Do you feel marginalized as you age? I do.

Perhaps you’ve heard about a new article in The Atlantic by Science journalist Ed Yong entitled:

“The Final Pandemic Betrayal.” Mr. Yong won the Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Reporting for this “series of lucid, definitive pieces on the COVID-19 pandemic that anticipated the course of the disease, synthesized the complex challenges the country faced, illuminated the U.S. government’s failures and provided clear and accessible context for the scientific and human challenges it posed.

The subtitle of Mr. Yong’s latest article from April 2022 is:

“Millions of people are still mourning loved ones lost to COVID, their grief intensified, prolonged, and even denied by the politics of the pandemic.” I saw an interview with him this week that really hit home for me. At least nine million of us have lost someone we knew and cared for and yet it seems we just go on, ignoring the tremendous losses to so many. In just two years, COVID became the third most common cause of death in the U.S., which means that it is also the third leading cause of grief.

“Each American who has died of COVID has left an average of nine close relatives bereaved, creating a community of grievers larger than the population of all but 11 states. Under normal circumstances, 10% of bereaved people would be expected to develop prolonged grief, which is unusually intense, incapacitating, and persistent. But for COVID grievers, that proportion may be even higher, because the pandemic has ticked off so many risk factors.”

In his recent interview, Mr. Yong discussed what is for me the most important aspect of this horrible loss of life. The groups hardest hit were “marginalized” sections of our society. Who are they? The elderly, those chronically ill, the weakened, the brown, the black and low income groups who have less access to decent health care.

My experience in the past eight years, as I grow older and my own health declines, has been a movement from a “normal” person to one who definitely feels marginalized. First with the aging process we slowly become invisible in our culture, or worse, someone who should just get out of the way of the younger and more vital. Yes, it’s true some help me with doors and seem to feel some compassion for my difficult circumstances, but I have experienced a pulling away from others as I have become more disabled. I have found it almost impossible to make true friends in this rural area. It seems just about nobody believes I am worth their time and energy. I don’t think I would have believed it if I hadn’t experienced it myself.

In this way I have learned what “marginalized” means in this country. We have always put an emphasis on being healthy and able-bodied, and when I was also healthy I rarely noticed what happened to those who are not. Yes, I do have financial resources unlike so many Americans, but I do not live by bread alone. Thanks to those of you who have made an effort to welcome us here. And to the rest of you, I hope you don’t ever become elderly and need a friend.

Mid-May Colorado Foothills Garden Notes

At a little over 7,000 feet here in southern Colorado, buds are just beginning to pop out!

except for my crazy honeysuckle bush. She insists on flowering way too early!

The first flowers, the tiny irises and the Turkish Veronica, came out in the first week in May…

and our native penstemon and Catmint flowers soon followed.

I love the anticipation each spring. What will come out next and what have I forgotten I planted last summer?

Mostly I love sitting out in my garden in the early mornings, listening to the birds, watching the Rocky Mountain bluebirds feed their chicks, soaking in the sun’s warmth, and that unmistakable feeling of pure joy and peace. I find this to be the perfect antidote for the news and the general feeling of fear and anxiety in our world today…

I’m living one day at a time now. That is all we have.

A trip to Abiquiu New Mexico, May 2022

In what seems like ancient history now, soon after we met I took Mike down to Abiquiu, a tiny town in northern New Mexico. I loved it there and hoped he would feel the same…

This is the land of red rocks, cacti and Georgia O’Keefe’s Ghost Ranch…

When we visited in 2007 we decided to look for some land and start thinking about living there in our future. We even choose a piece of land, but then decided to reconsider.

Eventually, on one of our many trips over to see my brother in Durango, we decided we like it better up here in southern Colorado, with its wonderful open skies and spectacular views of the Sangre de Cristos. It’s certainly more moist here too!

On this trip I found the area around Abiquiu so dry and dessicated. We were both glad we didn’t choose to move there. The climate in this area is certainly changing. It is getting drier every year. Glad we chose a cooler, wetter place to put down roots for the last time.

In spite of smoke coming up from the New Mexican wildfires, our new Rocky Mountain Bluebird family seems to agree!

