Tag Archives: age

On a High Sierra Hillside

On the side of a high-elevation hillside south of Lake Tahoe stands the weathered remains of an old building. It tries to hide itself from the road, and could easily be passed by (much like an old gentleman sitting on a park bench) without anyone taking notice or stopping to pay respects.  Being possessed of a few  years myself, it caught my eye and I was forced to stop for a closer look.

Just as the old gentleman doesn’t really seem to begrudge the advancing years in themselves, I don’t think that this building does, either.  It can reflect back on earlier days when it stood tall and strong, resisting the winds of life that beat upon it mercilessly, the cold of the winter and the heat of the summer sun.  Now, bent and buckling with the weight of the years, it is still standing…and it is still proud.

In the fall of life, it is important to be able to look back and celebrate not just what was, but what is yet to come.  There is an appointed season of rest when other young bucks pick up the banner and charge into the fray full of life and vigor.

I find myself now, like this building…less than I was, yet content with what I am and what has happened in my time.  I have no regrets.  And that is a blessing.

PB260352ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1942, Enrico Fermi, the Italian-born Nobel Prize-winning physicist, directed and controlled (thank goodness!) the first nuclear chain reaction in his laboratory beneath the bleachers of Stagg Field at the University of Chicago, ushering in the nuclear age. Upon succesful completion of the experiment, a coded message was transmitted to President Roosevelt: “The Italian navigator has landed in the new world.”

Following on England’s Sir James Chadwick’s discovery of the neutron and the Curies’ production of artificial radioactivity, Fermi, a full-time professor of physics at the University of Florence, focused his work on producing radioactivity by manipulating the speed of neutrons derived from radioactive beryllium. Further similar experimentation with other elements, including uranium 92, produced new radioactive substances; Fermi’s colleagues believed he had created a new “transuranic” element with an atomic number of 93, the result of uranium 92 capturing a neuron while under bombardment, thus increasing its atomic weight. Fermi remained skeptical about his discovery, despite the enthusiasm of his fellow physicists. He became a believer in 1938, when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for “his identification of new radioactive elements.” Although travel was restricted for men whose work was deemed vital to national security, Fermi was given permission to leave Italy and go to Sweden to receive his prize. He and his wife, Laura, who was Jewish, never returned; both feared and despised Mussolini’s fascist regime.

Fermi immigrated to New York City–Columbia University, specifically, where he recreated many of his experiments with Niels Bohr, the Danish-born physicist, who suggested the possibility of a nuclear chain reaction. Fermi and others saw the possible military applications of such an explosive power, and quickly composed a letter warning President Roosevelt of the perils of a German atomic bomb. The letter was signed and delivered to the president by Albert Einstein on October 11, 1939. The Manhattan Project, the American program to create its own atomic bomb, was the result.

It fell to Fermi to produce the first nuclear chain reaction, without which such a bomb was impossible. He created a jury-rigged laboratory with the necessary equipment, which he called an “atomic pile,” in a squash court in the basement of Stagg Field at the University of Chicago. With colleagues and other physicists looking on, Fermi produced the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction and the “new world” of nuclear power was born.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  The frigate bird can fly at a speed of 260 miles per hour.


Hidden Age

It seems that some folks will do anything to conceal their age from others.  Some are relatively simple and cheap: hair coloring, for example.  You can step it up a new notches and have all sorts of plastic surgery done (which sometimes gets great results and sometimes, well, not so great results.)  Let’s face it: sometimes it’s hard to guess a person’s age very accurately.

But people pale in comparison to trying to guess the age of other things we observe.  Take trees, for example.  How old is that tree next to  your house?  How old is that redwood tree that is so tall you can’t see the top from the ground?  How old is that canyon, that hill, that mountain?

On a recent trip to Yosemite National Park, we hiked into Mirror Lake where I took today’s shot.  I wondered about this rock.  How old is it?  How long has it been there?  Was it deposited by a glacier that helped carve the valley?  Or did it come cascading down from Half Dome or some other promontory?  I’m sure there are those who could answer that question, but I rather enjoy the mystery of it.  It adds a bit of intrigue to life, don’t you think, to ponder such questions and not really care about the answers?

_MG_2114ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: Teamsters Union president Jimmy Hoffa was reported missing in Detroit, Michigan on this day in 1975. He was last seen alive in a parking lot outside the Machus Red Fox restaurant the previous afternoon. To this day, Hoffa’s fate remains a mystery, although many believe that he was murdered by organized crime figures.  If you missed my Facebook post from yesterday, here’s a seemingly very reasonable solution to the case you may want to read: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/07/30/eric-shawn-investigates-hit-on-hoffa-38-years-later-mystery-endures/

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: due to earth’s gravity, it is impossible for the world’s tallest mountains to reach a height of over 15,000 meters.


