old enough to die

“Old Woman with Child & Goose” by Willard Metcalf

Once I realized I was old enough to die, I decided that I was also old enough not to incur any more suffering, annoyance, or boredom in the pursuit of a longer life. I eat well, meaning I choose foods that taste good and that will stave off hunger for as long as possible, like protein, fiber, and fats. I exercise — not because it will make me live longer but because it feels good when I do. As for medical care: I will seek help for an urgent problem, but I am no longer interested in looking for problems that remain undetectable to me. Ideally, the determination of when one is old enough to die should be a personal decision, based on a judgment of the likely benefits, if any, of medical care and — just as important at a certain age — how we choose to spend the time that remains to us.

In giving up on preventative care, I’m just taking this line of thinking a step further: Not only do I reject the torment of a medicalized death, but I refuse to accept a medicalized life, and my determination only deepens with age. As the time that remains to me shrinks, each month and day becomes too precious to spend in windowless waiting rooms and under the cold scrutiny of machines. Being old enough to die is an achievement, not a defeat, and the freedom it brings is worth celebrating.

~ Barbara Ehrenreich
(Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer)

A year after my cancer surgery it seems like a good time to mention a book that tumbled into my life at just the right moment. After my brush with a life-threatening illness, the ideas set forth in Barbara Ehrenreich’s book, Natural Causes, make a whole lot of sense to me.

I spent many years carting my mother-in-law, my aunt and my father around to those “windowless waiting rooms,” getting test after test, some of them downright painful. My aunt finally put her foot down and proclaimed, “Whatever I’ve got, I’m taking it with me.”

She lived to be 103 in spite of refusing all the standard tests recommended for her in the last years of her life. When she died, it was from an infection. After accepting treatment for a day or two, she finally refused treatment for that, too.

Nothing ever came of those countless tests.

In my own case, because my mother died of breast cancer, I have submitted to many “required” mammograms and wound up with three false positives, causing weeks of anxiety. Now I refused to have any more. At this point in my life I am old enough to die, and if I wake up one morning and feel a lump in my breast, so be it.

The endometrial cancer I wound up getting? Well, there is no screening for it. Irony.

Fortunately I’ve found a general practitioner who understands my feelings and treats my “urgent problems” without pushing me into a “medicalized life.” Barbara Ehrenreich’s book has all the facts and figures I needed to convince me that as a culture, we are indeed killing ourselves, or at least making ourselves miserable, in order to live longer. All these expensive, invasive tests have not increased our lifespans.

Therefore, I have chosen to enjoy spending whatever time I have left to me without borrowing trouble.

take time by the forelock

2.2.18 ~ Fota Wildlife Park, Carrigtwohill, Cork, Ireland ~ lion

A wise man will know what game to play to-day, and play it. We must not be governed by rigid rules, as by an almanac, but let the season rule us. The moods and thoughts of man are revolving just as steadily and incessantly as nature’s. Nothing must be postponed. Take time by the forelock. Now or never! You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, April 23, 1859)

Thoreau wrote these words when he was only 41 years old. (He died at age 44.) When I was 41… Let’s just say that after a childhood of ‘finding my eternity in each moment’ I found a way to squelch that way of being until I was into my 40s. But ‘living in the present’ has been coming much more naturally to me in the past twenty years. It’s a blessing to be alive.

This summer has been unbearably hazy, hot and humid. So many heat advisories and air quality alerts. I cannot remember the last time we turned off the air conditioners and opened the windows. I am crazy with cabin fever and going outside offers no relief.

But, I had some good news yesterday. I had an appointment with my oncologist and he found no sign of cancer recurrence! So I don’t need to see him again for a whole year!

Come, autumn. Please! Time to curl up again with a good book. To ‘launch myself on a new wave.’

Godspeed, Draken Harald Hårfagre

7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre leaving the pier at Mystic Seaport

Monday morning the Viking ship Draken Harald Hårfagre set out from Mystic Seaport for her next adventure: Expedition America – East Coast Tour 2018! We were there, with many others, to see her off!

7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre leaving Mystic Seaport

The world’s largest Viking ship sailing in modern times had arrived at Mystic Seaport in October of 2016 and has spent two winters here. It’s been fun having her so close by to go look at and dream every once in a while. I thought of all my ancestors who have bid ships farewell in the past, never knowing when (or if) they would return. I managed to get myself all worked up emotionally and shed more than a few tears during the day.

7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre leaving Mystic Seaport

But, much to my delight, I learned that after visiting 14 ports along the east coast the crew plans to return to Mystic Seaport on October 20! That can only mean she will be spending another winter here! 🙂

7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre

We quickly left the Seaport and followed the Mystic River in order to catch sight of her again.

7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre coming down the Mystic River
7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre coming down the Mystic River

And then we raced over the Mystic River Bascule Bridge and found a spot just south of it.

7.9.18 ~ Mystic River Bascule Bridge drawn up for the Draken Harald Hårfagre

There was so much excitement and anticipation in the air. Two shop owners standing next to me said they had closed their stores for a few minutes (in tourist season, no less!) to come see the vessel pass by. I got goosebumps when she emerged and someone on the other side of the river sounded a Viking war horn! People were cheering and waving and taking pictures. What a wonderful show of support for the sailors.

