My blog is about aging and the creative life. On most days my own aging and my own creative life are unthought-about parts of myself, they’re just who I am, they’re everything I am and do. So I forget to reflect on them, I forget that this is why some of you drop in to my blog. Instead I write about other things that happen to take my fancy.
So—focus, Rachel, that’s the way! Let me tell you about my day and why the story of my day is automatically a story of me as an old person, and me as a creative person. (Many of you fit that description 50% or 100%, and so you’ll have your own version running through your head in parallel. I like that.)
We are what we do. So why do we do it? In our 80s and beyond, there’s an inevitable integrity to our days: it’s too late to kid ourselves that we have values out of sync with our habits.
Going to the gym because I’m an old poet
- Because I’m old, at 8:30am today, I walked to the gym for a Pump class.
- Because I’m me, I enjoy this particular class for its top-of-the-range instructor who combines lively music, personal idiosyncracies, and training that I trust. So it looks like an ordinary weights session but is anything but.
- As an old person, I can chat to friends beforehand, I can go half speed sometimes, I can do a bit of disco with the biceps and shoulder routines, I can fake it at the end when I’m pooped — and still get a good workout.
Another reason for enjoying this Pump class is the glorious building it’s in, Wellington’s Freyberg Pool Building. (I know! It’s not the first time I mention this beloved building and I dare say it won’t be the last.) On my way I skirt the Wellington Marina and lap up the combined aesthetic thrill of yachts to the left, little boat sheds to my right, and the Freyberg Pool building up front. Look what I saw today — blue bouncing from the sky behind me to the glass wall and down to the water. (See the photo at the top.)
Because I’m old I now seem to make a meal of every beautiful or odd visual flash to my eyes. Many old people report the same thing: we’re appreciating what we see, hear, and otherwise sense even more than we did when we were younger. It’s partly to do with not being in such a rush all the time. We have the luxury of time. Look at those blues! Look at those angles! Look at those shapes! And look at that parcel of blue wrapped by grey, as some morning cloud swoops in from the north.
An old writer goes to the GP and the hairdresser
Well, after Pump class I walked around the harbour on this beautiful sunny day. I saw a photography group staring into the water. I looked in and saw a criss-cross of chains below, and barnacled piles, and starfish and little fish. I didn’t take a photo because it seemed sort of mean to steal someone else’s image.
Then because I’m old I went to the GP for a flu injection.
- Because I’m human I had lunch in the public library
- Because I’m a writer I thought about a knotty problem in the play I’m writing
- Because I’m old, the play is based on interviews with eleven remarkable nonagenarians. I’m interested because one day I will be like them, and it will be different from being 82, that I know.
Then I had a haircut, because although I’m old, some hair keeps growing.
An old writer contemplates hyphens and adjectival phrases
On the way home I saw a sign saying “OVER 60 GINS IN-HOUSE COME IN AND TRY!!”
- Because I’m old, I thought they were offering me free gins. Tempting!
- Because I’m a writer, I thought about hyphens and the placement thereof.
- Because I’m old, I thought 2pm was a bit early for free gins.
Loving vitality and grace because I’m a person
Then I got home and looked out the window at our rampaging Tecomanthe Speciosa. It’s all or nothing with these plants. I took a photo intending to try and persuade a new gardener to come and help us. I love this plant for its glorious energy. Why? Because I’m old or because I’m a poet? Sorry, no idea.
After lunch I noticed my brown cat Ursula had arranged herself artistically among shadows below the table.
- Because I’m old I have a cat—I think.
- As I said, because I’m old I’m hyper-alert to beauty.
We are what we do: old age and the writing life
So that’s one little day in the life of an old person, moi (so far). It’s a pretty silly blog post but I’ve had fun doing this mini-analysis of the background reasons for doing what I did. It’s good to remind myself that — whether we like it or not — our actions reveal our values.
And I’ll get myself back on track, focusing more on strategies for achieving a good old age and the way we adapt our creative projects to encroaching old age — if at all! Maybe we don’t. What do you think, I wonder?