I Finally Figured It Out

If you’ve read by humble blog for any length of time, you know I have an affinity for photographing old barns.  I’ve often wondered why it is that I find them so fascinating.  This morning, I think I may have come upon the answer in a flash (okay, maybe a dim glimmer) of insight.

Old barns are much like us humans as we age.  We once were straight and tall, well decorated on the outside, strong to keep out the wind and the cold and protect whatever is within.  Time has a funny way of doing things to us, and barns, as the years turn into decades and the decades become a lifetime.

Barns get weathered.  The outside isn’t as pretty as it once was.  There are cracks between the boards that let in some of the chilly blasts of wind and temperature.  What was inside isn’t as secure as it once was when the building was new.

We’re sorta like that, too, I think.  We get weathered as the storms of human existence beat upon us.  The sheen and luster of youth disappears.  We learn that we’re not as strong as we once thought we were.  What we held inside in order to protect ourselves gets jostled around by life events.  We are more vulnerable in all ways – emotionally, physically, socially…and perhaps spiritually as well (though I could make an argument that in some ways we may grow stronger spiritually).  We’ve dropped many of our pretenses and defenses out of sheer exhaustion.

But you know what?  It’s not all bad.  Old barns have an amazingly wondrous weathered beauty.  In many, many ways they are far superior, in the ways that count, to a new barn.  They have character…new barns seldom have that quality.  It takes time to build, and even more time to reveal, character.  And so it is with us humans, too.

That’s why I love old barns…they tell me about life and about myself.  They are reminders of days gone by, of the beauty of each stage of the journey, and about how old things can be spectacularly beautiful.

Let your beauty show as you age.  You’ve earned it.

Why I Like Barns

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1953, Hugh Hefner’s Playboy magazine made its debut in Chicago.  Marilyn Monroe was the magazines first centerfold.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: it takes 9000 pounds of roses (4-1/2 tons!!!), or about 55,000 blossoms, to make 2 pounds of rose extract for fragrances.

Fascination of the Ancient

What is it about old things that are so interesting?  I think that they let our imaginations run wild with all sort of “What if’s…” and “I wonder’s…”  Old things, in my opinion, are just cool (maybe I think that because I’m getting “old” myself and I want to still think that I’m cool, too!)

One of the old things that I find most fascinating is old wood.  Some old wood is exquisitely finished and has been maintained for years, even centuries.  At other times, the wood has been left to its own defenses against exposure and weather.  Such is the case with today’s photo.  Yes, some of the wood has obviously rotted away and is long gone, but what’s left still has textures and even swirls from the blade that cut it.  And there is a mossy type of plant that has attached itself to the surface of the wood.

What is it about old wood that is so interesting?  Maybe it’s just the promise that as things get older, they don’t necessarily lose their beauty and usefulness – those things may change and be different than when the wood was first cut, but don’t you like the idea that old doesn’t mean ugly and useless?  In fact, some things are infinitely better with age and time: love, relationships are dearer, contentment and satisfaction grow when one can look back at life and see that in spite of all the ups and downs, there were more up times than down times, and that it was all worth the living.

Old things can be beautiful

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1935, the “Call Bulletin” from San Francisco, became the first newspaper to print a full-sized picture of a human being.  Larry Quinn, a 2-day old baby, was the subject.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  mussels can live in very polluted water because they can purify bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Things That Get Better With Age

Let’s face it.  Not everything gets better with age, does it?  For example, if you leave milk in the refrigerator for too long and then pour it over your cereal, it may well have the consistency of cottage cheese with a rancid flavor!  There are reasons that foodstuffs are marked with expiration dates – things go bad after a while.

Our health seems to get worse with age.  At least, it doesn’t get better!  Our brains don’t function as well as they did (not to mention all the other parts of our physical constitution.)

Still, there is a saying that “Things get better with age.”  That’s true for some things.  For example, wines must age before they’re any good.  I suppose there comes a point where it turns into vinegar, but wines that have been in tightly sealed vessels on the sea floor for centuries have been pronounced to be very good!

Do you know what I think, among all other things, gets not just better, but to be the BEST with age?  Friendships.

Saturday afternoon and evening we went to our high school reunion – it covered a range of years from 1965-1975.  I saw “kids” there that I’d not seen since the day we graduated from high school.  Do you know what was truly amazing?  The friendship was still there, but in many ways it was better.  No longer was anyone competing for the affections of this boy or that girl, no competing for scholarships, no petty rivalries.  Life has taught us many things over the years and we have all mellowed…like that fine wine.  And what is left?  The joy of memories that haven’t faded, but which have only grown sweeter over the years.  It seems to be that as we get older, we learn how much the people in our lives mean to us and how they made us better for knowing them and being with them…even if it was a long time ago.

