Saturday, November 20, 2021

An Exercise Bonus

     Living the good life as you age depends a lot on keeping moving.  Numerous articles have been written about the value of regular exercise for graceful aging with a better quality of life.  Beyond prolonging life exercise clearly can improve the quality of life.  

    I have a daily routine of exercising.  Because I have a bit of arthritic degeneration in my lower spine, I need to loosen up after a night of rest.  Later in the day I will during the ski season, but other days an hour on the recumbent stationary bike is is order and often yard work or hiking.  Beyond this activity keeping me going, this morning I had a bonus to start my day.  My back loosening exercise upon rising is to sit in a folding chair and bend to touch the floor 100 times.   It is a low stress exercise mostly aimed and getting freer motion.  My chair is oriented to face our open living room.  I am  still waking up so not always very observant.  This morning I was blessed with a remarkable scene.   (See the photo below).   Amazingly the sun was at just the right angle to come in through a window and door and reflect off a desk cover and spotlight my wife's  collection of dancing figures.   A beautiful sight of figures and shadows underlining the grace and athleticism of dancers.  Isn't dancing a great endorsement for the value of exercising?  I only wish I could fulfill the longing of my wife for having a skilled dancing partner.   Oh well, she may not get the skill and grace but I am always trying to improve!



Thursday, November 11, 2021

Remembering Geezers Who Have Passed

     At this stage in my life it seems that too often I am reading the obituaries of my contemporaries.  So far I have been blessed with a long and essentially fortunate life.   As a survivor, I regret that that as I approach the beginning of the new ski season, too many of my companions of the past are now memories of past glory days.

    Recently on of my good friends unexpectedly passed away.  Last winter our geezer friend Phil Dankert was at least an occasional visitor to the slopes.  A retired research librarian, he was a most erudite individual; an avid reader of books our group was passing around!   He also had great wit and could twist almost any conversation into a bit of wry humor.   Over the years there have been dozens of geezers who have been fixtures of our local Greek Peak ski slope.  Each could be identified by their unique style of skiing and and favorite gear.  I am thankful for all their good memories.   Living in the precious present and enjoy each remaining day I believe  is a good goal to strive for as a means of honoring those that have past.   Hopefully I can go on leaving some great memories for my companions at least for a little while longer.


Saturday, October 23, 2021

Delayed Gratification

     Many skiers are tuning up their gear and are looking forward to the start of the new season.   We are anticipating returning to the slope to enjoy our sport to the fullest.  For those of us in are most senior years who have a long history of hitting the slopes as much as possible most have the joy of anticipation of renewing our skills.   Yet, we are now in the mode of delayed gratification.  The sooner the season opens the better we like it.   However perhaps living in the waiting can make the day when we can regularly ski be sweeter than before.   

    On a more somber note it will be sad to be without the companionship of several of my senior group that have either passed on or terminated  skiing for health or other reasons.   Unfortunately we seniors cannot necessarily anticipate when our days on the slope will be over.   However, more cheerfully I can recall the stalwarts that have managed to ski into the nineties!   Ah well I have my season pass in hand and the locker is ready to be filled with my gear.   It will be a happy day when our geezer group can gather for coffee and chit chat.  Those of us on the hill will welcome any of our emeritus geezers for their input at any time they can make it.

    In closing the topic  of delayed gratification, here are some observations during this horrible pandemic.    Eventually it will be a joy one day to freely associate in groups without fear of infection.  It will be nice to eventually see the supply chain bottlenecks eliminate.  (A couple of days ago I ordered a new car.   Delivery is 18 weeks away!  Wow!).   Probably the greatest gratification will be some assurance that everyone can be free of worry about their exposure to a deadly virus.

    Meanwhile I am reminded to count my blessings.   As I used our indoor plumbing several times today, I am reminded how I take this convenience for granted along with central heating and air conditioning.   I grew up with neither!  Simple things mean a lot.

    Think snow!

