Egrets enjoy a light meal on tidal flats in rising heat.
- “News” should be naturally opposed to “Olds.” The sun came up today, I am still alive, the world is full of marvels _ these are not news. When the sun remains dark, if my arm aches, any unusual event anywhere _ these are supposed to grab our attention as curious primates.
- Fake news is the current meme, which some call lies. But it really stands for irrelevant entertainment that has no bearing on our daily life. Can I affect a dying sea otter population on the far side of the world, what does it mean to my daily action today, how does it help me survive better? Honestly, most news from our vast media sources is useless to how each of us lives.
- The olds are good and bad. The climate degenerates slowly, but the environment temporarily at least remains vibrant. My trillions and trillions of cells are still miraculously working well to support a consciousness, although perhaps less vibrantly than forty years ago. I am now spending a lot of time trying to appreciate the olds and to be less concerned with superficial novelty.
Intimations of late summer as dock shines reddish brown in shimmering heat.
- This morning’s olds is that there are lots of chipmunks in our area. News is that we have two in the back yard taking advantage of sunflower seeds falling from the bird feeder. Cute little things, and probably this year’s crop since they show too little concern for big creatures like us lurking about. Fun to watch, even though we are quite aware that they carry ticks that spread lyme disease.
- If our chipmunks vanished, the olds would not change at all, although the news might distress us. If all the chipmunks in our area disappeared, or if, like that bats, all of those on the North American continent were threatened, it might be a different story. But it is so hard to tell which is which, and most of the time the news we are aware of is of our purely backyard type, from which no conclusions are possible nor valid.
Some public beaches in Huntington can occasionally resemble deserted Caribbean isles in travel brochures.
- A bell clangs in the night: “2017 and all’s well.”
- Not quite.
Smog, beauty, bright leaves, shining water, and artifacts of our civilization everywhere.
- We like to believe that our culture is changing more rapidly than any other in history. The jury on that is out, I have seen studies claiming the 14th century in Europe was even quicker. Certainly the “long static unchanging lives” which some people tell us happened long ago have never been true in “civilized” places for the last two thousand years. In all that turmoil, survivors mostly contended with “olds” _ getting food, shelter, clothing, and following the routines of normal life.
- What has been true, and continues to be so, is that our local lives are affected by distant events over which we have no control at all. It might be technology, or war, or plague, or simple bad luck, but something we dread may be coming over the horizon every morning when we wake up. Such news is too often bad.
- That jars our explorer and pioneer myth. Explorers and pioneers, by definition, left the cozy confines of routine old life and set out into a wilderness where they controlled everything that happened to them. They ignored everything else and took care of everything that came along. Each moment became a form of “news.” We wish to retain a spark of such rebellion.
- Each morning, like molasses, we are embedded in the “olds”, which is a good thing. As soon as we power up our electronic devices, shrill salespeople try to convince us that mostly irrelevant “news” is somehow important to what we do next and how we will think this moment. Most of the time it is wise to ignore such chatter, and deal with normal local reality.
Forgotten except by birds, entangled deep in poison ivy and thorns, wild berries ripen with hidden beauty.
- Weeds are particularly good examples of the news cycle. Normally, we never notice them. They are just roadside greenery, or more leaves in the garden, or once in a while an unexpected flower. Sometimes we even take notice, for a moment, that they help define the landscape, such as when ragweed looms waist high where there used to be hard-caked dirt. Who cares about the growth of weeds, anyway _ they just take care of themselves.
- But once in a while I wander around our
flower gardens in July, and suddenly I am amazed to find that weeds have been overtaking the carefully cultivated displays. Bindweed strangling the taller plants, pigweed carpeting the ground, the tentacles of crabgrass grasping everywhere, and all kinds of unknown interlopers grabbing nutrients, water, and sunshine. On that day, at that hour, weeds are news, and I become consumed by pulling them out and clearing what should be a nice civilized space.
- For a few days I watch vigilantly, and tug something else here or there. And then time passes, the flowers are pleasant, and once again I notice nothing until some other morning ….
Early light, quiet breeze, an almost false tranquility as birds chorus loudly.
Old Man River and Father Time recline on a crimson cloudbank, casually contemplating a possible game of checkers as they sip their craft beers. Athena bounds in, glowing with enthusiastic happiness.
“Hey, you guys should get out in the sunshine. Dianna and I just saw the most amazing deer racing by, and all the summer flower fields are too beautiful to believe.”
“Seen it all,” says River, slowly.
“Every year,” adds Time with a slight croak.
“But you’re missing it all. Why the butterflies alone are …
“Been there, done that,” replies River.
“Year after year,” grunts Time.
“Old news,” they chorus together. “We just want to sit back and relax.”
“Stupid lazy old men. I think you have entirely wrong approach to the miracles of the day.”
“Moments are just moments, we hang out for eternity.”
“So do rocks. Lot of good it does them.” Athena flips around and bounces out and over a billowing cumulus, dwindling as she slowly falls.
“No sense at all.”
Last willow standing along our harbor road shimmers in early misty sunbeams.
North wind cools, south brings warmth,
East wind chills, west drives rain
Big thunderstorm always unexpected.
Born, live, die, each constant fate
isolate, enmeshed as well
Not to know deep what nor why
(unless escaped to insane dream.)
Each moment new, each memory old,
Unbalanced hopes and fears
One thought on “True Olds”
Good to have you back! I have missed your glorious nature photos of the small uncelebrated gifts of nature on the margins, and some (not all) of your commentary on new vs olds. Because we are friends and nearly neighbors I know your territory well, but I do not “know” it in the depth that you do because of your close attention to daily and seasonal details and your more intimate knowledge of local flora, including their names. At our age we are now in the season of noticing, noting what interests us, trying to make sense of it all, but most of all accepting what is. As a dear friend said to me yesterday over drinks at a local happy hour, “At our age, we are all where we are supposed to be.” In other words, we have all participated in the creation of our own lives