After a long string of warm, summery days, the weather turned chilly all of a sudden last night. When I woke up this morning, the heat was running and the view out the window was a gray, cloudy dawn.

In past years I would have grumbled something to myself like “oh, yuck, now it’s going to be dark and cold for ages, no more good weather till spring.” But of course, in today’s world there are always fun things to do, no matter what the season. All we need to do is look around with the expectation of finding them, and sure enough, something fun will come along soon!
 

Word-art that says "Here Comes the Fun." 

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

I planted a chrysanthemum next to my mailbox on Tuesday, with buds just starting to open. The mum replaced a wilted little zinnia that never managed to grow much because there was hot, dry weather all through the late spring and the summer.

Photo of a mum, next to my mailbox, with buds starting to open.

Although I know this is nothing unusual and many people change their seasonal flowers as the days turn cooler, in past years I did my seasonal planting in the spring and just left the flowers in place until the frost got them. I generally felt that there wasn’t much to do in autumn and winter besides hunker down in a warm house and wait until spring came again.

Of course, there is no good reason to feel trapped indoors just because the temperature drops. I live in the modern world, after all, and not in a log cabin in a primitive village where anyone venturing too far might get caught in a blizzard or eaten by wolves.

So I’ve decided that whenever I look at the mum blooming by the mailbox, it will be a positive reminder that new growth and renewal can happen at any time of the year, even when the trees are dropping their leaves.

When I was a kid, my mom always was a major stickler for prompt thank-you notes. I remember several afternoons when instead of going out to play, I was sent to my room to compose a neglected thank-you, while grumbling to myself that it was a pointless chore.

Although it took a while, I did eventually develop more understanding of the thank-you ritual. Rather than just being a rote social script, thank-you notes show appreciation for kind acts, which is a way of giving kindness in return. After visiting my mother recently, I sent a card thanking her for showing my husband and me around her current house, which we hadn’t seen before. That might not have been technically a gift, but I did appreciate her taking the time to do it, and just thought I should say so.
 

Word-art that says "Acts of kindness inspire kindness." 

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

Last week the rowing club was more adventurous than usual, traveling to a large regatta in Florida. My husband and I stayed with another club member at his mother’s house not far from the race course. She is a delightful English lady who loves to have guests and is very outspoken, making blunt remarks such as “Absolute rubbish!” when, for instance, my husband suggested that we might take our clothes to a laundromat rather than inconvenience her by using her washer and dryer.

She is 86 years old and very active, going sailing once a week and doing charitable work regularly. When the heat got to me on the practice day before the races started, she sympathized with me by saying that she recently had gotten rather dehydrated playing tennis for two hours on a hot day.

That evening I still didn’t feel quite right after rowing and being outdoors for a long time in the heat. When I got in bed, I felt as if it might be rocking gently, like a boat. That reminded me of reading Kon-Tiki as a child and pretending that my bed was a balsa-wood raft floating across the Pacific Ocean. So, as I couldn’t get to sleep right away, I decided to populate this imaginary scenario with my adventurous future self, Fannie. I pictured us looking up at the stars from a natural-fiber mat on the raft, with plenty of comfortable pillows.
 

Photo of the Kon-Tiki raft in its museum.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)
 

“So, Fannie,” I asked her, in my best faux-English accent, “would you say that the stories our culture tells about aging are absolute rubbish?”

“No, I wouldn’t actually,” she said, drawing out the vowel into an absurdly long ‘ah’ sound, “and by the way, you are rubbish with ah-ccents, and I never got much better with them over the years. So we might do better to stick with ordinary American conversation, though there’s nobody around but a few imaginary flying fish to hear us embarrassing ourselves.”

Fannie snuggled deeper into the pillows and went on to say, “Putting energy into rejecting a cultural narrative only feeds it more power. What we resist persists; that’s from Carl Jung, a very wise man. When you feel that society has you in a box, there’s no need to kick and beat on the walls. Just look up, and you’ll see the sky and feel a breeze flowing through. The box is not solid. All you have to do is step out of it. Dance and skip out of it. Do handsprings and cartwheels out of it. Oh, was there a box around here somewhere? I hadn’t noticed. Where it went, I can’t say. Maybe it’s in that field over there, behind all those tall weeds.”

“Once upon a time, long, long ago,” I said, getting into the spirit of it, “there were people who thought they had to stay in boxes; or at least, that’s what my great-grandmother told me.”

“Lost in the mists of time,” Fannie agreed cheerfully. “And while we’re on the subject, maybe instead of picturing the archetypal Crone just sitting and telling stories, you might want to invite her to play some tennis. Yes, I know you are rubbish at tennis, but the Crone hasn’t played in many years either. Of course, I’m no better at it, since I am you, so that’s nothing personal.”

I thought that I heard Fannie chuckling quietly to herself, but a fish leaped out of the ocean just then and landed with a particularly loud splash, so I couldn’t be quite sure.

I was talking with my husband recently about how it’s good that we have an adventurous family. Even though we might not always look at ourselves that way, and our travels are not as exotic as some, I’d say that adventures are more about the mindset rather than the destination—staying open to new experiences and valuing what can be learned from them.
 

Word-art that says "Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of traveling." -Margaret Lee Runbeck 

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

This morning I dreamed that one of the rabbits in the backyard decided it wanted to be a house pet, and so it kept trying to follow my husband and me into the house. Of course, that would never really happen because they all seem to have normal bunny instincts, meaning that they scamper when they see us, or stay very still and hope they won’t be noticed.

