Too Old?

greypanther
(“Gray Panthers” is a loosely organized coalition of elders who are dedicated to social justice issues. Founded by Maggie Kuhn in 1970, when she was forced to retire from a job she loved, this movement includes people of all ages, but derives its name and energy from the image of the elder as a formidable and powerful force in society.)

All of my life I have struggled with a sinister voice within my brain that insists I am inadequate. Now that I am 74 years old, that voice has arisen with renewed energy, warning me that I am “too old,” and that it is time to preserve what little strength and resources remain to me. Well-meaning people shake their heads at our “Tiny House on Wheels” and at our Quixotic-seeming hopes and dreams. Were I to heed these inner and outer voices I would end up in a small apartment nestled close to shopping centers and medical centers.  I would venture out only in the fairest of weather for the most modest of errands.

Here is the truth of the matter: The battle for the fate of the Earth and the Heart of Humanity has been raging for decades, indeed for centuries, and it has now reached a critical point. Bigotry, ignorance, and greed are threatening to engulf all of life in the shadow of death. We who have been given the gift of Elderhood must join this fight with what gifts of wisdom, experience, and encouragement we possess. We will not likely be called to man literal barricades, but our voices, our presence, our work, our lifestyles, and our willingness to sacrifice security and comfort for the sake of our people will be asked of us as surely as it will be asked of younger revolutionaries.

Culture tries to convince me that I am impotent, but nothing could be farther from the truth. To my fellow “older people” let me speak to that part of us which longs to live out our remaining time with the strength of purpose our years have given us. They tell us that, because of our age, our lives have become expendable. Well, let’s make the most of that idea. If we are expendable, what in the world are we holding on to? What need for self-protection is there? If our death awaits outside the door, why do we remain barricaded inside, stoking the fireplace and guarding our treasures? Let’s fling open the doors and ride outside to meet our fate in a manner that punctuates our life with an exclamation mark rather than a minuscule period.

And if we elders ride out to our fate, whatever it may be, what will you my younger friends be doing? Will you ride with us? Will you add the power, energy, and strength of youth and vigor to the cause? Will you give your lives to this most important of purposes? What else do you have to do that is more important?

What exactly, you ask, shall we do? Well … first we ask the question, “How can I live, from my deepest heart, for the healing of the Earth today?” We ask it moment by moment, day after day, until it becomes embedded in our consciousness. The clear presence of the question itself, will bring the answers and guide us to actions, unique for each of us, yet each action will fit together in a vast pattern that will transform culture, humanity, and the Earth.


Some resource links for encouragement and inspiration:

Rivera Sun – a poet, artist, and novelist whose deep commitment to nonviolent resistance and revolution is communicated in all her works.

Dandelion Salad essays by various resistance voices that cover a wide range of topics and points of view


If my posts and work are helpful to you, I ask you to add your support. You can do this through buying my books;  and by supporting this free blog site on a monthly basis through Patreon  or by a donation through Pay Pal. I depend on your support in order to continue writing and publishing.

Thank you.

 

 

 

Priorities

cosmosSo much has unfolded regarding the logistics and details of our journey that I have tended to forget the intentions, indeed the vows, that have energized my path. Finding our Tiny House on wheels, visiting family, and seeing the desert Southwest have been fun and engaging experiences, but this whirlwind of activity has left me a bit distant from that part of my heart that has been my guiding light in these transforming times.

Certain intentions formed a few months ago that eventually became vows. These guidelines by which I hope to live the rest of my life have faded in the melee. I share them with you here as a way of recalling myself to their gentle guidance at a time when I feel a bit at sea.

  • I will spend the rest of my life living, to the best of my ability, in harmony with the Earth: living simply; taking “just enough” from the Earth so that my possessions and income do not detract from this harmony; and doing whatever I can to bring peace and healing to Her and to Her children.

(I have, to a great extent, forgotten this connection with the Earth as automobiles, people, houses, and electronic noise have been dominant for the past couple of weeks. I have felt the pressure of holiday season and the cultural imperative to buy and buy. I have refrained for the most part, but the milieu of commerce has been a depressing companion.)

  • I will seek a spiritual connection of gratitude with all the elements of life: stone and soil; rain, river, and sea; plants of every kind; mountains, valleys and plains; air and wind; all flying, walking, and crawling beings. To support this I will live outside as much as possible, immersing myself in the natural world and learning from all its moods, seasons, and gifts.

(I have been able to take some lovely hikes and have spent a few moments with the moon and stars, but most of the time I have lived indoors.)

  • I will cultivate my relationship with the Energies of the Cosmos –  within and through my body; flowing between myself and other beings; with all the dancing and swirling forces throughout space and time. To support this I will join these energies through Qigong, drumming, dancing, and singing. 

(I have neglected my Qigong for the past four weeks. I do sing as I hike and I have drummed a bit but the regular support of these practices has drifted away.)

