A collection of distilled sarcastic wisdom, numerous photographs, discussions of books and stuff to learn and more stuff to think about from a retired economics professor turned blogger and photographer.
One thing old age teaches you, one thing that old people feel qualified to talk about, is their experience in surviving the bumps and bruises of life. Old people know what it's like, not just for a few years as a child or as a teenager or as a young parent or even as a middle-aged person, to face and survive the trials, indignities, and struggles of life. And the aged can teach you a thing or two about looking for the light. We sometimes search for "the light at the end of the tunnel," or the silver lining through the clouds, or the rainbow with its pot of gold. As a teacher we try to help students "see the light," to see the meaning of complex ideas and concepts, and we rejoice when the light goes on, in that moment when the student proudly announces, "I get it!"
Some times we think the light will never come. We think we will never see a solution to a problem, that we will never be healed from an illness, that we have lost everything that is important to us. During these uncertain and troubled times, we must seek and wait patiently for the light. The light does not always shine, so we must seek the light and wait for it to shine on us. Photographers look for the golden light, for the bright rays of sunshine at dusk that turn the landscape into incomparable shades of purple and gold and red. And then we take a picture to remind us of what the light is, how it shines on us, and how it lifts our spirits.
The best light, however, is often fleeting so we must watch for it and capture it when it comes. The golden light of dusk and sundown will last only briefly, and you must be ready and watching and waiting to capture it so that it can illuminate your life every time you look at the photograph that records the light. A picture taken in the "magic light" of day illuminates hillsides and trees and mountain ridges not clearly seen during the rest of the day. Such a picture shows the beauty of even the most seemingly insignificant flowers and clouds and landscapes, and we see life in a new and more hopeful and more precious perspective.
Some day, the light will come to you if you search for it. Whether by thought, or prayer, or faith, or encouragement and love from others, the light will come. Whether the light lasts an instant or an hour or a day, we treasure the light, the insights we gain from opening our minds and our souls to a spirit of hope. No matter how many days or months or years are left to us in this mortal probation, we can search for and then let the light shine, for others as well as for ourselves.
Aging brings many frustrations and challenges to life. Some of these frustrations and challenges are mental, as discouragement and depression can cloud an otherwise sunny day. Other frustrations and challenges are physical, as our bodies play tricks on us and as, one by one, pieces of us that we never thought about begin to wear out or malfunction. We have to work harder than ever before to keep our spirits up, to ignore the things that are happening to us that we never thought would happen, and to wait for the morning sunrise as we go through another night full of goblins and fears.
The important thing here is to face up to the problems, deteriorations, malfunctions, pains, and discouragements as quickly as possible. My eyesight began to waver early, as I was diagnosed with early cataracts in my 50s. I postponed getting them operated on because the thought of having my head sandbagged for a week for each eye, as was the practice then, seemed too formidable. Besides, I didn't want to take a risk of having serious eye problems because I wanted to ensure that I could continue to teach school. When I finally got around to having my cataracts fixed, technology had miraculously changed and I had first one eye, then the other in a couple of days, taken care of. And, miracle of miracles, I could see the far mountains clearly. The flowers were beautiful. The glare from night-time driving, which had become so severe that I could no longer drive at night, disappeared. The entire process of restoring my sight was easy and it made such a significant improvement in my life. To this day, I can read small print without my glasses and wear my glasses only for far vision.
And so it went, through a parade of relatively minor afflictions that were reasonably fixable. We were fortunate to have excellent medical insurance coverage and to have excellent physicians. But the list of things that didn't work quite as well as they once did grew longer and more frustrating. Walking balance became mildly annoying. Medications kept waking me up in the night. I had to give up my long morning walks along the Jordan River Trail. Learning to accept these inconveniences was difficult and saddening.
The bright light to all of these experiences, however, appears if we count our blessings and be grateful for what we have. I am grateful that I am still in this mortal world and that I can help my wife do some of the things that her immobility has restricted her from doing. We have tried to focus on the things that we do have, on the blessings we experience from day to day, on the things that we can do to take care of ourselves, rather than moan too much over the ever-creeping changes that happen to our bodies and our minds. Mother once wrote during the Great Depression of the 1930s of the terrible stormy night when, alone because Dad was off working somewhere for whatever he could earn, she put all four of her (then) children in one bed, and waited for the morning. Then, she wrote, the sun came out again and she could face the new day. May we each have the strength and ability to wait for the sun and to keep our sense of hope and optimisim above the fray.
For some time I have let my Zenfolio galleries languish. I am in the process of reworking them. You will be able to order copies of the photos I post on my blog for your own use. I will keep you posted.