And of course, because our daughter visits often with her dogs, the house would not be the most comfortable place for a rabbit to live in! As silly as it was, though, I woke up smiling after that dream—so it’s all good.
 

Word-art that says "Good vibes only!" 

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

As summer comes to an end, the shorter days generally mean less time spent outdoors. Although the weather may still be hot and muggy, like it has been around here for the past week, the angle of the sun makes clear that it’s not July anymore. Still, I enjoy the peace and calm of September evenings. Even on days when I don’t go down to the river to row, I like to post sunset photos on my digital art display and imagine that I’m looking out over the water in some new and exciting place.
 

Sunset over water with tree branches. 

I suppose the peaceful feelings that people get from pictures of calm rivers and lakes must go back to prehistoric times, when such landscapes usually meant that all was well—plenty of water to drink, along with fish and other food to hunt and gather. Probably there’s something deep down in the primitive parts of our brains telling us that we need to spend time in such places.

Wherever it may come from, I definitely feel refreshed when I walk by the river—or imagine myself looking out the window of a beautiful lakefront vacation home—as the evenings come earlier.

The rowing club’s fall regatta season starts this weekend, with a race in Cleveland on Saturday. Not many of the club members are making the trip, though; it’s just me, my husband, and another guy. Some other people thought about going, but they couldn’t get their plans together.

It does take some commitment, as well as organization, to travel regularly to the regattas. I don’t have quite enough vacation days this year, and rather than taking off all the Fridays before weekend trips, I’m planning to work some extra hours during the week and leave early on those Fridays.

I can’t complain, though, because it is helpful to have that flexibility. After all, not everyone has the option of rearranging their workweek when they have things to do.
 

Word-art that says "At the moment of commitment the entire universe conspires to assist you." -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

I’ve never been among those who hurry out and buy pumpkin spice products as soon as they show up on the store shelves in late August, but I can understand the feeling. As the season changes and the days get shorter and darker, we need to surround ourselves with fun little things to keep us feeling cheerful, even on stormy afternoons when we can’t get out and do much.

So, I’m sharing a harvest tapestry image for Nurturing Thursday, even though it’s not quite fall yet:
 

Seasonal word-art with leaves, pumpkins, and autumn-related words such as "harvest" and "thankful hearts." 

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

This year my husband and I have been rowing singles many days, rather than only sculling in our double. We bought the singles to celebrate our 30th anniversary, which was in May. It was my husband’s idea and a surprise to me. I had suggested that he might want to look into buying a single because he had been taking a very old club boat to the regattas, and it was too big for him and poorly suited to his rowing style. I never thought about getting one for myself, though. The club boats did not fit me any better (worse, actually), but I was happy with the double, rarely rowed singles, and never had considered racing one.

Now that I’ve had a few months to get used to rowing a single that is the right size and is set up the way I like it, I’ve been starting to feel more comfortable with the idea of taking it to regattas. My husband suggested that I enter an October head race on our favorite course in Tennessee. (Head races are 5K races during the fall season, so-called because they often take place at the head of a river.)
 

One double and two single sculling boats. 

I was wondering how many women would be competing in my age group. When my husband looked up last year’s race, he told me that there was only one rower in the category of women over 50 racing a single. Other regattas that we like to attend are much the same, with very few older women rowing singles; and my practice times are competitive with their race times, despite my lack of experience.

Although that should mean I can expect to win medals, it is also a bit disconcerting. I understand that much of it is generational, in that most women my age were not encouraged to be athletic when we were growing up. A woman of my generation might enjoy racing in a mixed crew with her husband, but she is not as likely to think about signing up for individual events. Younger women often are more adventurous and competitive because the times have changed.

So, it doesn’t mean that I am now so old that my competition has started dying off. Nor does it have any logical bearing on how many years I might be healthy enough to row. The fact that such thoughts even briefly came to mind bugs me anyway, though.

Last year I began writing occasional stories about my fantastically adventurous future self, aka Fannie, mainly to remind myself that there are many other possible futures besides the usual culturally-conditioned aging scenarios. I decided that Fannie should be 119 years old, not because I expect to live to that age or any other particular age, but simply to kick all such expectations much farther down the road.

Some folks really do live that long in the present day, and it seems likely that longevity will increase as a result of scientific advances. That puts Fannie within the bounds of reasonable possibility, although I never intended my stories about her to be realistic, or close to it; they’re aimed more at liberating my thoughts from other people’s overly narrow ideas of what is or should be realistic.

In that spirit, and without making any assumptions beyond observing that the future surely holds more possibilities than we know, I’ve found myself reflecting on the ideas I had about aging when I was a teenager. Back then, to the (very minimal) extent I thought about it at all, I didn’t see myself living past 80, which seemed ancient and very far away. This morning I put a birthday card in the mail for my mom, who turns 80 next week and is generally healthy. My dad and my husband’s parents already are over 80, and whatever notions I might have had about when a person becomes “ancient” have changed accordingly.

So I’m wondering—now that becoming “ancient” seems much farther away than I once imagined it, and there is at least some possibility I could have another half-century or more of healthy life remaining—why should I feel any closer to old age (whatever that may mean) than I felt when I was a teenager?