The Power of Presence

In my last post I wrote about the need for meaning at all stages of our lives, especially as we grow older and can’t jump in the way we used to. It strikes me how the oldest people in other corners of the world are so revered, no matter what their health status or disability–valued as witnesses, not only in the present, but for all they’ve seen, experienced, and hold in their hearts, even if the mind doesn’t tell the stories quite right anymore.

Would we have a safer, saner society if it were no longer rare to see older people sitting out on porches, in front of businesses, and on benches in parks, like they still do in Europe and so many other countries? How many things we fear these days wouldn’t happen if we didn’t have our oldest people marginalized in senior communities? They’re our watchers, the sitters, the ones who seem to be blankly gazing beyond this world, yet they track every movement in the neighborhood. Random child abductions, open-air drug deals, garage thefts- forget it!

Lately my mom has been lamenting that she doesn’t feel she’s helping me as much as I’m helping her, but I’ve noticed otherwise. Sure, I can’t delegate a complex task to her and leave the room, but she notices and reports on so many other things that no one else has time for:

-Which kinds of birds are in which places, what they’re eating, and how their populations are changing week to week, and season to season

-What the kids are doing on the corner while they wait for the schoolbus-She watches the flowers grow, and knows what they need before they show any signs of distress

-Subtle changes in her fellow memory care residents that she reports to CNA staff

-She notices that one of the our tires is low on air, and reminds me hourly to take care of it before there’s a blowout

I could go on, but would like to leave the final words to a great artist who said it much better than I ever could:

Katsushika Hokusai
Japanese artist, ukiyo-e painter and printmaker
of the Edo Period, (1760–1849)

Roger Keyes wrote the following poem to highlight the wise teachings of Hokusai. When I edited it for this post, I cut out two parts, where you see the elipses, so you may want to find this poem in its entirety and read it that way too.

Hokusai Says

Hokusai says Look carefully. He says pay attention, notice

He says keep looking, stay curious

He says there is no end to seeing

He says Look Forward to getting old

He says keep changing, you just get more who you really are

He says get stuck, accept it, repeat yourself

as long as it’s interesting

He says keep doing what you love

He says keep praying

He says everyone of us is a child, everyone of us is ancient…….

Everything lives inside us

He says live with the world inside you

He says it doesn’t matter if you draw, or write books

It doesn’t matter if you saw wood, or catch fish

It doesn’t matter if you sit at home and stare at the ants on your verandah

or the shadows of the trees and grasses in your garden

It matters that you care

It matters that you feel

It matters that you notice………

Edited poem, by Roger Keyes

Please check out the full version if you like the excerpt you saw here.

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