Gero-Punk Tribute: Ursula K. Le Guin

Monday night was rough.

I didn’t think it would be rough as I was primed for a restful sleep. I’d ensconced myself in bed early so that I could continue reading my way through No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters, by Ursula K. Le Guin.

no time to spare

Simeon added this book to the top of my huge pile of books I received as gifts over the winter holidays.  It is a collection of Le Guin’s blog essays on all sorts of juicy topics, such as:  examples of how one might cultivate presence to a soft-boiled egg or a rattlesnake or a toddling human or a thunder storm (or any other object, phenomenon, or creature); the nature of belief and truth, and the primacy of respect, freedom and equality; and the inside experience of being old. (As she wrote, “I don’t mean older, I mean old.”)

So, several of my most favorite things to ponder, discuss, and sometimes try to write about.

Simeon confirmed my suspicion that giving me this book at this time was part of a strategy. He wanted to remind me of the pleasures of writing and reading small essays about big ideas. He wanted to encourage me to keep at it, especially the writing part.  And maybe – though I didn’t articulate it this way until now – he wanted to remind me that there’s renewed inspiration to be found (in this case, rediscovered) in the work of writers whom I’ve long admired, such as Ursula K. Le Guin. Especially Ursula Le Guin, who figured a way over the expanse of many decades to attend to and nurture family, friends, herself, and her considerable creative and political commitments.

Back to Monday night.  Shortly after I turned out the reading lamp and was falling toward sleep, Happy-the-dog busted into the bedroom.  He stood at the side of the bed and stared at me for a bit. When  I couldn’t take it any longer, I got up and helped him back to his bed in the living room.  The minute I was back in my bed, he was up again, ricocheting around the house (what a clamor!).  Once again, I showed him back to his bed, cuddled him a bit, and then begged him to go to sleep.  This time I made sure my bedroom door was closed and un-openable via dog-body-slamming; Happy hurled his body against the closed door (poor guy!).  I opened the door and told him to come in, and if he’d cut it out, he could sleep on the bedroom floor. This worked awhile because I fell fully asleep and slept and dreamed. But at some point, in the middle of the night – I didn’t look at the clock as it would freak me out to know what time it is and how little sleep I’m getting – he was up and at it again.  This time and without the least bit of guilt, I barred Happy from the bedroom and attempted to fall back into sleep.

As I was attempting to fall back into sleep, my mind was soft. I was counting my breaths, which is a helpful practice in the middle of the night when you are awake but want to be asleep and to sleep you need to avoid pursing any of the thoughts playing in your mind. But one of the thoughts that formed in the softness of my mind I followed.

The thought was: I should write a letter to Ursula K. Le Guin. I should thank her.

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On Tuesday the world got the news that Ursula K. Le Guin had died on Monday.

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I had trouble sleeping on Tuesday night, but this time I can’t pin the blame on Happy-dog.

One of the thoughts that formed in the softness of my tired night-mind was: Gramma, keep your eyes open for Ursula K. Le Guin. She’s on her way.

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florence

I arrived in lovely Florence, Oregon yesterday afternoon.  To get here I had a three-hour drive along the coast. What a day! Cold, blustery, and rainy. I made a couple of stops to see who might be out and about: Cormorants; seagulls; one kingfisher; one oyster catcher; no whales, though. When I could catch a signal, I listened to the radio. Lucky me, I got to hear three different tributes to Ursula K. Le Guin and how her work – no, how who she is – has inspired and emboldened so many, across time, place and space.

I’m in Florence to facilitate the Oregon Humanities Talking About Dying Conversation Project at the Lane Community College Florence Campus.

Last night, ensconced in a very comfortable bed in a very sweet hotel room that’s right on the water’s edge, I finished reading No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters.

Last night, I slept long and well.

Thank you, Ursula K. Le Guin.

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Gero-Punk Fresh Start

Greetings to you as we embark upon a new year!

I have missed you. Have you missed me?

I’ve not been as present in this space as I have been in past years nor as frequently and consistently as I’d prefer to be. But never fear, I’ve been enacting the Gero-Punk Manifesto far-and-wide (though in 2017, mostly from behind the scenes).

What an interesting year 2017 was (that’s putting it mildly, yes?).  As the year unfolded, I found myself become increasingly ensconced in the ways of the Hermit, withdrawing from virtual interactions (I don’t think I even tweeted once last year, and I only posted on Facebook occasionally), as well as shying from the old school in-person kind of stuff.  I was mostly working in solitude, nose to the grindstone, only emerging when necessary into the big wide-world of social life (and shuddering in the corner from the glare and cacophony).  I got a lot of great work accomplished though I ended the year wondering if I had accomplished anything at all.  As I said, 2017 was “interesting.”

