“You probably won’t take no advice from me. I never took none myself, you see. It’s just when you get older, you like to pass some on….but nobody’s listening.”
Like a lot of people these days, my Facebook page is filled not just with friends, but is also loaded with band pages, science pages, TV show pages and other interests. One of those interests that I follow is a page called Native Americans. It is a page filled with Native American wisdom and sayings, not just from one nation or tribe, but from across the United States. A few weeks ago there was one saying I felt compelled to share with my friends. It said-“When an elder speaks, be silent and listen.” I am not sure what tribe it comes from, but the simplicity of it really struck a nerve, and the other day I thought it might be helpful to start this section off with it.
I was glad I saw it because in preparing this series I really had some trepidation about writing about the “winter” years of our lives. The years we grow older and eventually pass on. Part of the reason is because unlike the other three seasons, I have not experienced it yet. Mild jabs at me for being 46 with my formerly red hair changing first to a brownish hue, and then speckled with ever increasing dabs of gray aside, I do not feel old. Regular gym workouts and trying to eat as healthily as I can help. But the other reason for the trepidation about writing this section is I did not want to sound smug or condescending about the aging process. Which is why that Native American saying really made me stop and think.
After I posted it, Jennie helpfully reminded me that it is a great quote….but it means you need to practice implementing it a little more. And she was right. Too quickly as a society we tend to ignore the learned words of our elders. It isn’t just about our families, our moms and dads or grandparents that we do this to. We also get very impatient with seniors in line at the grocery store, or walking in front of us on the sidewalk. We get annoyed with the elderly when they seem oblivious to the technology we have long since conquered. “What is this Facebook thing I hear so much about”, or ” how do I send a text message”? I realize as I myself get older that there will come a day when the world will be moving too fast for me to keep up, or even care about it, so fast and changing is the technology era we live in.
But take a moment and replace the faster internet speeds and smart phone technology, wireless connectivity, automation, and other cool advances and gadgetry that we live and thrive with in this era, with the advances from another era. Mass produced automobiles, commercial radio, television and polio vaccines among countless other things were inventions created and developed in the years when today’s elderly were younger. They understood all these things thoroughly at the time, but sometimes our cynicism in these days must make someone who lived through earlier advancements feel exasperated and defeated. What is worse is the advice passed on from our elderly often gets brushed aside.
I think it is this final point that is behind blues man Seasick Steve’s song, “It’s A Long, Long Way.” Steve is a man who payed his dues and then some, and had been plying his trade across the world for years and years when suddenly, he gained success and a devoted fan base a few years ago. Steve definitely tells it like it is. In the song he sings from the perspective of an even older man, desperately trying to get people to pay attention to his words. It is so brutally honest that you can’t help but feel moved by it. So whether it is from a Native American phrase, or from the mouth of Seasick Steve I hope for a time when we treat our elderly with that sort of respect. Not judging or assuming but learning. And above it all….listening.
“I will love you still”
I would like to proudly announce the first artist featured here at Soundtrack Of A Photograph three times. The award goes to my favorite wordsmith, Chris Trapper, whom I featured in one of my Christmas blogs, and in December of 2013 in Part 4. In both of those blogs I mentioned why I feel he is such a special writer so you can reference those two for the superlatives. If you are a regular reader of these blogs you may have noticed that I do not always stick to the same formula in terms of introducing the songs I use. Sometimes I like to build it up and put the song as the last thing, or sometimes it goes in the middle of the blog. In that light, before I say another word, have a look and listen to Chris’s song “Skin” right now.
Not a song or viewpoint you hear too many people write about or be willing to tackle wouldn’t you agree? The moment I heard this song for the first time at a Chris Trapper concert it moved me deeply, and a quick glance over at Jennie with tears in her eyes proved to me that I was not alone. Some of us are fortunate to have parents or grandparents that have been married for 40, 50 or even 60 years and still going strong. Yes, there are problems that occur. There are health and memory issues together with sicknesses that weaken the body. There can be loneliness and sadness. But for couples that are fortunate to make it to that point, there is something so beautiful about the sentiments this song raises. Unselfishness between people who have “weathered the weather” and remain devoted until the end. Jennie and I talk about this sometimes..about what we think we will be like when we are older. What our love will still be like after years and years together.
Every couple is different of course, and so much can happen in a lifetime both good and bad, but thinking about what life might be like years from now is healthy. Sometimes when I am sitting in the park or at a coffee shop or bar, I will observe the older couples nearby. There is such a marked difference between how we act as couples when we are young versus when we are older in my opinion. It has nothing to do with mobility or any physical trait, but it has everything to do with unspoken intangibles. Every nuance is easily identifiable to each partner. Each step taken is one of millions they have shared together. Every smile makes for a longer trail in the laughter lines on the face. It is sweet, it is touching, it is moving, and I hope I am fortunate enough to get there myself some day with my wife.
So congratulations Chris on your three-peat here on my blog. Your prize is a continued set of seats at your shows every time you come to town and a guaranteed sale for any album that has your name on it. Our prize is getting to hear you express what so many of us are unable to say. That is a great prize and I will gladly take it, along with being together with someone to share it with me.
THE RESTING PLACE
“Then I’ll know that I am glory bound”
While planning for this blog series, I asked a friend for some advice about one particular aspect of something. In discussing this she mentioned a quote by Albert Einstein that seems particularly apt for this final chapter. Though I myself am not sure what I believe about reincarnation and astrology and things of that nature, I really liked what he said-
“Energy cannot be created or destroyed,
it can only be changed from one form to another.”
Differing religious and astrological beliefs view this idea in vastly different ways, but I think in my own thinking about our eventual demise this is a useful quote. Death is a topic that can freak some people out, while others can look at it more pragmatically. I tend to look at it more pragmatically I suppose, and I would say that has been the case through most of my life, including before my accident. Though I think it is a good idea to plan for the day in the legal sense, that is where I try to stop thinking about it. Despite gripping the armrests a little tighter at signs of turbulence on an airplane, or worrying if that creaking sound on board a ship means it is about to break apart there is little that I can actually do. So I just try to ease my mind. I take a deep breath in moments like that and like most people, try to relive a happy moment, no matter how fleeting. By the time I focus on that moment that momentary flicker of panic dissipates and I am calm again.
But death is a very personal and difficult subject to write about, or talk about, and because this is meant to be a (mostly) uplifting blog I will stop myself in a sense right here. But when the ideas were coming in for this series, there was not one, but two uplifting songs about this moment. I debated long and hard about the merits of each one as I listened to them back to back several times over. One is a well known hymn, while the other is contemporary. Both talk about going to another place, which can be interpreted however you as the listener wish to define that place. Though some may view them as sad songs, I view them in a more positive vein, and as the lyrics to one of the songs relates, is more about finally getting to a resting place. I decided in the end to select both of them to close out My Four Seasons because the merits of each in describing this time are practically identical.
First up is Plainsong singing the hymn “I’ll Fly Away”, with Iain Matthews singing once again in that pure voice to accompaniment of dulcimer and simple hand claps. This song has been done by so many people over the years, and has been sung in thousands of churches and countless funerals. It is not difficult to see why. Though there are many versions to choose from, I have always been partial to the way Plainsong performed it on their 1972 album In Search Of Amelia Earhart. Have a listen-
The second song is by Canadian group, The Wailin’ Jenny’s. For those keeping score, in this 4 part blog series that would make 3 Canadian artists I have written about alone. This in no way is a fiendish ploy on my part to gain more Canadian readers…really it isn’t! Yet again their song “Glory Bound” just absolutely stopped me dead in my tracks the first time I heard it. It is a song that has that sort of effect the instant that chorus hits and the harmonies come bursting forth. I feel like I am hurtling across the windswept plains, or gliding over the mountains, or floating down the river all at once when I hear this sound. That may sound corny like some TV commercial for a candy bar from the past, but it really is what I feel like when I hear this song, so again, give it a listen now-
I guess the reason I chose these two is they help me ease my mind from worrying about death. They strike as upbeat an emotion as you can get on that subject matter I suppose. Though I may still be figuring out my beliefs about life after death and all of that, the words of Einstein together with songs like “I’ll Fly Away” and “Glory Bound” are useful markers to help me define the process. After writing all of this over a few weeks, it seems useful to end with more questions than answers. We have memories throughout the first three seasons of our lives, but the “Winter” season of our life is defined by more uncertainty and a feel of the unknown. Perhaps that is what it is meant to be, but either way, I have enjoyed the seasons of my life thus far and when that winter comes, I know I will remember that it has been a good “year.”
As I have mentioned in these four blogs, this series took some time to get out. Quite a bit more than I expected in fact. It became much more autobiographical than I had thought it would be, and it weighed on my mind how I would tie it all in together in a cohesive way. In the end I hope you enjoyed an inward look at parts of my life. Some of the things I have written here I don’t believe I have ever expressed outwardly in such a personal way. This has been a cathartic process on many levels and I am glad I stuck with it when there were times I thought of scrapping it completely. I would like to thank a few people who have helped me during the process of writing it.
First, all of my family, without whom there would not be a story. If anything is not exactly how you remember it, then I blame passage of time and accept responsibility. However…I am still the youngest out of all of you so I will swap faulty memory for that any day!
To my friends and fellow bloggers, Scott Swenson-https://thewhinelistdotcom.wordpress.com/category/home/
Other friends who have given me help or answered questions or made suggestions that have made their way onto these pages whether you know it or not- Saundra Williams, Adam Robey, Wendy Westphalen, Linda Weal, Alan Standing and Daiana Bispo. Thank you all.
To all of you who read my thoughts, comment and share them, from my wonderful extended family, to total strangers from over 45 countries worldwide, I appreciate your support.
Lastly, I wrote about her more in these blogs than any of the others I have written. The personal side of these blogs meant I had to include our story front and center in my seasonal timeline. Jennie, you are my life, my happiness, my best friend, my number one fan. I could not do any of this without you.
Never say never, but even though it is a crosstown move, Jennie and I will be moving shortly, which will involve a lot of work for the next few months. I will try to write some more blogs, but it may be tough. Ideas are written down on paper and there are always new photographs to take, and new songs to hear, so this blog is not going away any time soon, rest assured.
THANK YOU ALL,
Robert Doyle, 3/1/2015
It’s A Long Long Way-Written By Seasick Steve
Skin-Written By Chris Trapper
I’ll Fly Away- Written By Albert E. Brumley
Glory Bound- Written By Ruth Moody
All photographs by Robert P Doyle All images in this blog are available in limited supply for purchase as unframed prints. Sizes may vary. Contact via firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
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