Showing posts with label turning 80. Show all posts
Showing posts with label turning 80. Show all posts

Friday, December 26, 2014


Glade jul by Viggo Johansen
The Cultivation of Christmas Trees - T S Eliot

There are several attitudes towards Christmas,
Some of which we may disregard:
The social, the torpid, the patently commercial,
The rowdy (the pubs being open till midnight),
And the childish — which is not that of the child
For whom the candle is a star, and the gilded angel
Spreading its wings at the summit of the tree
Is not only a decoration, but an angel.

The child wonders at the Christmas Tree:
Let him continue in the spirit of wonder
At the Feast as an event not accepted as a pretext;
So that the glittering rapture, the amazement
Of the first-remembered Christmas Tree,
So that the surprises, delight in new possessions
(Each one with its peculiar and exciting smell),
The expectation of the goose or turkey
And the expected awe on its appearance,

So that the reverence and the gaiety
May not be forgotten in later experience,
In the bored habituation, the fatigue, the tedium,
The awareness of death, the consciousness of failure,
Or in the piety of the convert
Which may be tainted with a self-conceit
Displeasing to God and disrespectful to children
(And here I remember also with gratitude
St. Lucy, her carol, and her crown of fire):

So that before the end, the eightieth Christmas
(By “eightieth” meaning whichever is last)
The accumulated memories of annual emotion
May be concentrated into a great joy
Which shall be also a great fear, as on the occasion
When fear came upon every soul:
Because the beginning shall remind us of the end
And the first coming of the second coming.
The final verse especially resonates with me, since I turned 80 on my last birthday. One tends to ponder beginnings and ends and comings and goings.  Turning 70 was absolutely liberating for me, because I felt free to release my eccentric inner self.  Of course, some might say the eccentricity was freed long before, and I wouldn't quarrel with them.  Turning 75 was a landmark, reaching three quarters of a century (Amazing!), but marked no great change otherwise.  Turning 80 was momentous, awesome, a gift, three score and twenty, but also accompanied by the consciousness of limitations that increase, even if one ages well and remains in relatively good mental and physical health.
The days of our life are seventy years,
   or perhaps eighty, if we are strong;
even then their span is only toil and trouble;
   they are soon gone, and we fly away. 

(Psalm 90:10)
And that, my readers, made me laugh.

Note: Maria Popove at Brainpickings tells of her discovery of a copy of the first American edition of the last of Eliot's Ariel pamphlets, and posts pictures of the pamphlet.  A lovely edition it is, indeed.

Image from Wikipedia.

Monday, April 14, 2014


Even as I resist and lament
Assorted aches and pains,
Energy reduced, senses diminished,
Failing memory,

World grown smaller,
Walls closing in
As the days and hours pass
In a life nearing the ninth decade,

I remember the many
Who never grow old,
Whose lives are cut off
By untimely deaths,

And I welcome the turning
Of the decade as a gift
Not given to everyone,
And bow my head in gratitude.

(June Butler - 4/13/2014)