Moving Through the Ages

Blog Post PhotoOn New Year’s Day I found myself in a hospital emergency room because of a severe and unexpected asthma attack. Couldn’t find my keys. Didn’t feed my cat. Didn’t even put on socks (and it was freezing) because I had not a minute to spare. I left my home in a hurry. I fled (as best I could, given the amount of oxygen available to me). I figured I’d return home in 4 or 5 hours. Wrong. It was more like 6 days.

I hadn’t been hospitalized for asthma since my very first attack 32 years ago, and on previous visits to the ER, I had been treated and released and back to normal in a day or two. During the first three days of this stint. I was concerned because I wasn’t recovering as quickly as I was used to. My lungs were slower to clear. My oxygen levels were unstable. There was conversation about living wills and the dreaded possibility of intubation, which, while life-saving, is associated with a mortality rate of 10 to 13 percent. I had nothing but my Reiki hands and Buddhist practice to get me through the crisis and back to my apartment.

And then I remembered: I was no longer 33 but 65, and at this age bouncing back takes longer, I’m learning.

30-something me.

30-something me.

I had been feeling 40 for the longest, but between 2008 and 2013, something changed. I shifted mentally and emotionally and the 40s-feeling became the 60s-feeling, leapfrogging over the 50s-feeling. Between those years I was an unemployed person, an older unemployed person whose credentials and qualifications and skills seemed to be side notes. One recruiter suggested that I dye my hair. Another sighed while reading my resume during an interview and said, “When did we get so old.” I was overwhelmed by articles about and advice for older workers. Age discrimination, which had been only a theory became a reality and with that came thoughts of social security, Medicare. Between those years I couldn’t say with certainty what was going to happen to me, how I would take care of myself. I took a day at a time and thought a lot about age and aging and struggled to arm myself against stereotypes and the seeds that society plants. I was determined to plant my own seeds and nurture my own garden.

60-something me.

60-something me.

Do I have any theories on or advice about aging? No. I have observations. I can say that aging is better than the alternative. I can say that living long brings the gift of experience and, yes to be cliché, wisdom. I can say that I have fewer inhibitions and self-consciousness. I can say that I know my place in the universe and my relationship to the planet and its inhabitants. I can say that health and good friends and humor are important. I can say that I trust my intuition as much as I trust my intellect. I can say that listening carefully brings its own education. I can say that making and resting on assumptions can be detrimental. I can say that 60+ is not the new 40+. It simply is what it is, and that varies from person to person. I believe that the perception of time is relative to, among several things, age. It’s true: Time is moving with greater speed and I seem to be sprinting through the months, the years. I don’t run for buses and trains – what’s the rush! I can say that stability is an illusion because nothing is unchanging — everything is in a state of flux. I’ve found my soul work and I’ve come to know the value of service to others. Thirty years ago I was all about service to myself. I have watched – at long distance – with wonder and nostalgia my niece and nephew move from infancy into teenage-hood. My sister is 14 younger than I am, and now we’ve arrived at a place where we can have open and honest conversations because the little sister-big sister dichotomy has faded. We are simply sisters of a certain age, looking good, meeting challenges, and with our brother (11 years younger than I am), laughing a lot and still looking forward to life with all its changes, surprises and gifts.


Writing Challenge: Books and Nooks

This week’s Mind the Gap: How do you prefer to read, with an eReader like a Kindle or Nook, or with an old school paperback in hand? Take the poll (below) and then explain your opinion by blogging about it on your site.


books in a bedI literally grew up with books and magazines and figuratively lived my early years in the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, where I grew up. Books also inhabited my bedside and bed.

One of my favorite activities was to sample the aisles of music stores and bookstores. I love flipping through the pages of books, reading the copyright pages, savoring the cover art. I knew the layout of bookstores that I frequented by heart. That being said, I went over to the “dark” side about four years ago by purchasing a Nook.

At the time, I believed that my choice was more utilitarian: the e-reader accommodates one-handedness – it’s easier to hold and read while I’m standing on the subway (not to mention proceeding from one page to the next); I had carpal tunnel surgery, so holding the e-reader was easier on my hands; I lost most of my extensive collection in a fire and, subsequently, moved into a MUCH smaller apartment that will never accommodate a large book collection. I am also a multiple-book reader; in other words, I read two, sometimes three, books at a time (usually two nonfiction and one fiction selection) and like the idea of having a them at my fingertips, especially when traveling or in transit. Am I in the mood for the nonfiction reading? Or perhaps fiction? I have the freedom of this type of reading experience without the weight in my backpack. And sometimes one of those selections is an actual book.Books under a bed

I surprised myself by taking to the Nook right away…and loving it.

There are certain types of books, though, that I still buy. I prefer to have anything about animals as books instead of Nook selections. Anything that is chart- or illustration- or photography-heavy, I will purchase in book form because the e-readers don’t do visual justice to these kinds of books.

