Ripen against the Grain

by evoker on October 13, 2016

in Ripening and aging well

slieve-l-6I did an un-American thing last month. I went on a 33-day trip to Wales, England and, mainly, Ireland. I walked the hills and listened to music and drifted and did nothing to add to the U.S. GDP. It was enriching. I slowed down to a crawl, and had no goals except to enjoy the current day with my wife, Patti. I saw amazing sights, like the sunset posted here, off of Slieve League, a cliffy sea coast in Donegal that yields spectacular views as the light plays over the ocean, across the clouds, and glances off the steep inclines of slanted land.

I turn 68 this month and I am ripening, a cool metaphor for aging into the later years of life. Aging is not a word preferred by many of us who are in the process of getting old, since it equates us with decline instead of vitality. Ripening sounds like a good thing—who wants to eat unripe fruit? Our fascination with youth, or looking back to our pre-50 years as our peak years, is a fascination with the still-green fruit of our lives, fruit that is forming magnificently perhaps, but not fully ripe for sure.  So these later years are the harvest years.

As I ripen I go against the grain of mid-life going-for-it, the kind of going-for-it that I used to love, and that is age-appropriate in large measure. But it also makes for lop-sided lives of unbalanced people, with lots of activity and maybe money, but not enough time and not enough meaning

In the meantime, let’s keep going against the grain. Especially let me say to the boomers, the ones who need the message like I do—don’t feel guilty about slowing down and going fallow. There is life purpose outside of production. We can admire hard work, but let’s equally admire long fruitless play. I like seeing older people busy and active in their ripening decades—many still want to work and produce, as they should. But I also like the against the grain, un-American, non GDP-adding activities of naps when you want to take them, playing with your dog, being idle and just being, maybe mindfully and maybe in a daydream.

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