacked at least three layers of clothing on my body before slipping into my heavy fleece parka and nylon windbreaker, thick wool beanie, earmuffs, and gloves to go out the back door when the temperatures were in the low 40sF (7C).

This morning as I dressed to head for the post office, a quarter mile saunter across town, I zipped up my light fleece jacket over my cotton turtleneck and smiled at the sunshine warming the 36F (2C) breeze that rearranged my hair, but my ears complained not a bit. I stuck my hands and the PO box keys they were jingling in the pocket of my jacket.

I have metamorphosed into a winter crittur. Soon I will head out to continue raking and trimming the lilac hedge in front of the house where I found two heavy brown pelts deep in the leaf litter the other day.

To be in conjunction with the elements is a gift, a gift of adaptation common to all the creatures of the planet. Just takes some of us a bit longer.

While working on the lilacs, it occurred to me that this adaptation is the stuff of graceful aging, of living well into ones majority with a minimum of angst. Think of the Bristlecone Pines of the White Mountains of California, the oldest continuous life on the planet. When one aspect of the plant loses its vigour, a new limb manifests ready to carry on the business of photosynthesis, ready to carry the plant into a new century.

As I raked and pruned, I realized that the lilac does the same: an ancient part dies off after birthing new limber branches to carry on the process of adaptation.

My brain must do the same if I am to be vital in the next decade of my life. The part that is having difficulty finding nouns needs to be relaxed while it creates new dendrites as a result of my learning a new language, engaging in new problem solving techniques, playing new games, interacting with new cultures, finding new patterns for my life than the ones to which I have grown accustomed. Stagnation is the killer.

I am aware that the information I seek is still stored, but the access points for that information requires my self to knock on a few more doors, to come to the room where information is stored via the roof rather than through the basement where I found the elevator door previously. It takes a bit longer.

But not if I build new stairwells through which I can access the floors of the high rise of my knowledge, of my physical brain. Like the Bristlecone Pines, it is time to send out new limbs by which the photosynthesis of creating continuing knowledge can occur.

Amazing how a walk to the post office or pruning the lilacs can change one's perspective.