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Small Pleasures

     As I reflect on the past few weeks, I think about the small pleasures in life.  A fulfilling life does not need epic events.   There are a host of things that bring contentment, entertainment and satisfying social interactions.   

    Yesterday we had a great visit with an old friend going back at least 35 years.  It was especially poignant since he is now in Hospice care with who knows how long to live.  We had a very up beat afternoon.  His cheerful enthusiasm for life remaining and contentment in his lot was inspiring.  What a joy to share old memories and times with him.

    Another small pleasure come to mind in my watching the Little League World Series.   It is heartwarming to see these 10 to 12 year olds play their heart out and even in loss can be gracious to to their opponents.  It is  especially nice to see the victors be gracious in acknowledging the opposing players.  Competition in this form is so much more satisfying than watching the pros.

    As many of my geezer skier friends know, I have a daily apple fritter with my morning coffee!  It continues to be one of my little pleasures of life that comes each day.   

    A couple of days ago my wife and I hiked in a small park on the Erie Canal.   There were multiple pleasures on that day.   An idyllic pastoral scene of the placid canal waters.  Even getting to the park was satisfying as we took country roads rather than the interstates.  The area was a verdant panorama of maturing crops surrounded by woodlands over rolling hills.

    In few short months the ski slopes will open and it will be pleasurable to glide down the trails and take in the snow covered surroundings.  As I move into my later years I am focusing simply on the joy of being there.

    Yes, life can have the big ups as well as the big downs but I feel fortunate to be aware that I can soak up the good small things that happen all the time.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021


     I'll confess that in my latter senior years I enjoy routines.   I mostly prefer my daily rituals.   Lately our household has been in a bit of chaos.  My usual routine is arising at the preferred hour of 8:00 AM,  followed by a small shot of cranberry juice while I do my back exercises,  drinking two cups of hot water with my mini bagel.   By nine I am on my recumbent stationary exercise bicycle for an hour of mild spinning while I read the digital versions of the Syracuse Post Standard and the New York Times.  There are more elements of this morning routine that I will not bore you with but I love the groove and flow of familiar activities.   However our rhythm has been upset lately with a bathroom renovation and grandchildren visiting.   My wife and I have struggled to adapt to the intervention of our quiet senior life.   We have a limit to the amount of stimulation we can tolerate.    

    I am guessing the many of my neighbors are also grooved into routines.   While riding my recumbent bike I am able to view the street from our sunroom.   During my 9 to 10 AM ride I notice a red haired neighbor making her daily walk on a street that encircles our group of houses.  By my timer, she makes the circuit in about 9 minutes.  I frequently see  another neighbor make this circuit walking here dog.  Her ritual is 9 laps.   Her dog often drops out half way through!   I also note that along with the red haired neighbor walking the circuit there is an Asian-American neighbor that does the same circuit in the opposite direction.   

    Although I am grooved into my current routine, I am sufficiently flexible to move to other routines based on the season.   It is now summer but when winter arrives and skiing starts I will change to other daily rituals involving exercise on the ski slope rather than on the recumbent bike.  

    I suspect it is healthy to have routines, but not be so rigid you can't adapt to new situations.   Aging seems to reduce ones ability to adapt to change.  In spite of the sometimes jarring effect of change I like thinking that each day is a gift.  That keeps me  excited not only about what is routine but also about new possibilities for my life.  

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Riding The Wave

     On this day in 1944 the GI Bill was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.   Who would know that my 9 year old self of that day would make a connection to that event?  

    The GI Bill was a remarkable piece of legislation that opened the doors to college education for the WWII GI's.  They flooded into colleges and universities in unprecedented numbers.  Even doubling the enrollments in some institutions.  Before WWII college was the opportunity of the wealthy elite 18 year olds.   Only 15 percent of the 18 year old population went on to college.   The GI's flooded to this opportunity to advance their lives unrestricted by costs that would have been prohibitive in the past.   In retrospect it was one of the most useful pieces of social legislation every passed by our Congress.