I have cuddled up with books. Have I cuddled with my e-reader. I have, though it’s a different kind of cuddling. No thumb to hold my place while I change positions.

I am an allergic person, always have been, and as we all know, books collect and hold on to dust. My allergist is happy about my nook.


Now, I have to say, I enjoy being released from lending books to people who never return them. Sometimes I mention a really good book to a friend, and she or he will say, “I want to read that when you are finished,” and it’s a guilty pleasure for me to reply, “Oh, it’s on my Nook.” Ha!

Here’s what Marcus Tullius Cicero said about books: “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” Probably would not have said this about e-readers.

Emily Dickinson wrote a poem, about, yes, a book:

A Book

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!

NookIf you substitute “book” for “Nook” in the poem — ultimately, I think, the reading experience is the same.

Weekly Writing Challenge: The Re-Meeting

Weekly Writing Challenge: 1,000 Words, Take Two
Your challenge this week is to write a post based on this picture: We see lots of possibilities in this photo:

Who are these people? What’s their relationship? Where are they? Are they saying hello or goodbye? Or something else altogether? Are they just clinging to one another to keep from sliding down the steep cobblestones? Who’s coming/going, and why? Where are they coming from/going to? Are the people behind them waiting for them? Are they happy for the couple, or irritated?

writing challenge

Your light is day

Dispersed upon waters of this world,

Of moon’s mourning face

Photographed upon decals

Of ice, thawing . . .

Freezing . . .

Thawing . . .

You, revealed everywhere:

Above the radiator’s row

Womanlips intoned a SutraSong,

Then recitations – your name.


Reticent, silent,

Stunned, hardened;

Ignited, uncoiled,

Ascended. And incense

Was cologne you shun Continue reading

Weekly Writing Challenge: He-djfoi icki foilium nuk nuk?

Weekly Writing Challenge: 1,000 Words, Take Two
Your challenge this week is to write a post based on this picture: We see lots of possibilities in this photo:

Who are these people? What’s their relationship? Where are they? Are they saying hello or goodbye? Or something else altogether? Are they just clinging to one another to keep from sliding down the steep cobblestones? Who’s coming/going, and why? Where are they coming from/going to? Are the people behind them waiting for them? Are they happy for the couple, or irritated?

writing challenge


Yes, let us continue to hold together. Yes, like this.


It is silly, yes?


Yes, but it is their way. It will give us more credibility.


How do the legs feel? These are still cold.


These have grown warm already. Don’t be concerned. The warmth will come soon. Remember, I entered the shen-non before you entered the hen-non. It takes time. What a bright idea the commander had for reformatting the mothership into a trolley…trolley… Continue reading

Daily Post Prompt: Stroke of Midnight

Where were you last night when 2012 turned into 2013? Is that where you’d wanted to be?

I started out with a task that I’d set for myself: to organize my four email accounts, which meant deleting both the read and the irrelevant and then saving many to file folders – 4,000+!

email prompt

Without realizing that it was so close to midnight, I took a break, went outside to the porch, and called my sister. We talked, with her daughter in the background laughing, and I told her the story of how I drove to Times Square in the early ‘70s, with 3 friends, on New Year’s Eve, when I was a relatively new New Yorker. What a crazy decision, to drive. One of my friends was wearing a cheap rabbit jacket, so not only did we have to contend with car and pedestrian traffic, but also with rabbit fur taking over the space of my small Toyota. In our eyes and noses! Continue reading

Writing Challenge: “Unfaith,” and Then Faith

The WordPress Daily Prompt/Post: Tell us about the role that faith plays in your life — or doesn’t.

Religious faith in my family was eclectic: My father, at the encouragement of his second wife, became a Pentecostal; my mother was Baptist/Methodist; my mother’s mother was Methodist; my mother’s father was Jehovah Witness who eventually remarried a Mennonite; my stepfather, as I remember, of no particular religion, occasionally read his big, blue Masonic Bible, which intrigued us kids. I had a chance to sample them all (with the exception of the Mennonite), though I was more or less raised with Baptist/Methodist teachings.

religionsOne evening during my thirteenth year on earth, I was sitting on the porch of our house watching the changing colors of the sky, changing in part because of the steel mills that were the source of jobs for our city. Suddenly, the sky, with its smears of purple and blue and gold, reminded me of the biblical pictures of the portal to Heaven. From there I went on to think about Christian dogma: the creation, the Garden of Eden, the Virgin Birth, Heaven and Hell. It was then that I lost, no, rejected faith in the Christianity that I’d been taught. It was then that the Bible stories took on a more mythical character, mythical as in Roman and Greek mythology. The Book of Revelations had symbolism that horrified me, though I found the teachings of Jesus and his disciples gentle. You could say that I “unfaithed” myself based on my own philosophical bent. And I became hostile to all organized, formalized religions and adopted the “religion is the opiate of the people” position. I felt that I had been misled, tricked. Continue reading

