Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Aside from swollen knees, shrunken bladders, and a host of other maladies I'd just as soon not go into, one of the most disconcerting aspects of aging is growing invisibility. As a phenom, I first learned about it in Ralph Ellison's famous novel, Invisible Man, but his claim is race-based--that Blacks are, to most of white society, invisible.

That was book learning--and this white man would be the first to admit that what I feel is not the same. But I remember one Sunday morning ten years ago already, when a young family walked into church, three or four kids behind Mom and Dad, and how I felt clobbered by the realization that this institution--this church--wasn't really about me anymore, but about them, about the young. Odd feeling. It wasn't envy that crept into me; didn't even feel like much of a sin, in fact, just a kind of sharp realization. Just true.

I feel it more and more, it seems, every year--or maybe I'm just conscious of it at times like these when hoardes of young people descend on campus. Invisibility. You get older, the thinner you become, in an odd kind of anthropoligical way.

Maybe that's why I loved this morning's poem from the Writer's Almanac.

Straightpins by Jo McDougall
Growing up in a small town,
we didn't notice
the background figures of our lives,
gray men, gnarled women,
dropping from us silently
like straightpins to a dressmaker's floor.
The old did not die
but simply vanished
like discs of snow on our tongues.
We knew nothing then of nothingness
or pain or loss--
our days filled with open fields,
turtles and cows.
One day we noticed
Death has a musty breath,
that some we loved
died dreadfully,
that dying
sometimes takes time.
Now, standing in a supermarket line
or easing out of a parking lot,
we realize
we've become the hazy backgrounds
of younger lives.
How long has it been,
we ask no one in particular,
since we've seen a turtle
or a cow?
from Satisfied with Havoc. (c) Autumn House Press, 2004.

Yeah. Sheesh, I wish I'd written that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Eastern Box Turtle grows old gracefully,some for decades, even to an age of eighty. All that time its hard carapace (shell) and its plastron ("skidplate") protect it when threatened. It really knows when to "clam up." (See Wikipedia article.)