Maple, Dreaming

There lives this one tree to which I have bonded, this maple–outside the window over my desk, just beyond the green mailbox. It is deeply rooted in my life.

It stands for all the trees in all the world, an object lesson I can see, smell and taste: we make syrup in the early spring from its sap. Its constancy is reassuring in a world of change.

This always will not always be. The maple will remain–only for a time; I will move on before.

And so I made a point not long ago to pull up a chair at the edge of the dirt road and be in the cool quiet of its space for a settled hour.

This likeness, perhaps, some day, will bring me back to that shady spot, into maple dreaming.

Click here for larger image at Flickr.

Fit After Fifty

Once, briefly, I agreed to help promote an ebook about fitness in later life. For one reason or another, that project’s business model never gained altitude. I found this bit, which I’d written for that project, and thought maybe there was some value in it for a few of you.  

If you choose not to wade through this longish post but you’re interested in home exercise, go bookmark this extensive printable list of exercises. Warning: they will not help unless you DO THEM!


As a physical therapist, I worked with patients who had been injured because they were not fit for work. By that I mean that their abilities for lifting, carrying, reaching and repetitive motions were exceeded by the physical demands of their work in a furniture or textile or manufacturing job.

Hired off the street, with no conditioning or training for the hard work (for which they were commonly paid a very low wage) their muscles and joints, bones and ligaments had never been trained to safely tolerate the essential physical demands of their work. Small wonder there were so many musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace.

Sending naive novices into demanding physical work was like taking sedentary, deconditioned middle-aged people at random, putting them in shoulder pads and helmets and sending them into the lineup of the Miami Dolphins for a full-contact football game. Of course they got hurt at work!

My job for the injured worker was to ergonomically assess the physical requirements of the workplace, and then work-harden the patient as an “industrial athlete” so that when released from the rehab program, they would be “fit for work.”

It was gratifying for them as well as for their caregivers to see how responsive their bodies were to training. Their bones, joints, muscles, ligaments and movement centers in the brain and spinal cord had incredible powers to adapt to the lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling we trained them to do safely.

I’m retired from that kind of work now, but think not infrequently about the goodness of fit between what people my age want and need to do and their waning assets of strength, flexibility, endurance and agility that once kept them playing golf and racquetball, body surfing, and playing chase with the grandkids.

When abilities are exceeded by demands, risk of injury increases. Knowing that, and given the fear of falls and resulting dependency, many in their fifties and especially later decades just avoid the kinds of outdoor and sports-related pleasures that would be possible if they were only safely and comfortably capable of doing what they once enjoyed.

The demands of life may grow less regular and less strenuous after retirement. This more laid-back and relatively inactive way of life may bring risks of weight gain, loss of muscle mass and strength, decreased stamina and diminished balance. These are just the kinds of factors that may lead to a fall or heart attack, diabetes, or other loss of independence and health that retirees want to avoid.

When abilities are exceeded by demands, risk of injury increases.
I’m one of those who left city life, tennis courts and swimming pools behind, opting for the country life—not a surprising choice for a tree-hugging naturalist. Now, time that belongs to me to do with what I choose. Mostly out of sheer inattention to my physical state, I run the future risk of not having the ability to do those things that have given my life meaning: gardening, cutting and splitting firewood, cavorting in the stream with the dog and hiking several times a week to the tops of our ridges.

As a matter of fact, and even though I’d not admit it to my wife, I have noticed only in the past couple of months that getting up after kneeling or squatting—a daily habit and necessity for a vegetable gardener and woodsman—is starting to take intentional concentration and effort, and sometimes, requiring me to pull up with no small effort on a fence or tree branch.

That’s not okay with me. I need to make changes now. And I take encouragement from the life stories of others who describe their return to meaningful active lives in the ebook  (whose publication may or may not have happened. FF)

I’ll have to say that what I had failed to do until I read this book was to look the devil of declining ability straight in the eye. I had not resolved to take measures like these nine individuals have taken to reclaim control of physical competencies. I will take an active part to regain the abilities that are not yet out of reach, if only I just consistently do what I know I need to do.

Your goal does not need to be joining a gym or taking up a sport. For some of us, it can simply be the discipline of a walking or home fitness program that is consistent and progressive and safe. Such programs are easy to find and implement. I may have more to say about that in a future discussion.

I can’t over-emphasize how important motivational stories are. We are moved by personal fit-after-fifty narratives of people in our age groups–personal stories of men and women not that different from ourselves who had lost their fitness—due to neglect, accident, illness or emotional or physical tragedy in their lives. Their stories tell us that, once they determine to get it back, they do it!

There is a biology of motivation. Understanding how it is built and knowing the thrill of its energy, we are drawn to be a part of that flow.

The small cost of this impressive ebook with embedded videos is less than a day’s-worth of most blood pressure, cholesterol or anti-anxiety medications.

If you are close-but-not-quite ready to take action towards reclaiming fitness for the rest of life, do the best thing you can do, and do it now. Order, then act on the messages from this book. And then send your success story, plus the link below, to those you love, so that they can stay safely and enjoyably engaged, fit for work and play, productive and active well into their fifties and beyond.

And if you order by midnight tonight, you also get these AMAZING knives that cut through plate steel, Box Car Willy’s Greatest Hits, and a lifetime subscription to the incredible hit website, Fragments from Floyd! You deserve all this if you’ve read this far.

Time: The Doppler Effect

I’m still debriefing from the West Virginia trip that began almost two weeks ago. It was an anticipated event I watched on the calendar as it came closer and closer.

