Monday, October 31, 2022

Life in the city

stump with sprout
Trees run along the block of the sidewalk where this photo was taken. Only one tree has been cut down, some time ago, judging from its appearance. But even though it appears to be dead, it has somehow managed a comeback. Talk about resilience! 

And then there's the Halloween outfitted leaf shown below. Really? Is it trying to masquerade as another species? I looked around at the shrubbery growing in the adjacent garden and didn't spot this shape of leaf on any of them. Most were still attached to their mother-plants and hadn't begun to turn color or drop. Maybe this one is trying on a new look because of climate change or because some insect is seeking only plain green leaves for breakfast. Whatever, I walked past it and then turned around to retrace my steps, just so I could look at it again and take this photo. Will wonders never cease.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Day-tight Compartments

Recently I've had cause to reread a tiny book someone gave me in 1959 when I was nineteen, called A Way of Life by William Osler. It's a book I last read in 2005, the year I retired. It so struck me then that I wrote a personal essay in response a month after my retirement. My essay was subsequently published by Prime Time, which was then a monthly physical newspaper targeting older readers, and was carried on the front page--an honor I've had only one other time in my writing career.

The gist of this little book is how important it is to live in the moment and not be mired down into the past or future. It's the verbatim publication of a speech made to Yale students, April 20, 1913, by Osler--a medical doctor whom Yale hired to deliver the Silliman Lectures. He called the advice a 'lay sermon' and apparently it was mostly written on the steamer he took to America from Great Britain where he was employed by Oxford. I still find much to admire about this speech--even after I looked at information about him on Wikipedia to discover some of his personal views repellant--and I find much to cling to in his advice: 

"Now the way of life that I preach is a habit to be acquired gradually by long and steady repetition. It is the practice of living for the day only, and for the day's work, Life in day-tight compartments." He goes on to say,

The quiet life in day-tight compartments will help you to bear your own and others' burdens with a light heart. . . . .

Touch a button and hear, at every level of your life, the iron doors shutting out the Past--the dead yesterdays. Touch another and shut off, with a metal curtain, the Future--the unborn tomorrows. Then you are safe--safe for today! . . . 

The load of tomorrow added to that of yesterday, carried today, makes the strongest falter. . . . .

Shut off the future as tightly as the past. No dreams, no visions, no delicious fantasies, no castles in the air . . .. The future is today--there is no tomorrow. Let the limit of your horizon be a twenty-four-hour circle. . . .

Look heavenward, if you wish, but never to the horizon--that way danger lies. . . .

You get the gist. I've just copied these phrases from various parts of his essay that continue to resonate for me. I underlined them in 1959 and again in 2005. Osler's approach to living in the 'now,' the 'moment,' the 'present' are all are rooted in good mental health practice. From Mindfulness Meditation to the adages about the futility of reliving the past or the anxiety brought about by worrying about unknown events of the future,  no one is going to argue the wisdom of staying in the present moment. 

Especially I love the imagery of the phrase, "day-tight compartment." It's OK to look up to the heavens, and occasionally glance at the horizon, but so healthy to pull back into the moment and enjoy the only thing we know we have: this day. I circled today on the calendar as a visual of the compartment. Envisioning a red circle drawn around today help me figuratively 'stay put.'

Personally, I have discovered how much less anxiety I feel when I can let go of future angst and worry. That's one BIG plus for moving to a retirement community. I'm much more apt to enjoy the moment when I have no looming home ownership issues or even have to think about what's for dinner.  Day-tight compartments are easier to come by in my new situation.