    Here is the personal connection.   I entered Syracuse University in 1952 as the first of my family to go to college.  Not on the GI Bill but on a Chancellors's scholarship.  Next year I transferred to Cornell University  more to akin to my interests in engineering and agriculture.   The wave of GI's had passed through Cornell where it had challenged the faculty to deal with a totally committed and serious population of older students.   During my undergraduate years at Cornell I encountered  veteran faculty members who had experienced the glut of GI's entering their classes.   As a student Teaching Assistant  of Professor Burton A. Jennings I had the honor of hearing him reminisce about the dedication of his GI students.   He would describe them as no nonsense, eager to learn and get on with life individuals.   He had the greatest respect and admiration for their commitment.   In a sense those of us who came from families that had not experience a college education were the next wave starting in the 1950's and 1960's.  

    As an end note I had my own experience with returning GI's from the Viet Nam war.   By that time I was a professor at Cornell as well.   I clearly remember the Viet Nam veterans in my classes as the most dedicated and admirable students.   And so these waves pass through our institutions.    I trust that each generation is looking for upward mobility.   As a nation we owe those who have sacrificed in wars a boost to more opportunity.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Shovel Leaning

    On this day in 1935 Franklin Delano Roosevelt inaugurated the WPA -Works Progress Administration.   In the depths of the depression this new venture provided millions of jobs for unemployed Americans.    This happened just a few weeks after I was born over 86 years ago.  Our family was fortunate to be living on the land.  Farming continued and although there was little cash, we were employed and had plenty of food.  The WPA was a lifeline to millions not so fortunate.

    WPA was ridiculed by many as a waste of public money.   However, many of us today are benefiting from the parks and recreation facilities that were built in the years between 1935 and 1943 when this endeavor ended.   Some of the critics of this support spoke of the workers as mostly shovel leaners.   Some would say they would observe the work crews as having lots of their workers simply leaning on their shovels while watching some of the others work.  Probably if the critics were to hang around for a while,  they would see the shovel leaners pitch in for a while while some others became shovel leaners.    So here is my defense of the shovel leaners.   

    During my college years in the 1950's I had several construction jobs.  I helped build a Rochester Gas and Electric building in Sodus, New York.  In Fairport, New York I helped install a water pipe line.   In upstate New York I helped lay concrete across the Montezuma Swamp for the New York State Thruway.   These are my "creds" for having legitimate experience with public works projects.   I am not ashamed to say I spent some time shovel leaning!   As a laborer working with a shovel or other hand implement for as long as 12 hour days there is not a way that you can keep up this repetitive motion without a rest.   I challenge even the most fit among you to sustain shoveling continuously hour after hour without a rest.    In my experience some of the most hated supervisors were the drivers who would be on your case if you took at least a moments rest!   I vividly remember one day being assigned a tamping job.  Not with the current day powered vibrators but with a hand tamper lifted and dropped by hand.   I was working away with a rhythm that I knew I could sustain almost indefinitely.  Not good enough for the boss.   He comes over and says here is how to do it.   He grabs the tamper and proceeds to do a series of rapid thumps for about 10 seconds and then hands me the tamper and says that's how to do it.   Yeah!  Anyone can do that speed for ten seconds.    Let me say that I was pissed.    I got the job done, but I assure you not at the speed of the boss who  goes back to his job site office and push paper!   

    Let me assure you that I have no love for anyone of the team on the job that fails to carry their share.   However, if one is an outside observer you can't be too quick to criticize individuals unless you get the whole picture.   To this day there are still skeptics of the benefit of the WPA.   However, I think history has shown the benefits far outweighed the cost and gave millions of Americans a leg up in a difficult time.  Fast forward to the present.   We are on the cusp of having a massive infrastructure spending by our Federal Government.    It is controversial!  I, for one, see it as a lifeline for generations to come.   An investment for my grand children and great grandchildren.    Sure the there will be some shovel leaning but that will only be a minor part of the cost.