Gero-Punk Practice: Sometimes I have to forget so that I can remember

I can’t believe I almost missed one of the most important events of this summer! And if but one more day had passed I might have missed it entirely!

This morning after Izzy left for school and I finished my start-of-the-day routine I decided to do some more work on choreographing the gero-punk presentation I’m giving this Friday at the Oregon Gerontological Association summit, “Generating Leaders for a New Age in Gerontology.” I’m sharing the stage with the very accomplished and knowledgeable Dr. Nancy Whitelaw, Senior Fellow at the National Council on Aging and immediate past-President of the Gerontological Society of America.  Dr. Whitelaw will be kicking off the summit with a presentation on national trends in leadership and gerontology. I’ll follow her, focusing on questions around what leadership feels and looks like – the commitments and sensibilities involved in developing our own and supporting others’ leadership capacities. I’ll be offering some uncommon gero-punk examples to illustrate the ideas I want to ponder with the audience, so if you are attending the summit and have written for this blog or have participated in any of my courses at Marylhurst, don’t be surprised if you hear me say something about you during my presentation! (If you’d like more information about the summit, go to I hope to see you there, if you are local. If not, think good thoughts that we have a great event!)

As I was saying, I decided to work on my presentation this morning. I was feeling antsy with excitement and an overwhelming need to move around while I pondered and sussed, so I captured on little squares of green paper everything about the presentation that was in the font of my mind and then headed outside to mow the lawns, water the garden, and fill the bird feeders. I love writing in my mind while my body is in motion. Sometimes in class I’ll talk with my students about “embodied scholarship,” and I can’t think of juicier examples than working on an essay or presentation while gardening or walking or kayaking, can you?

Any way, I was in the process of mowing the front lawn, making a first pass by the fig tree with my spiffy electric mower, when out of the corner of my right eye I spied an adorable little ripe fig! I plucked it and ate it, assuming it was the only ripe fig to be had, as for after just a few larger ripe figs earlier this summer there haven’t been any further ripe figs, just a bunch of tiny green fig-drops clinging to the branches of what is now a six foot mini-tree (I swear it had a growth spurt this summer, growing at least two feet).

But to my surprise and delight, I discovered two handfuls-worth of ripe figs.

Have you ever seen finer figs than these?


If you know me, if you’ve poked around on this blog at all, you’ll know that for me figs are potent. Figs connect me with my dear friend Fred, who is back in the stars, to our times gardening together. And figs are my favorite fruit in the whole universe (followed by avocados). A perfect meal of favorite items would be a steamed artichoke (my favorite vegetable, followed by asparagus), followed by Dungeness crab or sushi, followed by figs for dessert.  Now you know what my favorite foods are, so if we are ever on a game show and you are asked the question, “What would Jenny consider to be a perfect meal?” you will know the answer and we will win.

The real point of this story (thanks for your patience!) is that I almost missed the ripe figs.

What with how narrow and exclusive my focus has been for the past several weeks on the book project and summer teaching, and my funk and multiple melt-downs last week (I felt like a toddler going through a major growth spurt, unable to understand or describe what she’s feeling and thus incredibly frustrated! Do I need to tell you how difficult it is to engage in adult activities like revising a book or going to meetings when feeling like a toddler?), I forgot to remember to check on the figs, the tomatoes, the blueberries, the basil. I forgot to fill the bird feeders. I did manage to take walks and meditate most days, lest you fear that I completely ditched my self-care routine. But, alas, I haven’t been a good friend lately to the garden creatures.

I almost missed the ripe figs! How is it that something as simple as walking out the front door and into the yard to check out the fig tree — beloved fig tree! – becomes forgettable in the midst of a transient though intense period of stress and fatigue and transition and growth spurts and existential angst? I don’t have an answer right now; I don’t even need to have an answer right now, though you can bet I’m going to contemplate this question on my own and in collaboration with others.

But for now, I am rejoicing in the tangled chain of little decisions and actions that led me from working on my gero-punk presentation to mowing the lawns to beholding and enjoying fig tree and remembering something really important and elemental about this funny life I’m living.

About Jenny Sasser, Ph.D.

I am a freelance educational gerontologist, writer, community activist and facilitator. I am former Chair of the Department of Human Sciences and Director of Gerontology at Marylhurst University. I joined the faculty as an adjunct member of the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program in 1997 and since that time, I've been involved in designing many on-campus and web-based courses and programs for adult learners, including in Gerontology. As an undergraduate I attended Willamette University, graduating Cum Laude in Psychology and Music; my interdisciplinary graduate studies at University of Oregon and Oregon State University focused on the Human Sciences, with specialization areas in adult development and aging, women’s studies, and critical social theory and alternative research methodologies. My dissertation became part of a book published in 1996 and co-authored with Dr. Janet Lee--Blood Stories: Menarche and the Politics of the Female Body in Contemporary US Society. Over the past twenty (or more!) years I have been involved in inquiry in the areas of creativity in later life; older women's embodiment; sexuality and aging; critical Gerontological theory; transformational adult learning practices; and inter-generational friendships and cross-generational collaborative inquiry. I am co-author, with Dr. Harry R. Moody of Aging: Concepts and Controversies (now in its 10th edition!) and first author, also with Moody, of the recently published Gerontology: The Basics, as well as author/co-author of several book chapters, articles and essays. I am on the Portland Community College Gerontology Program faculty.
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2 Responses to Gero-Punk Practice: Sometimes I have to forget so that I can remember

  1. rogeranunsen says:

    Behold, the Power of Fred’s Figs. ‘Tis your anti-Kryptonite. Now, go forth and do some more good.

  2. Rod says:

    Yes, don’t forget to stop and smell(?), eat! the figs.
    I hope you know the location of the giant, and lonely, fig trees at Marylhurst?

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