by Helen DePrima
Little remains; but every hour is savedFrom that eternal silence, something more,A bringer of new things . . .Made weak by time and fate, but strong in willTo strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Passing my 75th birthday has made me recall my favorite poem from high school, Tennyson’s Ulysses. I can’t recall why such a work on aging appealed to me, just starting out in life – maybe because I was raised by grandparents already in their mid-sixties by the time I was born. My grandmother performed calisthenics every morning before ladies were supposed to exercise, and I can remember her weeding and digging in her flower garden even though she was terrified of snakes. My grandfather had been lamed years before driving a runaway horse, but he still managed to hobble to the porch to yell at my cousins and me as we raced our horses down the long driveway, pretending to be Roy Rogers or the Lone Ranger and swinging up onto low limbs as we rode underneath.
Later, as a Visiting Nurse in the Colorado Rockies, I cared for many elders who faced their infirmities with amazing humor and fortitude, shining examples of how to stare down time like steely-eyed gunfighters on a dusty street. I hope I’ll show the same courage if I ever need care to survive.
Okay, hiking now entails many stops to catch my breath and careful scrutiny of every tricky rock and root, but I always make it to the top. (Even if I beg to be left to molder there rather than face the trek back down.) I don’t run the rapids any longer, but I can still paddle my canoe – my J-stroke is a thing of beauty and gliding in silence across a quiet lake requires its own special talent. In winter, I shovel snow and haul wood on my sled. When spring finally comes, I’ll be digging my garden and pitching mulch off the back of my truck, trundling rocks to build stone walls and constructing trellises and fences from saplings I’ll cut from our woodlot.
I guess the trick to aging is never to bemoan abilities lost but rather to celebrate what’s still possible. Seventy-five? That’s just late middle age.
by Liz Flaherty
We're on different pages this week--my fault--so don't even question why our posts are totally unrelated. I just hope you enjoy them both!
My friend Nan Reinhardt just read a manuscript for me. It is a story of my heart that has, admittedly, paid a visit over nearly every publisher’s transom in the business. It may never see the light of a reader’s day, but I love every single word of it. Any suggestion of cutting or changing meets with a gasp of outrage that, thankfully enough, no one hears but me. Nan, who’s not only an author with Tule, but a copy editor as well, liked my story. A lot. Gave me all kinds of good feels and atta girls when we talked about it.
Then she said, and I quote—well, okay, I paraphrase, “Good grief, woman, did you know you used the word though 111 times in this manuscript? I HATE the word though.”
And, yes, she does. I think she gets downright unreasonable about it, but even a dedicated though-user (that would be me) will admit that it’s possible that 111 times is too many.
Years ago, Mallory Braus, when editing One More Summer, mentioned how many times I’d used the word like. She suggested doing a global search, but at that time I didn’t even know what one of those was, so I went painstakingly through the manuscript—one more time—and took out at least half of them. There were still too many, and I think the book was much shorter.
I’m not going to talk about just or that. Let it suffice to say I may have been in trouble for them, too.
When I was in high school, in junior English / Literature, we read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. I hated it, but that’s neither here nor there. Our teacher mentioned at the outset that Hawthorne had used the word ignominy and its relatives very often. Sadly enough, I remember that word better than I do anything else. I’ve grown to like the story over the years, but never Hawthorne’s writing.
Besides overuse, there are some words I just don’t like. I don’t even have to have a reason. I despise the word quip and love grin, look for opportunities to use excruciating, but avoid luscious.
Last night at a writers' meeting, a new attendee named Tom Blackford had written a song. He is a former pastor, and his song was wonderful. Three words stuck with me: ...under the steeple..., and now I have a new phrase to add to my most loved words.
What about you? Do you have favorites or un-favorites?
Love both your posts.ReplyDelete
I work with a lot of older folks (70s, 80s, 90s) and the ones who stay active generally seem to be the ones who decide to stay active and do. They accomplish so much and are my role models. I also had a feisty great grandmother and want to be like her.
I also have to watch the use of the word "like." Though gets used so "but" won't be used as much. Maybe some writers don't have that issue, but perhaps some of us think in contrasting conditions--seeing both sides of a situation. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it). Global searches have helped identify a problem word. Ah...the travails of an author?
I truly think if "like" wasn't such a good word, we wouldn't use it so much, but there you go. :-) Thanks, Callie.Delete
Hi Callie -- One of my favorite patients was a 93-year-old educator who had just completed her tenth book, the first time I heard, "If I rest, I rust." Another lady who recalled cattle drives and gunfights on Loveland's main street always protested her bath. Her mantra: "The bark protects the tree."Delete
Loved both these posts and different THOUGH they may be, they are as always thought-provoking. You’re an inspiration Helen, as I near 73 (!!) and Liz, don’t give up on that ms!ReplyDelete
I'll never give up on it, but it has been a challenge! :-)Delete
Good morning, Janice! Hey, being 73 ain't so bad, considering the alternative.ReplyDelete
Loved both posts. Helen you are a woman following in my father in law's footsteps. He lived to 92, painted his house at 75, took up tax preparation at 86 to help seniors citizens and was the golf pro at 88. He said " I keep doing so I can keep doing." When my dad turned 80 he announced he was a little sad because his life was half over, I wish that had been true!ReplyDelete
Liz keep presenting the treasured manuscript.....glad to know even published authors deal with stories loved only by them. THAT is my though.......
I don't think I want to try painting our house again, at least not the second story. I did clapboard the front dormers by myself, running up and down the ladder for every cut. I do love landscaping, the bigger the project the better. Can't wait to start playing with rocks again, but without crushing any more fingers.Delete
I suffer with "that," too. Or, I should say, my editor does. :-) Thanks for the encouragement!Delete
Helen, you remind me of my husband's grandmother, who at your age could walk me under the table. She lived to be 100. Enjoy!ReplyDelete
Liz, yes, like and just show up way too much in my drafts. Look is a big one. I would love some alternatives to laugh, chuckle, smile and grin. I don't find places to use them a lot, but I love words like brouhaha, serendipity, and big-wig.
My new favorite word is murmuration -- the swooping flight of large flocks of starlings.Delete
What a cool word, Helen. I like serendipity, too, Beth. My mother-in-law could work me under the table, too. And now it's my girls who can do it. I think maybe I have a lazy streak...Delete
Thanks to both of you for the posts. I like celebrations of life at any age and words of all kinds. I'm with Beth--laughing and chuckling can get old, but we want to keep our people having fun sometimes.ReplyDelete
I like them, too. Like Helen, I'm seeing bluebirds already. I always love that. Now I'm worried about laughing...Delete
Today's celebration: both the male and female bluebirds on my suet feeder, and my new Keurig due this afternoon.ReplyDelete
I love both of these posts! As for aging, this spring, I get to celebrate my step mother's wedding to a wonderful man who she's madly in love with. She's in her seventies and he's in his eighties and it makes me so happy that they've found each other, and that love can bloom at any age! She and I traveled to El Salvador together about ten years ago and she had way more energy than I did, so age is definitely just a number! Oh and overused words in my books? Ha! So many. Just. And. Though. It's a long list. Thank goodness for multiple rounds of edits to try to catch them!ReplyDelete
I love your stepmother’s story and wish them every happiness. Thanks for sharing it with us.Delete
I wish I could brag about my energy level, but I'll stack up well against anyone for stubbornness. Never quit, never give up.Delete
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