It was briefly time under my own feet in the now two weeks back. Now, it recedes farther and farther into “the past” and I’m still trying to be present by this revisiting in those moments not fully appreciated when they were present moments–too close to see clearly like an object that needs to be held at arm’s length to bring it into focus.

Time does indeed seem to flow, to move towards and in the beat of a heart to speed away into the distance like a river torrent or a train whose speed and sound changes pitch as it approaches and departs.

And so what I’m experiencing today I think of as the temporal Doppler Effect. It makes for a nice metaphor–a poetic way of thinking about our fixed place (or so it seems) in Self through which time flows, coming and going.

Hmmm. This seems so obvious I wondered if this was an instance of so-called “original thought” and of course, the Internet is almost always quick to disabuse such hubris and show that our best ideas (even if originally conceived) are just the regurgitated cud of fellow sapients.

See for instance:

Events in the Future Seem Closer Than Those in the Past

As you may be aware, I could go on. But it’s Friday. Few pass by. Fewer stop. And this truncated and abstruse blog post merges with the great cosmic stream of verbiage and babble that is the background noise of our times, its pitch falling as it moves away.

IMAGE CAPTION: Green and Amber ~  a small Blackwater River tributary flows cold and tea-colored below Blackwater State Park lodge. Click HERE to see larger image at Flickr.


Young Blood and The Thread of Life

Things come in threes and when they do, I start to see shapes in the clouds.

Creativity, after all, is putting together what already exists–often in some other person’s work or thoughts or writings–in novel ways to make them your own.

And while I no longer go to the trouble to spin such patterns into finished pieces for print or blog, I still spend more time than I probably should pursuing  the “story” that seems to lie at the end of those three clues. Three soon turns to a dozen, and by the end of the quest, having read that much on the same topic, I feel like it was worth my time. A short blog post may or may not pop up like a mushroom one morning.

And here it is,  a few words only–the above-ground part of a much larger creature not yet visible: the research on the secret to human aging and memory.

It’s sort of a hot topic these days, one, because there are so many of us experiencing our six and seventh and eighth decades and we notice we’re not in Kansas anymore. Why can’t we remember, digest, sleep, climb stairs, and stay up past eight? What the heck is happening, and can’t something be done to bring about a more vigorous decline?

And the second thing is that several lines of research and new kinds of tools are making it possible to understand aging (starting with the living model of yeast cells and mice). As often happens there are synergies among initially disparate lines of research where one investigation provides the AHA moment and tool for another in a country far away.

Things come in threes:

Klotho, a cell-bound enzyme coded for by a gene. If you have lots of it, you age better and keep your memory better than those who lack the gene. Klotho (or Clotho) was the Greek goddess who weaves together the thread of life. Genes now can be custom-created. Figure out where this is going.

And the tool to expedite a good bit of this research is called “*synthetic biology.” Hang onto your hats.

It has recently been learned that plasma transfusions from young mice can REVERSE biological markers of aging in old mice. Klotho may be involved, but there are other fountain-of-youth agents we will be hearing more about.

Lastly, in following my curiosity about melatonin which we take occasionally for sleep (the lack thereof one of the symptoms of our age) it turns out that this hormone from the pineal gland (but also produced widely in the body) has myriad bio-effects  that include a possible impact on aging.

* Synthetic biology can go a lot of different ways, but one of them would have “open source modular biology-building kits” widely available (hopefully among those who are careful and not evil) to do in short order what the university-driven patent process takes much much longer to bring about.

So while you’ve heard of longevity research for decades, the fruits of its labor may be available for your or your children’s aging brains and vessels and hearts and muscles.

The question remains: what are we going to do with 12 billion people 3/4s of whom are 70 or older?

There are fruits falling from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil faster than we can pick them up, much less ask the hard, far-term questions about taking a bite.

The term “engineering mentality” comes to mind, once defined as “If it can be done it should be done.” Now, there’s no should or ought. Those are judgments  that at least hint at a moral-ethical filter. I’d say this mentality in our times says “If it can be done, it WILL be done.”

So just get out of the way while the script is being written. The Matrix meets Frankenstein meets Terminator in the office of the NSA. Interesting times we live in, and maybe live LONG LONG LONG.

BBC News – New blood ‘recharges old brain’, mouse study suggests

Brain-Boosting Hormone Improves Cognitive Function : Shots – Health News : NPR

Will Synthetic Biology Evolve Into the Next Hot Field? |

Methuselah Foundation

Melatonin – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Never Forever

The way things are can take on illusion of permanence. All permanence within nature is a fiction.

I remember as a very young man lying on my back in the cool shade of a sandstone ledge , its massive brow  sheltering me exactly as it would have another man ten thousand years before.  I took comfort in its stony immutability.

I held that thought as the shadows lengthened that summer afternoon, hands clasped behind my head, until a grain of sand fell on my cheek; then another. And with those few grains of mountain on my skin, the illusion of permanence ended.

Those bits of sand made their way to an ocean beach as the massive ledge disappeared, bits of it falling through my now –the constricted neck of the hourglass–while time, passing, made the lie of forever.

That lesson was made more firm when we stood recently on what Katrina left–the floor of the sleeping porch and all that remained of my wife’s home place–a forever part of her growing up.


And standing amidst the nothing of what had once been everything– just then the fiction of my own forever places touched my cheek.

This place on the creek so central to our narrow now will not persist indefinitely.

A storm, a fire, or simple neglect will, in an hour or a century, bring to an end all resemblance of our so-familiar every-day footprint of our less-than-eternal home.

A short bit of standing chimney in the tangle of vines and saplings may mark out place for a time, but that too will give way to grains of sand. And Goose Creek will carry away our firmament to the sea.

And so it goes.