Photograph by Jerry Murley
Aging sways in fields of age, weeds obscure the view;
Past times drift in and out, scant trace of patterns new.
Winds tilt fragile stems to ground, memories shift their shape;
Tangles clog, features wilt, attachments gently shake.
Brittle notions float to fore, no grasp is firmly taken;
Weeds within are crowding out, faculties forsaken.
No control to set the flow, no gauge to judge the seeming,
No glue to mend the pieces left, no store to hold the meaning.
Walls that leak, veils that hide, searches never finding;
Age, a fitful tale at most, frail in wrinkled binding.
A breeze, a touch, a taste of tastes, joys faint and faithful failing;
Poetry seeps in words worth less than simple quiet prevailing.
No loss in losing false, nor gain in troubled trying;
Aging young see only waste and fixed guides slowly dying.
Come back, dear one, as once you were, when weeds were not so raging;
We other weeds, we miss you more, since you have left us aging.
* * *
With age, we are surrounded by aging, encountering memory lapses more and more in ourselves and others. From what I have heard of pot smoking in the early-seventies, there is a relationship. Not one of cause and effect, but a similarity of mental sensation – of excursion.
From impressions of those years long past, I imagine that the experience of being stoned was much like short-term memory loss in aging, but with a less pleasant twist. With a weed high, some became intensity focused on the immediate. Context was not important, though revelations under such conditions could prompt the mind to leap beyond current physical boundaries to wholly different insights of a moment’s place in history. Also from what I have heard, those heighten perceptions tended to be forgotten quickly – or were found to be mishmash the next day. There was little inhibition in those days, among fellow tokers, about discussing such experiences. One assumes that few of those sharing the adventure – and the smoke – remembered much afterwards.
Emphatically, in reference to marijuana, I am not speaking of hallucinations, intractable habits, physical impairment, or bad trips. I am discussing thought cruises in the privacy of someone’s home.
Looked at through a commonly shared scenario of that time, I can better draw a parallel. An individual turns on a television set to an old movie – the older, more complex and foreign the movie the better. The viewer catches the movie in the middle – that was perhaps the usual and preferable point of entry. The viewer does not know what is going on in the movie. The intended plot is wholly irrelevant, as the viewer concentrates fully on the novel circumstances, speech, gestures, and relationships of the movie’s characters. Think of it another way, as if you walk onto the set of a movie being filmed out of sequence; you have no knowledge of what has happened or what will follow, but you immerse yourself in the set, the actors, the sound, and the surrounding activity of the production crew during a very brief portion of a larger cinematic production. In the latter example, though you are of sound mind but bewildered by the plot context, is the overall worth of the personal experience significantly diminished?
Now carry those impressions forward and think of elderly relatives, neighbors, and friends. Perhaps that represents life for some of them at times, but with confusion more than heightened awareness – claustrophobia more than mind-expansion – visceral fear more than curious, voluntary exploration. That is where unceasing lapses of short-term memory yield unpleasant psychological consequences aside from practical applications of thinking.
Next time you encounter such a person, aid her on a pleasant journey. Guide and join her in her passage. Add some sweet confection to assist, or light music, or an image-filled story of the familiar past, or a simple, practical observation about the here and now. But nothing is more beneficial than protecting her while en route, removing real-life obstacles and worries, shielding her from fear and danger.
I know such a gentle woman, who quietly but happily lives the moment for more and more of her time. There are worse conditions in life. Hers is made better by family who provide her with steady comfort, joy, compassion, and protection. It would be cruel and destructive to treat her otherwise, with ridicule, deceit, or neglect.
A leisure walk in outdoor air and light, amid our singing nature, clarifies with ready youth and brings her instant pleasure.
A moment is past and future. It is richer and more profound than commonplace theories, philosophies, and religions would have us imagine. A moment stretched is akin to infinity.
At the point of shortest memory, practicality is often our chief aim. Yet in a strange and mind-bound world, plots and complexity matter less than pliable and willing companions able to stroll along part of the way and appreciate the journey too.