7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre, through the drawbridge
7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre ~ kayakers enjoy their view

Our next plan was to proceed down to Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough, a waterside restaurant in Noank, to see whatever we might be able to see. We almost missed her when Tim spotted her out of the corner of his eye, moving at a good clip through the marina.

7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre near Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough

I scrambled up a steep little hill to get a better shot. (My muscles still hurt a bit.)

7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre near Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough

And then she was gone.

7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre near Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough

I had hoped to see her set sail but it was not to be. We went down to Costello’s Clam Shack and had lunch on the upper deck. The ship came into view briefly but she didn’t set sail and disappeared again. After lunch we went down to Groton Long Point and saw her on the horizon, but still no sail. Oh well. But there are some amazing pictures of Draken Harald Hårfagre under sail on the website.

By the way, we were delighted to see Katherine three times at the end of June and beginning of July. She is very excited to tell everyone that she will be having a baby brother soon! (End of October.)

6.25.18 ~ Nature’s Playground, Stamford Museum & Nature Center ~ my own little Viking princess, Katherine, in her ship

What a delightful afternoon Svetlana and I had at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center in Stamford. Our little granddaughter led us on a grand tour of the playground, the nature trails and the animal farm. The otters were especially cute. Many thanks to Vladimir & Svetlana for always welcoming us into their home and sharing with us the never-ending joys of grand-parenthood.

an everyday sort of magic

“Blue Calyx” by Sulamith Wülfing

I do believe in an everyday sort of magic — the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.
~ Charles de Lint
(Grief One Day at a Time: 365 Meditations to Help You Heal After Loss)

joys may sometimes make a journey

Chinstrap penguins ~ Image source: AnimalSpot.net

The Things that never can come back, are several —
Childhood — some forms of Hope — the Dead —
Though Joys — like Men — may sometimes make a Journey —
And still abide —
We do not mourn for Traveler, or Sailor,
Their Routes are fair —
But think enlarged of all that they will tell us
Returning here —
“Here”! There are typic “Heres” —
Foretold Locations —
The Spirit does not stand —
Himself — at whatsoever Fathom
His Native Land —
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1564)

Goodbye, Old Year

pedigree collapse

When the principles of breeding and of inheritance are better understood, we shall not hear ignorant members of our legislature rejecting with scorn a plan for ascertaining by an easy method whether or not consanguineous marriages are injurious to man.
~ Charles Darwin
(The Descent of Man: And Selection in Relation to Sex)

“Seven-Year-Old Charles Darwin in 1816” by Ellen Sharples ~ Charles married his first cousin, Emma Wedgwood and they were the parents of ten children.

Two parents… four grandparents… eight great-grandparents…

If the number of ancestors is doubled in each generation as we go back in time, logic suggests there will be about a thousand ancestors per person in ten generations, and about a million of them in twenty generations. But as we go back in time fewer people were on earth than there are now.

However, one does not usually have to go too far back in his or her family history to find cousins marrying cousins of one degree or another. This actually collapses the pedigree, because when cousins have children together, some of the children’s ancestors are repeated in another line. This can make for a non-branching family tree with very tangled roots! The more cousins having children together on one’s pedigree, the more lines of ancestors will be repeated, and the actual number of one’s ancestors will eventually be fewer and fewer…

Following are the cousin marriages I have found so far on our trees. I will continue to update this page when I discover new connections.

Tim & I are 10th cousins, twice removed. Tim’s 11th-great-grandparents and my 9th-great-grandparents were [7968] Nathaniel Bacon and [7969] Hannah Mayo.

Tim’s great-grandfather, [16] George Lincoln Rodgers married his first cousin, [17] Mary Jane Rodgers, Tim’s great-grandmother. George & Mary’s fathers were brothers, and their grandparents in common were [64] Jacob Rogers and [65] Mahala Bedford.

My 2nd-great-grandfather, [56] William Martin White married his first cousin, [57] Ellen C. Hill, my 2nd-great-grandmother. William’s father and Ellen’s mother were siblings, and their grandparents in common were [224] Oliver White and [225] Lydia (—).

My 2nd-great-grandfather, [58] Reuel Gardner Atwood married his half second cousin, once removed, [59] Louisa Jane Atwood, my 2nd-great-grandmother. Reuel & Louisa’s common ancestor was [472] Lt. Nathaniel Atwood.

My 3rd-great-grandfather, [116] Reuel Atwood married his sixth cousin, [117] Abigail Savery Tillson, my 3rd-great-grandmother. Reuel & Abigail’s common 5th-great-grandparents were [7602] John Howland and [7603] Elizabeth Tilley.

My 3rd-great-grandfather, [118] Ebenezer Atwood married his second cousin, twice removed, [119] Waitstill Lucas, my 3rd-great-grandmother. Ebenezer & Waitstill’s common ancestors were [944] Dea. Nathaniel Atwood and [945] Mary (—).

