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.


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


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.



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.

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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4 Responses to Gero-Punk Tribute: Ursula K. Le Guin

  1. Debbie says:

    Great tribute to a great writer. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Jan Abushakrah says:

    Thanks, Jenny! This is so beautiful both in the writing and the thoughts. Ursula was a great inspiration to me in graduate school, when she visited my university. Your tribute brought back those happy memories and motivates me to read No Time to Spare…

  3. Nora Lindsey says:

    Hi Jenny, thank you for these thoughts – I feel the collective grieving strong for Ursula here in Portland. I thought you might enjoy hearing another tribute to Ursula – from the brown sisters. The whole podcast is great – you might also enjoy the episode called: A Breathing Chorus with Alexis Pauline Gumbs. They get into time travel in a way that reminds me of your manifesto. Enjoy!

  4. Don Groves says:

    Thanks for these words, Jenny, Ursula has long been a favorite. But particular thanks for this: “… the pleasures of writing and reading small essays about big ideas.” I’ve found that big ideas are properly consumed in small bites thoroughly chewed.

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