GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

October 3, 2013

Insights and Outbursts: Living in the present moment

Insights and Outbursts
Eileen Ford

---- — When I moved to Rockport in 1986, a friend gave me a plaque with the following wisdom:

“Yesterday is but a dream, and tomorrow is only a vision, but today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope.” (Author unknown)

I love to read and, once I discovered the work of Mary Pipher, enjoyed several of her books including “Seeking Peace: Chronicles of the Worst Buddhist in the World,” “Letters to a Young Therapist (Art of Mentoring) and “The Green Boat: Reviving Ourselves in Our Capsized Culture.” I’m currently reading “Another Country; Navigating the emotional terrain of our elders.”

An internationally known psychologist, author and lecturer, Pipher has a way of describing life situations that readers often recognize as terrain they’re either already traveling or rapidly approaching.

Almost 20 years ago, at the age of 60, I made my first “Elderhostel” (now called Road Scholar) program – downhill skiing at Sunday River in Maine – and described it as a “second childhood, even better than the first.”

As I prepared last week to leave for my 46th Elderhostel program, “Celebrating the Autumn Tapestry and History of New Hampshire,” I looked forward to being with active people, but realized that 20 years ago, I was what Mary Pipher calls “young-old,” but now am moving to “old-old.”

I’m still healthy, able to travel and participate in enjoyable activities, but as I watch old friends, neighbors and acquaintances fade away, I wonder at times about my own future.

One thing that helps is a gifted therapist/friend I’ve talked to for years, sharing both the highs and lows in my life with her. Talking to someone I trust has always been the best medicine for me.

My favorite time of the day is early morning, before I turn on the radio, TV or computer. A brand new day, it’s a time to begin again, a peaceful time, beginning with a cup of tea at my kitchen table as I watch the sun rise high above the trees around the Mill Pond.

In the summer, Black Crowned Night Herons poised on the branches of fallen trees fly to higher perches and later in the day, a Great Blue Heron often arrives on the pond. As I write, Mallard Ducks have returned, five or six at a time but soon the sky will be filled with them gliding in like a military squadron with flaps down.

In the summer, before the heat of the day sets in, I often walk from the north end of Back Beach to the tip of Bearskin Neck, then back through Millbrook Meadow to my home on King Street.

Another favorite walk is along the Backshore of Gloucester, and one of the reasons I do my laundry at Nino’s is that the wash cycle gives me about 30 minutes to walk in that area.

Several weeks ago, I walked past Good Harbor Beach, up the hill and down to a granite bench at one end of Atlantic Road. It’s my “meditation stop,” a place to sit and enjoy the scenery before returning to the laundromat.

As I watched the lobster boats offshore that morning, a baby rabbit came out of the brush and began nibbling the grass near me. If I moved, he hopped away, but when I sat there motionless, he returned and for several minutes, we enjoyed the same space — me sitting quietly as he concentrated on eating.

Eventually, I had to move but as I walked back to Nino’s, was grateful, not only for the exercise, but for a few peace-filled moments spent with a creature who was either too young to fear or too hungry to care.

With a little help from my friends, animal and human, I’m learning to savor the quiet times in my life as much as the physical activities I enjoy so much and appreciate the wisdom of living in the present moment.

It’s really all any of us have, regardless of age.

Eileen Ford lives in Rockport and is a regular Times columnist.