this old age

"Self-Portrait, 1669" by Rembrandt (1606-1669) Dutch Painter & Etcher
“Self-Portrait, 1669” by Rembrandt

Old age is the most unexpected of all things that can happen to a man.
~ Leo Tolstoy
(Promises to Keep: Thoughts in Old Age)

Old age. All the facial detail is visible; all the traces life has left there are to be seen. The face is furrowed, wrinkled, sagging, ravaged by time. But the eyes are bright and, if not young, then somehow transcend the time that otherwise marks the face. It is as though someone else is looking at us, from somewhere inside the face, where everything is different. One can hardly be closer to another human soul.
~ Karl Ove Knausgård
(My Struggle, Book One)

This old age ought not to creep on a human mind. In nature every moment is new; the past is always swallowed and forgotten; the coming only is sacred. Nothing is secure but life, transition, the energizing spirit.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

14 thoughts on “this old age”

  1. Barbara – I am typing this response from Seattle (we drove here yesterday) and am oh-so-glad that even though I’m gently sliding into the well “seasoned” part of my life, I still have plenty of vim and vigor. Tramping through Seattle with Len and two large dogs takes vitality and stamina.

    I love the Leo Tolstoy quote: “Old age is the most unexpected of all things that can happen to a man” or woman.

    1. Ah, Laurie, Seattle – Tim went there once for two weeks of some kind of technical training many years ago. He says it is a beautiful city and wants to take me there some day. After 30 years of exhaustive care-giving we’re starting to see the possibility of renewed vitality on the horizon. (A new granddaughter, a trip to Germany and Norway!) I love your metaphor of gently sliding into the well “seasoned” part of your life.

    1. My father liked the Tolstoy quote, too. Living into his 90s was so unexpected, and very surprising to him.

  2. I’ll third the Tolstoy quote. Sometimes I’m so surprised by what I see in the mirror because it doesn’t match how I feel.

    1. I know what you mean, Robin. I still feel like a teenager who doesn’t correspond with the middle-aged woman I see in the mirror…

  3. I fourth the Tolstoy quote. I just read it out loud to Mr F.
    and I agree with Robin. I look in the mirror and get a fright to see all the wrinkles.

    1. I’m glad both you and your husband appreciated the Tolstoy quote, Rosie. It’s funny, I don’t mind the wrinkles and gray hair as much as I mind getting weaker.

    1. It seems to have universal appeal, doesn’t it? Especially to those of us approaching old age…

  4. Rembrandt was a wonderful choice – few painters can catch all of the nuances that make up the human face; nuances that become increasingly varied as the years add more and more subtleties of expression.

    These are all fine quotes, but I find myself leaning towards the Emerson one!

    1. I love the Emerson quote, too, Aubrey. When you think about it, becoming an older person is a new experience. As Emily Dickinson wrote, “We turn not older with years, but newer every day.” (The Life & Letters of Emily Dickinson)

      Rembrandt captured an amazing variety of facial expressions so well – they often seem like photographs!

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