This is one picture that I took of an object at the reunion that brought home reality to many of us.  Do you know how old those folks were that attended from the class of 1965?  I can’t really tell you because not even I  have that many toes and fingers, but it’s getting to be a large number.  The years have gone somewhere, but no one seems to really know where they went.  But the good thing is that yesterday we didn’t care about where they’d gone, because we are there together again…and that outweighed everything else!

This couldn't have been talking about me...I'm not THAT old!!!!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1942, US soldiers landed at Guadalcanal and the battle there was joined.  It was the first major offensive of WW2 in the Pacific that was carried out by US troops.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Gordon Sumner, known as the musician Sting, got his name from the yellow and black jerseys he used to wear that reminded his friends and band mates of bumble bees.

You Know You’re Getting Old When…

Stop and think about it.  How do you know if you’re getting old or not?  There are lots of ways, I guess.  For example:

  • Your hair is turning gray;
  • You can’t eat as much as you once did without packing on massive poundage;
  • When you try to swing your leg over the edge of the bed in the morning, your back sends a shot up your spine;
  • Some little person calls you “grandma” or “grandpa” (though you really won’t mind that too much!);
  • You start getting invitations from AARP in the mail, that say, “Congratulations!  You qualify!”;
  • You go to the restaurant and they ask you if you are of a specific age because if you are, they offer senior discounts;
  • No one cards you when  you order a glass of wine with your dinner.

There are other signs, too, that you’re getting older.  Today’s photo is one such indicator.  My wife and I now live in a Del Webb development!  I hasten to point out that not everyone qualifies to live in a Del Webb development…you must pass a rigorous test: are you 55 or older?  If the answer is “Yes” you can live there…but if the answer is “No”…you’re still not old enough and wise enough to live in a Del Webb neighborhood.

There are benefits to getting old…don’t get me wrong.  You don’t have to get sweaty palms in thinking about that first date, or whether or not you should kiss your first date good-night on her doorstep (especially if her folks might be watching!)…because that first date is so far behind you now that you can’t hardly remember it anyway!  Most of your episodes of colds and flu are behind you, too.  You don’t have to give birth to any more children.  You don’t have to worry about repaying your own college debt (you might for your kids or grandkids, though).  You don’t have to long for the day when you’ll be old enough to get a driver’s license…though you may wonder how long you’ll get to keep yours.  Most of life’s disappointments are behind you (that’s assuming that they come at relatively regular intervals interspersed throughout all the years you’ll live.)  You’re closer to the day when  you will leave this earth and no longer will you have to pay water bills, doctor’s bills or taxes!  You don’t have to worry about learning to be potty trained (though the majority of your episodes of constipation may still lie ahead of you!)

See!  Ain’t it grand getting older????

The sign at the entrance to our "Golden Oldies" neighborhood...

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1940, Bob Feller became the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter on the opening day of the baseball season as his Cleveland Indians defeated the Chicago White Sox, 1-0.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: llamas instinctively make good watch animals for flocks of livestock.

Ageless Wonders

I love history.  I love to read about people who lived before we did.  I love visiting cemeteries and reading the inscriptions on tombstones, wondering what the people were like and what they loved.  I have had a fascination with history as long as I can remember.  History is full of wonders.

I was always fascinated by the 7 wonders of the ancient world.  How I wish that we still had them all!  What amazing sights they must have been in their time!  Even today, the magnificent pyramids, scoured by with winds of 4-5000 years, inspire us with their massiveness and seeming timelessness.

Not all historical things are as resilient as the pyramids – often because they were fashioned out of weaker stuff than huge blocks of rock.  In today’s picture, I feature an old wagon from the grassy environs of Bodie.  Who do you supposed owned this wagon?  When it was last parked in this place, do you suppose they knew it would remain there until it crumbled in slivers of wood and bits of metal?  What was it last used for?  Does the wagon ever long for the days when it was useful and fulfilled a purpose?

Who knows?  I don’t.  Maybe you have some thoughts on the subject.  All I know is that I liked this scene when I took this picture back in 2008 and I still like it today.  Since it’s been rainy, I’ve not been outside to shoot, hence so many pictures from the “archives”.  Hope you don’t mind.  And may we all remain useful and productive for a long, long time!  As my grandfather used to say when my mother cautioned him about how hard he still worked on the farm when he was a young 95 years of age: “I’d rather burn out than rust out!”  Grandpa, you rocked!


May we all age this well...


ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1876, a gentleman from Salem, Massachusetts by the name of Alexander Graham Bell, was granted a patent for the telephone – a device that, to start with, nearly put his company out of business.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: the dog and the turkey were the only domesticated animals in ancient Mexico.