A friend who's feeling the effects of age as he enter his 70's, and has been warned by a heart attack, asked Molly and me to write something on aging. Of course, there is so much to say. You want to encourage your fellow oldsters. You want to help them see the new ways they may need to operate, the new assumptions they need to make about this strange new stage in their living, the change and expectations they may make of themselves - particularly in physical ways.
For me, I am finding - after 45 years of leading Minnesota Boundary Water canoe trips - that the paddling alone on my summer Lake Ossipee in New Hampshire, and up my beloved Pine River, and back, has to now, at 89, be done in a slightly different way.
How differently? Slower. Just slower. Take my time. Pull hard when I can, but go for form, for a long sweep of the paddle, take rests when I get to 50 strokes, allow my breathing to come down to slow. Maybe not go all the way each day. Balance going to the bridge at Route 25 with a stopping-place, like what I call the "Beaver Pond." Their old lodges are barely discernable there, and they themselves are up-stream, having abandoned the lower river because of the plethora of pontoon and other power boats who are finding the launch basin at Route 25 their best access to the lake.
Now, I watch for flowers along the river bank, particularly the stunning red cardinal flowers that are so dramatic on their simple stocks, if you chance to find them. This is their season now, and I love discovering them, and watching for them, and treasuring the sight of them.
Early on in summer there are little white paper-like flowers in the tall grasses by the river mouth, and the purple lapin which are mixed in with them. Bee bombs are there, too, in early summer.
Now, as September comes, I look for edelweiss, and asters, and of course, golden rod. I love them all.
They make me slow a bit, in order to get a good look, and so is my journey more restful, more steady, more refreshing.
The slowing down applies to just plain walking, too, even around the house, and surely, out on our dirt road.
Of course, people are another reason for stopping to exchange a few words, whether on the river or the road. It's on the river that I begin with a yodel toward a house or two on the river bank, or even at a passing kayak or power boat. So, I accrue my "river rat" friends whom I cherish each in their own way.
Slowing down does make for more listening in such casual conversations. Every word, I find, is worth it. So often they curry care, and cheer. All part of the disciplines of old age, and bodies that can't do any longer, all that they used to do.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES