I recently came across a new book about birding which I quickly bought and read through over just a few days. Joe Harkness, a teacher who lives in England, struggled with mental health. This was until he took up birding more seriously. His book, simply called Bird Therapy, describes his journey from illness, including depression, to better health.
It is a wonderful privilege to grow old. I am approaching my 72nd birthday. It will be in two months’ time and I am amazed when I think about all those years. I say that it is a privilege to grow old because it is something denied so many.
I find it somewhat distressing when I hear of so many who don’t reach their 70s, or 60s or even 50s. It is also so sad when people of much younger years die before even reaching middle age. While it is tragic when illness takes a young life, it is equally tragic when it is caused by an accident. This year there have been so many deaths in Australia as a result of car accidents, for example.
One of the interesting aspects of ageing that I didn’t expect concerns my mental state. For more than a decade I have observed that I don’t mentally feel my age at all. This attitude changes periodically when I try to do some hard physical work such as gardening. Then I really do feel my age! And the resulting aches and pains are constant reminders that I need to take physical activity in smaller doses.
Another interesting aspect of my personal ageing is my appearance. It seems that I have always been blessed with a youthful appearance. Over recent decades, various people have estimated my age to be ten or more years younger than my actual age. That’s a nice thing to tell me. Only yesterday while chatting with my eight-year-old granddaughter, she said that I do not look like I am nearly 72. Bless her little heart.
Teaching young children
I think that having a younger mental attitude comes from spending 35 of those years teaching young children, mostly those in the 6 to 10-year-old bracket. Now in retirement, I have regular contact with my grandchildren – ages 8 and nearly 11 – and this also helps to keep me mentally young.
I am writing this while I am staying with my son and his family. Over the last two Sunday afternoons, I have also had the privilege of taking my grandchildren to a nearby playground for a few hours. They have ridden their bikes while I drove my car; it’s too far for me to walk. Interacting with them as they play and invent games and challenges on the playground equipment is so stimulating to both the children and me.
Even when we don’t go anywhere, we often spend time in their backyard. They have an old, gnarled mulberry tree which they invent adventures while climbing. They both have very fertile imaginations. They also play other games, especially while on their much-used trampoline. Watching them play, and interacting with them during their playtimes is deeply satisfying to me. Once again I realise that these privileges afforded to grandparents is a delight denied so many people. I especially feel for those who may be estranged from ever spending time with grandchildren. Or those with no prospect of having grandchildren.
Challenges of ageing
However, old age does have its many challenges. All those aches and pains, regular doctor and specialist appointments, far too many tablets to take and a general slowing down in physical activities are the downside. I prefer to look at the many delights and privileges of growing old.
I would love to hear from my readers in the comments section about your delights and challenges of ageing.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.
I took a chance on this popular book and I am so pleased that I did.
Once you get through the first few pages, it is obvious that Eleanor is not completely fine. From a very protected and regimented routine, she learns to accept changes to her life, many of them imposed upon her. This adversely affects her with extreme challenges to every aspect of her rather sheltered life.
Eleanor’s social life is largely non-existent. Her only social contacts are at work in the accounts department of a large graphic design company. She keeps very much to herself and rarely has contact with anyone on weekends, except while shopping. Her solitary weekends are spent alone with two large bottles of vodka to numb the pain of her self imposed social isolation, as well as the memories of a painful childhood.
When she has problems with her work computer she meets the company IT specialist Raymond. He is her complete opposite. She finds his eating habits repulsive, his dress sense totally lacking and his general lifestyle choices unfathomable. In a random act of care, they join forces to help elderly Sammy during a medical episode. From that point on their relationship blossoms into a close friendship.
Eleanor becomes infatuated with a musician who becomes the catalyst for her to undertake a complete makeover in her appearance. When a carefully planned encounter with the “man of her dreams” goes terribly wrong, Eleanor’s world crumbles to ruins around her. She tries to erase the pain through excessive drinking of vodka until Raymond comes to her rescue. At his insistence, she seeks medical help.
Through many sessions with a compassionate and understanding psychologist Maria Temple, Eleanor slowly confronts her horrific childhood memories. The focus of these sessions eventually helps Eleanor to distance herself from her cruel and obsessive “Mummy”.
Her extremely quirky nature reminded me so many times of Don Tillman (The Rosie Project). I very much enjoyed this novel and the twist at the end caught me by surprise.
I love that wonderful feeling, first thing in the morning, when one wakes up after a good night’s sleep. That feeling of contentment on being totally rested. That feeling of cosiness in a warm bed on a frosty morning. That feeling of wanting to stay wrapped up in a comfortable envelope of blankets and quilt.
I had those feelings yesterday morning. Right about when the light of dawn was creeping into my room. My brain was still in neutral. I wasn’t yet fully awake, nor fully asleep.
Then all this suddenly changed.
From one of the street trees came the unmistakable call of two Laughing Kookaburras. This is the sound that is so delightful that I love hearing it. I rarely get to hear it at home in Murray Bridge, South Australia. But here, staying in Sydney with my son and his family, it is so commonplace that many locals probably are not even aware of it.
The joyous laughing call of the Kookaburra is completely iconic in the Australian bush. It is also readily heard in many urban environments as well. It is unmistakable; most people would easily recognise this call. There is nothing else like it. It certainly made my day yesterday.
Laughing Kookaburras only occasionally visit my garden. In fact, I have only recorded this species once in the last twelve years despite being present in many nearby locations. On the other hand, I have many other species of birds in my garden and many of them go a long way to filling the gap left by absent kookaburras.
I love hearing the carolling of the Australian Magpies which are a resident species in my garden. The delightful song of the Willie Wagtail is also an everyday occurrence – and sometimes at night when there is a bright moon shining. The various species of honeyeaters also join in the dawn chorus, and the endearing mewing of the White-browed Babblers is a joy too as they hop around outside my bedroom window seeking their breakfast.
When I am home there is only one bird sound I do not like to hear. For a few days some years ago a Little Raven came to my bedroom window around dawn and tapped loudly on the glass with its large beak. It was responding to the perceived threat from its reflection in the glass. It was very annoying.
On my trip to Sydney earlier this year, I took a somewhat circuitous route to get there. I wanted to spend some time in the Lake Cargelligo area to do some birding. You can read about that trip on my other site Trevor’s Birding. I have fond memories of a visit to this area some years ago. The route I took went through the large towns of Mildura and Hay. Just before reaching Lake Cargelligo I went through the small village of Rankins Springs. This is a lovely area and is a mecca for birders like me.
An old house
Just north of Rankins Springs, I stopped in a roadside rest area near the edge of Jimberoo National Park. I didn’t have time to fully explore the area, so instead, I walked a short distance along a dirt track. After a few minutes, the open forest took me to a spot overlooking some farming land. In the middle of the nearest paddock was the ruin of a house, shown in the photos above and below.
A peaceful scene
This peaceful scene set my writer’s mind whirring. Here are some thoughts I had which you might like to use as writing prompts.
Write a fictional account of the discovery of this area and how one farmer had the vision to build this house.
Write a short story about the building of this house and the difficulties of constructing it.
Write a story from the point of view of the old house. What did it see and hear during its early days? How does it feel about being left to decay? Who was its favourite occupant? Why was it abandoned?
Choose a fictional character who once lived in the old house. Tell their story as it relates to the house.
Relate the story of a tragic event that once occurred in or near the house. Was it a sudden death? A murder? perhaps death by drowning in a nearby creek? A violent robbery?
Imagine that the house was built for a newly married young couple and their wedding was held in the house or in the hills nearby. Write a story about their joys or heartaches that followed.
Imagine that you grew up in this house in the 1800s. Write a story about the delights or hardships of living in this isolated house.
Ruin near Rankins Springs, NSW
Conditions of use:
Feel free to use any of the story starters listed above.
Change anything to suit your needs.
Give it your best shot.
Edit your work carefully before sending it off to a publisher or posting it on your blog.
Let me know in the comments section how it went.
If you publish your story on your web site or on your blog let me know so I can make a link to it for others to read.