Spring Gardening in the Colorado Foothills

I truly do pity those who don’t have a garden to observe in the spring! Every new day is an adventure out there. I put in new perennials every year and so I must then remember where I put what, and go out and see what made it through the winter. Sometimes very subtle signs at first!

My earliest bloomer this spring were some miniature irises. Regular irises to bloom later in May or early June…

The irises even beat the tiny creeping thyme flowers (Turkish Veronica) this year!

We had a small but wonderful rain last night and so all the plants look refreshed and ready to thrive...

…and the rain also cleared the smoke out of our skies for a lovely view of the Sangre de Cristos this morning!

Mike’s been busy with his new welder too. He made a cute, little wiener dog puppy for me yesterday!

Aging, Imaginary Friends & Transcendence

I mean, what could be more natural? Throughout human history and certainly since each of us first started attempting to create ‘relationships’, we have naturally projected our own needs, desires, and preferences onto anyone around we found handy and appealing. But reality can be so harsh. If we spend time to get to know our latest “possible friend material”, it’s always disappointing. “Oh no, this is just one more flawed, imperfect, lost soul. Damn, I thought I’d found someone more together than me.”

Then AI comes along and before long we had some fascinating new ways of (mis)communicating. Artificial-intelligence gone wild! Spring break for cheaters! Open season on imagining anything or anyone and then hoping for the best!

Databases like Facebook and most dating sites made it much easier to imagine others’ lives instead of bothering to get to know them… at all! Imagine projecting across the globe and so easily. It may well bring one of our worst traits to the surface, and then convince us that we have scads of imaginary friends. Oh well. I guess that beats no friends at all 😦

I marvel at the apparent power of Facebook. After decades of wondering (or not) we connect to a few we just barely recognized in high school, but back then most of us were too scared, self-conscious or self-absorbed to get to know anyone else. Or maybe just too high… I remember my high school self as a unique combination of shrinking violet and wallflower with just a hint of enforced invisibility. For me, being in public was painful, unless I was ice skating.

Don’t worry, high school was just the pupa stage. We got much better!

Sometimes I like to compare our lifecycle to that of the butterfly. One of the reasons I enjoy this image is that it means that we were only pupa in high school and college, coming out of our pupa in midlife, and we’re now moving into our full butterfly stage, as free and beautiful as we will ever be! One thing is for sure, we are just about as authentic as we are ever going to be now.

I find that transcendent…

Such a refreshing perspective!
“I had to go through so much just to be here now.
That makes me feel so proud of myself!
I can’t believe I made it so far!”

Postscript: Perhaps death is such a relief because there is truly nothing else to go wrong.

The worst case scenario just arrived!

Aging & Accepting New Limits…

I am ever amazed at the distance between knowing how much my health has changed and accepting those new limits. In the past seven years I have gone from a healthy 60-year-old to one who needs supplemental oxygen to breath and help with balance and stability while walking. My highest priority now is to not fall again and suffer another head injury. I’ve already had one traumatic brain injury and several serious concussions.

Acceptance releases everything to be what it already is.

On my birthday this year I learned in no uncertain terms that I cannot walk more than a few blocks, and that is with balance assistance at all times. I have been an avid walker my whole life. I would love to know how many miles I have walked in my 65+ years. I was inspired by Thoreau’s essay on “The fine art of sauntering.”

Walking was always my best way to contemplate my doubts and troubles. If I was upset I would go for a long walk along the Big Thompson River in Loveland, or around my neighborhood in Fort Collins. There I worked things out in my mind.

This is not an option now. I fell down in my garden a couple years ago and split my upper lip badly. Even short walks are out of the question, even if Mike is there to help. I am depressed and frustrated with this change in my lifestyle, and acceptance has never been my forte. I am one stubborn person!

However, I heard something the other day which stuck with me. It was about how we may decide to focus and go deeper into our spirituality when our physical abilities wane. This has already happened to some extent, because I’m that kind of person and I am stuck inside most of the time.

Luckily I have a phenomenal view from my bed, an 180 degree view of the Sangre de Cristos!

OK, I guess I can live with this.