Celebrating: three-quarters of a century

Rainbow over Five Island Lake, originally uploaded by leyaevelyn.

A few weeks ago, I had some friends visiting, staying overnight. We were sitting around the breakfast table chatting. They had to get back home, about a three hours drive away, for a doctor’s appointment that afternoon. I said I hope it’s nothing serious. No, just routine. I’m getting old, I’m seventy, he said with a look mixed with pain and surprise. She said, I’m seventy-one. Again, with pain, and maybe a tinge of horror.

I looked at him and said: Seventy! thinking that’s old. But then I realized, I’m turning seventy-five in a few weeks. Actually, it is today, in fact. I am now officially, seventy-five years as of this morning! But I don’t think of myself as old. I met these friends when we were in our mid forties. To me, we are still in our forties.

Seventy-five years: sounds like a long time. But not to me. It feels like just yesterday that I was four, seven, twenty-one. I don’t remember the day I was born; I’m sure it wasn’t too cold or too warm. Just another pre-winter Friday in Washington, D.C..

To most of you, seventy-five must sound old. When I was very young, sixteen seemed old, then thirty and then forty. When I was fifty, I thought my life was just beginning. My children were now adults, taking care of themselves, doing well. I felt free and alive. At sixty, I left town; I was ashamed of growing older. I didn’t want anyone to know I was no longer a young thing. But now, I celebrate being stronger, more steady, capable, and flexible. I am, in fact, not your usual seventy-five year old. At least from what I see around me.

I have a couple of neighbors I visit who live at the other end of the brook where I take my dog, Lila, for walks sometimes. They are a year or two older than me. Yet they think of themselves as old, tell me they can’t garden so much, don’t hear so well, etc. They have very kindly give me some plants as they prune down their lives. I’m cleaning house too, purging excesses, getting rid of unnecessary items, books, papers, and such, thinking perhaps it is a sign of growing older, or at least, of growing up. People are often telling me I will have to give up my house and move to a condo some day. I tell them I can’t think about that now. I would like to live here until I die. But there is no way I can know now about tomorrow.

I find getting older fascinating: like watching fire burn. It goes up, gets stronger, has down times, needs feeding, strengthens again, and eventually fades out. The best part, maybe, about getting older is being able to look back dispassionately on my life. Yes, I have made mistakes, some very big, but I can’t change that. I can only change how I relate to that, how I am today. From that viewpoint, my life has been interesting, good. An adventure.

Maybe I’m just lucky, come from hearty stock. I’ve been asked often my secret to looking so youthful. I usually answer: stress! I’m not completely jesting; in truth, stress keeps me alert and active. As well, I can credit all the things I do to refresh the body and mind: the tai chi, qi gong, meditation, walking, playing, friends, reading, whatever. But I also think it is making art that keeps me young. It is a process of staying in that open mind, like a child, a very young child. Or maybe I make art because I just don’t know how to grow old!

About leyaevelyn

About thirty years ago, I moved from New York City to rural Nova Scotia. For an artist, it is a good place to live. Spacious and quiet. Despite the beautiful scenery and frequently grey skies, my abstract paintings focus on color, its expressive qualities and how it creates form and space.
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3 Responses to Celebrating: three-quarters of a century

  1. Sue says:

    I hit 77 this year.

    AND—-I am blest with hair that has only s few gray strands!!!

    I guess that’s my reward for its color, which I call mud brown.

    But mud brown at 77 makes up for mud brown at 30-something.

    (And I thiink my girls have more gray than I do. My husband had visible gray when he was in his twenties.)

  2. Though a relative youngster–only 50 something–what you are saying certainly strikes a chord. The old saying ‘you are only as young as you feel’ is so true. Me, I feel much the same as that 16 year old kid who left home for school so many years ago. I had no clue but I did have one secret weapon–namely I know I had no clue. Today I feel much the same. The only difference is now I have a few clues–a few. It was such a pleasure reading your post as well as the comment from Sue…

  3. I am 74 and have been musing on the meaning of aging for several years. I retired and moved from NYC to Cape Cod unaware that it is a great retirement area – a serendipitious move. I am very active in our Academy for Life Long Learning, everyone is over 50, the majority are in their 60s and 70s and several are in their 80s. All my new friends are in this age group and they are active, intelligent, busy, involved people. I have little ability to guess their ages. Sometimes I sit around a seminar table and think, yes, most of us look kind of old. Lots of white hair, quite a few wrinkles, faces certainly not what they were at 40. But, what an exciting bunch of people! They have a great variety of life stories. Yes, there’s occasion mention of a doctor’s appointment, and some have this or that operation. But time and again I drive home thinking how wonderful to know so many lively and interesting people. I think, throughout life, we generally find what we look for. Old? Who cares if the younger students at the college where we hold classes see us as old? We know we’ve got a load of experiences on our shoulders and they are not burdens — they are helium balloons lifting our spirits.

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