So, here we are, a bit over a week into the shiny new year, a year that for me is about the promise of cross-roads and the energy of the four-directions (thus the image). I thought maybe what I’d do in this inaugural missive is tell you a bit about what I’ve been up to in 2017 and where I think I’m heading as 2018 unfurls.  Sound good?

Last year, I had a few major projects upon which most of my energy and time was focused (thus living mostly like a hermit):

  • The End Ageism campaign This project is spearheaded by the Portland Community College Gerontology program. In 2016, We kicked-off the campaign with two events featuring Ashton Applewhite, the author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism. Throughout 2017, I served as the lead faculty in moving our campaign forward.  I developed a working educational model for understanding and ending ageism and used this model as the focus for a dozen workshops and presentations at PCC, at the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education conference, as well as for two workshops I presented out in the larger Oregon community. Shout-outs to our team: Jan Abushakrah, Roger Anunsen, Mike Faber, Annette Lansing and Edward Taub.
  • As part of the End Ageism campaign, I was asked to design and teach a new PCC course on ageism (as part of our new Gerontology Advocacy Certificate!). The course, GRN 201 Understanding and Ending Ageism, is a two-credit online course. We use the educational model I designed for the campaign as a way into this complex, multi-level and intersectional issue. We engage in ongoing collaborative learning which culminates in the  Ending Ageism Synthesis and Action Project. Each student, in ongoing conversation with their classmates and me, designs a project that addresses some aspect of ageism at a particular level of manifestation– individual, interpersonal, social/institutional, cultural – while grounding their analysis and recommendations in the model which foregrounds the intersectional and interconnected nature of ageism. I taught the course for the first time fall term 2017 and I’m teaching it again winter term 2018, so I have the real-time opportunity to continue to refine the course design.
  • I finally concluded the writing and editing of a new book for which I’m first author (with Harry R. Moody): Gerontology: The Basics. Honestly, I never thought we’d coax this book into fruition, but it is currently in production and will be published by Routledge U.K. this spring. It is a wee book intended for a general audience. It focuses on how gerontological knowledge is constructed and what we think we know about adult aging at this point in time. If you read it, I think you’ll hear our shared Critical Gerontology commitments singing in the background.
  • On the theme of Critical Gerontology, you might be interested in my recent journal article published in Issues in Interdisciplinary Studies: “Our Research is Living, Our Data is Life: Toward a Transdisciplinary Gerontology.” If you are interested in reading my essay, let me know and I’ll be happy to send a PDF your way.

Okay, that’s enough about me and about last year. Let’s talk about this year!

I’ll be writing much more about the course on ageism I designed as well as the ongoing End Ageism campaign (Our PCC team received a small grant, so our work will be continuing at least during winter term 2018). I’ve also been planning to write a post on the Future Older Selves reflection exercise I developed 20 years ago and about the various ways in which I’ve been using this exercise. Here’s a little video if you want to know how I’ve been playing with it in my current teaching. Also, I’d like to schedule some Gero-Punk Salons for those of you living in the Portland-OR area (and I’m open to the idea of convening a virtual Gero-Punk Salon for those of you who are living elsewhere…). I’ll be continuing to facilitate the Talking About Dying  program and co-facilitating (with my man Simeon Dreyfuss) the Just a Number?: Aging and Intergenerational Friendships program for Oregon Humanities (Join me/us for upcoming programs throughout Oregon!).

Where do you fit into all of this?  I need your input, please, regarding topics/issues/problems/themes you’d like me to write about, you’d like to write about, or about which you’d like me to convene a Gero-Punk Salon. If you have any ideas – bright or provisional, I take ‘em all! – please email me at littlecoracle@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading this. Thanks for being my Gero-Punk Comrade. And thanks for all the great work you do.

Onward,

Jenny

 

 

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Gero-Punk Gratitude

What do you appreciate best about the age you are right now?

jenny at low tide

I appreciate that even after many serious injuries over the past five decades, I am mostly able to do with my body what I want to do. If I must, I can lift a heavy box. I can sweep the floor and collect the stuff into the dustpan (though my poor eyes don’t always see all of the dander and dirt). Most of the time I can with some effort unscrew a stubborn lid from a jar, as long as the circumference of the lid isn’t too great (my left hand is stronger than my right hand, but both hands are scaled small). Even more important to me, I can crouch down on my creaky knees so as to be able to take a photo of exquisitely colorful sea-creatures revealed by the low tide.

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