  • I will seek guidance from the Unseen Realms and from the Sacred Source in all of my activities through the day: in my writing, my talking, and my thinking so that my Soul – my being of Light within – will be the center from which I live and move. To support this I will seek to pay attention to all possible communications – dreams, synchronous happenings, the flow of emotions, and intuitions.

(I have slipped into habitual patterns of “going along” when my heart and soul have wanted to say, “No, not that.” I have reverted often to conditioned mental states and moods.)

I have reviewed these priorities, not to blame myself at all, but to recall my attention and my focus. We all lose focus, especially during holiday seasons when the culture exerts some of its most powerful weapons. All we need to do is take a breath, notice, and return. There is never a need for blame or shame in such recollections. The marvelous present moment is always available and the practices that support our life are always waiting for us. We can return to them and they will welcome us as if we’d never left.

 

Home

RA6eHoP5RXGCjR3bUmij1QWell, our savings account is now officially empty and we’re “on our own in the big world.” We feel exceptionally blessed to have found a lovely used 2003 Winnebago whose elderly owners left fully equipped with every amenity possible. The dealer, Freedom RV in Tucson, has been delightful. They will go through it in detail in the next 10 days, replacing anything that needs replacing, and we will pick it up after the first of the year. They will then teach us everything (well, probably not everything) we need to know about its operation and have us stay a night at their facility to make sure everything works.

I have the paradoxical feelings of “arrival” and “just beginning.” Actually, the “just beginning” aspect is predominant. Essentially all of our former way of living is now behind us and the road ahead stretches into unknown and completely unfamiliar territory. Our motor home, which we’ve named Brego after a older brave and strong horse from the Peter Jackson film adaptation of Lord of the Rings, will carry us into a life of service to the Sacred Source in ways we can’t imagine. Our mood continues to be a mixture of eager excitement and, “Oh my god, what are we doing!” But we’re on the road now, and the road will carry us ever on, to a place which we will discover to be our true home and, as T.S. Eliot said, “we will know this place for the first time.”

Stranger in a Strange Land

PyFR4BpsTUW8UCRZalgI woke the other morning in a borrowed trailer parked by my son’s house in Hereford, Arizona, to the realization that, “we’ve actually done it!” I feel a myriad of emotions. The desert night was cold and clear and the propane was not yet hooked up so we slept bundled under several blankets. The sunrise colors that greeted us over the desert mountains were as lovely as their cousins who bid us a good sleep the night before. For all the stress of a rather abrupt leave-taking from our former life, my morning mood was remarkably calm and relaxed.

This step into the unknown has left me with somewhat of a disconnected feeling, as if I am no longer a part of what I used to call, “life.” I haven’t technically retired. I tried that and it didn’t stick. I am a writer, perhaps a teacher, and who knows what else. I must continue to do the work that is mine to do, whatever it may be. But I’m no longer doing it from familiar foundations and assumptions. It is a strange feeling, but one which I think will open new vistas.

So much of my culture appears to me as if seen through a window, out there somewhere but not really a thing of which I am a part. People are precious to me. The natural world of mountains, deserts, and oceans remains mysterious and magic for me. Love and compassion filter through my days as sunshine through forest leaves. But the noise of the machinery that drives economics, politics, media, and all the other illusions that are still trying to masquerade as life, seems to be fainter and has an unreal quality about it.

When this cultural cacophony does rise up and grab my attention I feel like a deer frozen in the headlights of a semi-truck, not sure which way to turn when confronted by this massive tonnage of power bearing down on me. As a result, I am learning to avoid the heavily traveled roadways, literal and metaphorical, and stay in the physical and emotional territory that is calling to me as Home: back roads rather than highways; outside rather than inside; silence rather than noise; direct rather than mediated; natural rather than artificial.

Yet I still find it difficult to think of living mainly out of doors in the company of the natural world. It is a beautiful day today, but the wind is picking up and the comfort of my son’s house beckons me inside. I’m forcing myself to remain on the porch – as if gazing at the blue sky and the shifting shadows on the Huachuca Mountain range is some sort of difficult discipline! Whether it is here in the winter beauty of the Sonoran Desert or the lush forests of northern California in the summer, remaining present with the land itself is an ability I have not been well-trained to master.

So many lessons lie ahead; some of which intimidate me, others of which I am eager to learn. Carving out a life that is counter to decades of conditioning remains a demanding task and I look for help from those who have preceded me on this path. Their number is much greater than you would anticipate. They populate the pages of history and they wander, often unseen, through today’s world. They live in cities and in the wilderness. They live in families, communities, tribes, and in solitude. They can’t be defined in any culturally conditioned way. Like me, they are strangers in a strange land, but when we find each other, we are no longer strangers, we are a tribe, we are at home with the Earth. If humanity is to have a future it will belong to such as these.