Weekly Writing Challenge: A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words

“They say a picture is worth a thousand words, right? Prove it! This week’s challenge couldn’t be simpler: tell a story based on this picture. You can take this in whatever direction you’d like. Write some fiction. Who are these people? What’s their backstory? What’s going on in this picture? What happens next? Construct a history for us. Write from your own experience. Do one of these people remind you of someone you know, or of something that’s happened to you? Connect the dots for us. Go on a flight of fancy. Who knows what pops into your head when you take a look? Grab the first thing and go with it! We’ll tell you the truth behind the photo in next week’s challenge post, but we’re sure it won’t be nearly as interesting as what you come up with!”

Greg, Dad and Me circa 1951

Yes, that’s our dad holding our hands. My mom took this photo. I’m three. My brother’s five. Greg. I’m Anne. My neck was sweating between the coat collar and the bonnet. Itchy, really. Greg’s cap is hiding a bad, homemade haircut that my mom gave him. What? Oh no, we weren’t angry, just serious. We were a loving serious family that day about to go to church. Mom’s wearing a lovely royal blue dress with light pink trim around the collar and long cuffs, a matching trapeze coat and low black heels. She was, as my dad used to say, “a real looker.” She had to put her pocketbook down because it was making her arm shake and interfering with the photograph she was trying to take. Then she and my dad switched places, and he took one of her, me and Greg. I don’t know what happened to it. Too bad. It pains me. I ought to have both photos.

If photographs reflected reality, not just as a snapshot of a moment, but as ongoing reality, I would be the only one in the photo. An absurd take on Dorian Gray.

What happened.

What happened?

Well… Continue reading

Weekly Writing Challenge: A Splash of Color

Alchemy: Postcardperfect sun and river redefining reality; on the stage of the Seventy-ninth Street boat basin nature is the everpresent performer, enchantress, and finally, trickster.

photo by Kate Benedict

Where the Hudson River was unlit, its surface receded and sank; where the sun’s light romped, shimmering runners of rainbow luminescence appeared to reverse the river’s movement from horizontal to vertical. A feral speedboat, its canvas roof carmine, the color of a movie star’s lips, its body cerulean fiberglass, fractured the illusion of optics with violent momentum and gouged a deep violet gash into the river’s fluid skin. Gulls, kamikaze in aggression and concentration, dived, skimmed river surface, and then ascended until they disappeared, sometimes with fish in their beaks, sometimes with what they merely thought were fish. When river mended itself, flowing south to north, it carried with it old Reeboks still laced and toes turned upward, spent and dulled condoms as transparent as cellophane, pastel race tipsheets with some dreamer’s circled selections, and other chronicles of contemporary human settlement. Continue reading

Weekly Writing Challenge: A Splash of Yellow Things Living and Not

My very first blog post on WordPress was about a slug, a Banana Slug link,

and I wondered: What else in nature is yellow?

When I was small I developed a mild fear of sunflowers as I walked through a field of them. They looked as if they were capable of bending down and swooping me up, and I imagined I would never been seen again. That was then, oh so many years ago. Now, however,

they are gorgeous, especially up close, hypnotic spirals.

It is said that yellow stimulates our mental processes, encourages communication, stimulates our nervous system and activates our memories. Manipura, Sanskrit for “city of jewels,” is the name of our solar plexus chakra, and it is represented by yellow.  When this chakra is open, it empowers us to find our personal strength. It will help turn dreams and goals into reality. For the Aztecs, yellow symbolized food because it was the color of corn, the primary food of the Aztec people.

Continue reading

WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: Down Memory Lane

Lesson I: Memories & Illusions

for Tina & Ronnie in memory of our mother;


Listen to me:

This is the blouse she wore on the merry-go-round

lemon and cherry lovebirds beaking the other

I am smoothing the wrinkles against our chests

it is the motion of pressing time backwards

The sandals that never wore the feet that

touched the pavement with you to school

acorns and berries on straw antique weave

round red toes were her statements on life.

We called these her kangaroo clothes

room enough for us to raise the world

ma ma mu mu  me me  mo

literary songs from kangaroo babies.

Listen to me:

Do you remember the color of her arms

the exact shade of black I mean

And how her reds bled into her browns

or how her nipples wet your searching mouths

when she was a leaf tarnished in autumn

or roses and the color of her anger

and vanilla oxydol and her wintertime smell

the wind would part around her

and return for a second try.

Listen to me:

This woman was the sea roaring our scars

She was the sea rocking our fears

and gushing our dreams to shore

Then she became the day dying in her own hair

and the night trying to resurrect herself.

Art: “The Persistence of Memory” by Salvador Dali; “Light My Fire” by Lena Karpinsky; “Winter” by Robert Lacy