By Nancy Orans Eder, a member of Get Your Wordsworth
Everyone knows that life is short. But now that the 75th birthday is past, there are fewer days left than lived. There are fewer mornings at the gym feeling buoyant after an hour of waving free weights overhead and pulling heavier weights on machines. There are fewer times to hug and kiss my children and grandchildren. There are fewer sunsets to watch, fewer walks down Broadway, fewer dinners with friends and fewer concerts at Carnegie Hall.Fall is here and winter is on its back as the temperatures are dropping daily. Gardening is a favorite activity — my gym when not in the gym– digging up purple leafed ajuga and replanting it in another flowerbed. Fall with its dropping leaves and sandy leafed seedpods is the best time of the year for planting. This is the time to dig deep holes and fill them with onion shaped daffodil bulbs… promises that spring will bring its flowery miracles to bloom. I love the feel of the rich, moist hummusy earth between my fingers. I love the smell of the pungent rotting compost as it reveals fat juicy worms wriggling in an effort to dive deeper. The expanded bed of day lilies can be moved in clumps of earth to other places on the grounds only while I’m strong enough to dig and carry.
But other things also occupy the mind and spirit. Today marks my mother’s 100th birthday but she is no longer with us to commemorate the occasion. I’m now twenty five years younger than she would have been if she were still alive, but I’m still alive and kicking. The occasion is significant in many ways.
I think of all my mother gave to me… the joys of childhood, the excitement of independence, the awareness that she was always there for me when I needed her. She set a high standard and nourished by example and by showing affection. She was a thinker and a doer… working for civil rights…fighting for children’s rights…working at the U.N. well into her early 80s for political freedom. My mom was a creative person whose short stature at 5 ft. belied her outsized intellect. She went to Cuba and published articles about the place of women for the newspaper, The Daily World. She was a woman ahead of her time – an independent thinking well read woman who missed out being an attorney, a profession not really open to women in her day.
Now I’m alone with no mother and no partner. Never anticipated I would be unattached at this stage of life. I’ve gotten used to it. I find that I enjoy my own enthusiasm and accomplishments, and surprising myself, prefer to take on a task to completion on my own. While there is no one to discuss the pros and cons of decision making, no one is there to dismiss the idea or offer alternatives. I operate on my own initiative aware that the race to the finish line is straight ahead. Time is pressing like my digital clock where the numbers move all too quickly.
And so it follows that these days I sleep less, wake in the night more frequently and have ideas at 5:00 a.m. that propel me to action. There’s no time to lose. It is a sure thing knowing that more years have passed than there are years ahead. Who knows what’s in store. No one. I just know now that while I still feel strong, act decisively, express myself without worry and behave half my age with more courage than before, it’s time to act.
No time to lose. The city is offering “One in a Million Trees” for free. Will the Grounds Committee wake up and take notice. No time to lose. We must all agree and select trees for planting here. We must pick them up no later than a week from now. Action is needed. Consensus must be built. Holes must be dug and decisions must be made.
Nothing to lose. I decide to show my paintings and go so far as to put them up for sale. Risky? Sure. So what. I plunge into the process and have success. People are happy to see the color and forms and many even buy them. I am delighted to have so many more ‘children’ to admire…so much pleasure in the doing…so much color and light and recall from the experience of putting things down on paper. I feel I’ve captured something of the joy I feel. Isn’t that what life is meant for?
Nothing to lose, I suggest an idea which has been brewing and nothing going on… an intergenerational garden here at Morningside Gardens with wheelchair access for those in need. As an active Grounds Committee member, I push for a yes or no vote to go ahead with an initiative I started to create wheelchair accessible gardening at MHHC. I’ve found a beautiful design on the internet- red cedar beds. So I submit the idea for approval to MRHS and they endorse it with some money to back the promise. On to the Family Activities committee and enthusiasm abounds. Plans will push forward as designs are finalized and sites are discussed.
Nothing to lose, I plan a trip to Cuba. No time to wait for Obama to open the borders and destroy the embargo. Too much money to go on a tour, but not enough time to wait for the embargo to be lifted. I decide to go and devise a plan to encourage contact between children in Eliza’s Ballet Tech 4th grade class with a comparable group of children in Havana. I get wholehearted excitement generated in her school. Three teachers want to sign on to activate the art and writing ends of the project. The tour group must be persuaded. After a bit of stonewalling and threatening on my part to take the idea to another tour group, they too are committed. We’re on! They arrange for an after school program in Havana to foster the exchange of letter writing and art work back and forth.
The ideas are coming, the plans are flowing. Age is not a deterrent. Age is a stimulant. If not now, never. Push on. Plant the bulbs now for spring. Bring in free trees offered by the city. Start communication with our neighbors to the south. Start with the children.
Nothing to lose. Mom would be proud.