Traveling Thoughts

pLwvr4cZTGapFXmyqEPJzgWe’ve been on the road for four days now, taking some lovely side trips but in general heading for our son’s home in southern Arizona. We should complete that final leg of our trip tomorrow. Since we have not yet found the used motor home that will be our future house on wheels, we have been driving our faithful Subaru packed full of our stuff, staying in budget motels, and eating out of an ice chest. It’s been fun, but tiring. I have noticed several things:

  • I have noticed that as a culture we are in a tremendous hurry! Any speed limit sign seems to indicate minimum speed rather maximum speed. I’m an older person now, the sort that I used to pass with disdain thinking, “Come on gramps, get a move on.” But that older man may have been a sage, looking at me and thinking, “Oh, son, what in the world is your hurry?” It is not being older that has slowed me down. I am letting go of the cultural imperative to speed through the trip for the sake of the destination. I am learning that the trip is the destination. The drivers who ride my bumper and rush past me are not bad people. They are poor souls unconsciously caught in the paradigm that bigger and faster is better; that if a vehicle is built to go 90 mph, then it should go 90 mph. Sigh. Driving the speed limit or a bit under it may actually be an act of social protest; of cultural sabotage; of mindful rebellion; of questioning the authority of speed and urgency. Who knows, I might start a movement. There is a “slow food” movement, why not a “slow moving movement?” Obstruct the cultural machine! Go the speed limit! 
  • I have noticed that there are still countless areas of beauty throughout the western states; small county parks, state parks, national forests, national landmarks, and even national parks – though national parks have become victims of much the same crowding, hurry and urgency as the freeways. I am eager to find our house on wheels and have the ability to sit for weeks at a time amidst the seldom-visited beauty of this land.
  • I have noticed that it is very difficult to remain mindful and conscious in the midst of travel. The “destination complex” takes over and life becomes about going from one place to another. Fatigue dulls the attention and the conditioned mind slips into the spaces, generating fearful thoughts. Rest breaks throughout the day are important, and space at the end of the day for decompression is essential.
  • I have noticed that a sense of gratitude is forming within me for the lessons I am learning so late in life. Freedom, simplicity, and joy are not pipe dreams, they are waiting for us to wake up and step into their presence, regardless of circumstance.

The revolution is going to take so many unique forms. Look for your own part to play. Obstruct the machine! Disobey the cultural rules! Do the unexpected! Step off! Be simple, joyful, and free!

On The Road

krp2WZD9SPmi5e8U10blbQThis photograph shows Nancy alongside our faithful Subaru Outback which is packed to its limits with our possessions. It sits at the bottom of the driveway to the house in Mount Shasta that we have enjoyed renting for the past three years. When I get back in the car, start the engine, and turn right out of the driveway we will be entering unexplored territory.

It has not been an easy few weeks. A couple of days ago I completely fell apart. Overwhelmed by an attack from my internal chorus of critics who informed me that I was irresponsible; that I always had been irresponsible; that I was ignorant of what I was doing; that I could not succeed at this transition; and that, in general, I was a complete idiot. I sat and sobbed harder than I can remember ever doing. Nancy sat with her hand on my back while I let all this venom pass through me.

On the other side of the intense pain, life began to open up again as we remembered all the authentic energy and flow that has been guiding us along this path for so many years. We realized that most of our difficulty arose from the unconscious attempt to continue to carry assumptions about what we needed to have and what images of ourselves we needed to retain in order to be, “OK.”

We have dear friends who live in Portugal and have often invited us to travel and visit  them. They are establishing a life in a culture that is completely foreign to them and we often think, “Wouldn’t that be something!” As I recovered from my mini-breakdown, Nancy had the image, “What if we were actually going to Portugal to start our new life, entirely from scratch in an unfamiliar culture? What would we take with us?”

This insight led us to rearrange our “stuff” and lighten the load considerably. Some went to a small storage room that we are using for keepsakes that we will revisit next spring. Some went to the thrift store. Some joined the furniture and other useful items we left  for the evacuee family who is moving in. Suddenly it all fit. We felt “good to go.”

I am reminded of the classic scene from Peter Jackson’s wonderful film presentation of Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring. At the beginning of the film, Bilbo has to leave the “Ring” behind and he is extremely reluctant to do so, even though he knows he must. He stands in the doorway and lets the Ring slowly slide from his palm. It hits the floor with an unnatural, “Thud!” Bilbo goes out the door and stands in a moment of pain, then his face clears and he realizes that a great burden has been lifted. Down the road he goes with his pack on his back, lightness and freedom in his step,  and a song on his lips – “The road goes ever on and on …”

If you have similar “voices of judgment” ingrained within your mind, and I’ll wager you do, you understand just how powerful their full-on assaults can be. It helps to remember that, the more intense the assault, the more desperate the fear these voices have that they will lose their hold on your life. Don’t give in to them. Freedom may be just a good cry away.

So, my friends, Will and Nancy are, “on the road.” Our first stop will be a few days with some good friends in the Chico area. Then we will make our way slowly to southern Arizona to join our son and his family for the holidays – to relax and to begin the search for our “home on wheels.” Our load is light, our destination is a mystery, and our song is one of freedom and joy. I am glad you are sharing the road with us and I will keep you posted on the thoughts that arise in me.