Harvesting – Part One
“Natural Wisdom seems to suggest that the way you are toward your life is the way that your life will be toward you.” Fr. John O’Donohue
Father John O’Donohue was described to me as a “very” Irish priest. That was the opening line my friend used to begin to talk about Father O’Donohue’s book, Anam Cara. I have an interest in Celtic Wisdom, but hadn’t explored it to any great extent. This conversation gave me a reason to acquire the book and begin reading.
At the time, it was simply something else for me to explore. I had no ‘end game’ that I would write about any of it. But, here I am, writing about it. That is because I hope that you who read my posts will find value in the journey I will take you on because you are there (the autumn of your life), or, there is value for you if you are in the ‘spring’ or ‘summer’ of your life; because, one day, you will be in the autumn of your life and searching for a perspective that helps you to be less anxious.
Thank you for your comments and encouragement about my piece(s) on Courage. It always helps me to know what has meaning for you.
Do your best and be well…
I don’t remember when I first began to entertain the notion that I was getting older. I’m sure it was sometime in my mid-40’s. At that point it was simply that, a ‘notion’. I happen to be blessed with a mother that taught me good nutrition, and coaches that gave me an appreciation for taking care of my body – diet and exercise.
I had prostate cancer at 57 and that gave me real ‘pause’ about ‘getting older’. That ‘pause’ was larger than the ‘notion’ I had earlier. My 60th birthday gave me a greater ‘pause’, a pause that took me until I was 61 to ‘get over’. It really wasn’t ‘getting over’ as much as getting ‘used to’ that the guy with the wrinkles I was shaving every morning was indeed getting older. While I may not have been happy about the experience of aging, I found a reasonable way to look at it. The saving grace was that into my early 60’s I was still very active and although I couldn’t hit a golf ball as far, nor run as fast or far, I was doing many of the same things I had always done.
At 64 I noticed some additional pain in my right knee. Not severe, and not all the time, but noticeable. By 65 it was noticeable enough for me to seek a professional opinion. After reviewing the pictures, he announced, “Welcome to knees over 60! You have arthritis in both knees.” (I was aware of only one of my knees hurting at the time.) Ugh! He proceeded to share with me what the progress of the arthritis would be, and what they could do about it. “We can inject your knees with a steroid, we can give you an anti-inflammatory, etc., etc., and finally we can give you a new artificial knee. Whether this process takes one year or four or five, eventually you will need new knees.”
This was kind of a ‘stop in your tracks’ moment. My thinking about getting older went from ‘notion’ to ‘pause’ to ‘oh ______, I’m here, I’m old!
I share this with you as background because the frame of reference (FOR) is helpful to the transition. Increasingly since 57 I have spent time thinking about getting older. Most of my thinking has been from a perspective of loss. In my youth, and all of my adult life, my FOR was about producing- physically, mentally, emotionally, even spiritually. It was about doing, living out my purpose; although I increasingly took time in my 40’s for just ‘being.’
I was thumbing through the TOC of Anam Cara (which means “Soul Friend”), with chapters such as: “The Mystery of Friendship”, “Toward a Spirituality of the Senses”, “Solitude is Luminous”, “Work as Poetics of Growth”, when I came upon, “Aging: The Beauty of The Inner Harvest”. I stopped there thinking this book doesn’t require that it be read sequentially, so let’s start here.
O’Donohue’s initial reminder was that all life is a circle/cycle, even our breath – we breathe in and then we breathe out. We have Spring (birth of that which is around us), Summer (growth), Autumn (harvest), and Winter (death). The year, the seasons, our lives, move from one place to the next place. Was that a ‘golden nugget’ for me? No. Just reinforced learning in a different context – my life.
Coming from Spring and Summer was all about producing and growing. It was that FOR that had me resisting, and then resenting getting older. It was that FOR that had me thinking more about what I ‘wasn’t’ able to do. The fact that the pace of the loss of physical capabilities, and some mental, was increasing was discouraging – “I want to spend more time in ‘summer’ was my desire.” Who wouldn’t!
My mother died in the early autumn of her life (59). I have no way of knowing if she instinctively, during the process of dying, began to harvest her days. I have been given the gift of accumulating more days, more experiences. I will sit with the notion of ‘harvesting’ as a lens for the present and future. Harvesting has, for me, a richness to its sound. I think about the cycle of farming and the frenetic pace of the spring and early summer; the harvest of fall, and then a moment to pause, to reflect if we choose. Well, the ‘harvesting’ of my life’s experiences has a chance to bring back so many experiences that will add to the richness of my life. O’Donohue writes: “The Celtic stories suggest that time as the rhythm of soul has an eternal dimension where everything is gathered and minded. Here nothing is lost. This is a great consolation: The happenings in your life do not disappear. Nothing is ever lost or forgotten. Everything is stored within your soul in the temple of memory.”
So, what if I think of this time as “harvest” and not a period of decay and preparation for death, but a period of enhancing my life; a place of greater peace and calm. What will that look like? How do statements like, “You reap what you sow” apply in my life? My suspicion is that as I explore more of this notion of ‘harvest’ I will find all kinds of nuance to it. I will report back in the next post(s) what I am learning, and hope that in that sharing you too can find a ‘reference and perspective’ for your life that enables you to either have a new perspective of your future, or provide you a perspective for where you are now.
To a better you…
What is so good about growing old