My 3rd-great-grandfather, [122] Warren Freeman married his double fourth cousin, [123] Elisabeth Weekes, my 3rd-great-grandmother. Warren & Elisabeth’s common 3rd-great-grandparents were [3912] Joshua Hopkins and [3913] Mary Cole; and also [3932] Edward Small and [3933] Mary Woodman.

My 4th-great-grandfather, [232] Nathaniel Atwood married his first cousin, [233] Zilpha Shurtleff, my 4th-great-grandmother. Nathaniel & Zilpha’s mothers were sisters, and their grandparents in common were [930] Nathaniel Shaw and [931] Hannah Perkins.

Tim’s 5th-great-grandfather, [376] Asher Huntley married his first cousin, [377] Betsey Wilder Tiffany, Tim’s 5th-great-grandmother. Asher’s mother & Betsey’s father were siblings, and their grandparents in common were [1506] Consider Tiffany and [1507] Naomi Comstock.

My 5th-great-grandfather, [464] Ichabod Atwood married his first cousin, once removed, [465] Hannah Shaw, my 5th great-grandmother. Ichabod & Hannah’s common ancestors were [944] Dea. Nathaniel Atwood and [945] Mary (—).

My 5th-great-grandfather, [478] William Shurtleff married his first cousin, once removed, [479] Ruth Shaw, my 5th-great-grandmother. William & Ruth’s common ancestors were [1912] Abiel Shurtleff and [1913] Lydia Barnes.

My 5th-great-grandfather, [488] John Freeman married his second cousin, [489] Abigail Hopkins, my 5th-great-grandmother. John & Abigail’s common great-grandparents were [3906] Richard Sparrow and [3907] Mercy Cobb.

My 7th-great-grandfather, [1952] Edmund Freeman married his second cousin, [1953] Sarah Sparrow, my 7th-great-grandmother. Edmund & Sarah’s common great-grandparents were [15618] Thomas Prence and [15619] Patience Brewster.

Last Revised:  15 November 2017

Ancestor Table

relentlessly unpredictable

Not all the features of atypical human operating systems are bugs. By autistic standards, the “normal” brain is easily distractible, is obsessively social, and suffers from a deficit of attention to detail and routine. Thus people on the spectrum experience the neurotypical world as relentlessly unpredictable and chaotic, perpetually turned up too loud, and full of people who have little respect for personal space.
~ Steve Silberman
(NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism & The Future of Neurodiversity)

A major source of anxiety for me is any sudden change of plans. Over the years I’ve learned from observation that other people don’t see these as the catastrophes I experience and have at times concluded that there is something terribly wrong with me. Or then I think something is wrong with others, that they’re rude not to stick to a plan. I’ve spent countless hours giving myself pep talks about learning to be flexible and learning to go with the flow. When a change of plans pops into my day I have a hard time telling if it is a reasonable response to an unanticipated development or if it is just someone else’s whim. It doesn’t matter. Either way, I force myself to accept the change and exhaust myself repressing the panic I feel, trying to be “normal.”

[Lewis] Carroll’s transitions from chapter to chapter are abrupt and unexpected. Alice is rushed from one scene to the next without any opportunity to stop and process what she has just experienced, or to prepare herself mentally for what’s to come. This kind of abrupt time change, without transition, is similar to how a day at school feels to a child with AS. There is no flashback, no foreshadowing: since there is only the immediate moment, shifts in time and place are disconcerting and stressful. Carroll captures this feeling of urgency and panic very well.
~ Julie Brown
(Writers on the Spectrum: How Autism & Asperger’s Syndrome Have Influenced Literary Writing)

“Alice Meets the White Rabbit” by Margaret Winifred Tarrant

I have a very poor sense of time and an “unreasonable” fear of being late. When I know I have an appointment I rush around checking the clock all day, much like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, and cannot manage to do anything else. It seems like such a waste of time, but I cannot help it. Inevitably I leave the house too early. I watch in wonder and awe as others effortlessly multi-task and juggle appointments and chores in the course of a day. But to me it’s too overwhelming and confusing!

When surprised by the doorbell or the phone ringing I experience an adrenaline rush. I’ve worked hard over the years to not startle or gasp when that happens. Similarly, it is difficult to keep myself together when hearing a horn or a siren while out driving. On the other hand, I love the soothing sounds of foghorns and buoy bells, one of the comforts of living by the sea.

It’s interesting to me that I accept other sorts of change with far more grace, the change of seasons, the stages of life, evolution, or lifestyle changes. Knowing that nothing stays the same or lasts forever makes it easy for me to do things like let go of clutter or keepsakes and accept that children grow up and move away. Perhaps because these changes are more predictable and expected.

self-determination

“Lovers” by Pablo Picasso

How can twins with identical genetics and environment become so different and tolerate these differences so well? J. David Smith suggests that conjoined twins demonstrate an important aspect of human differentiation: intentionality. He notes that the role of self-determination has been lost in the “nature-nurture” debate about whether heredity or environment rules our lives. These two perspectives may appear to be complete opposites, but they share a common deterministic outlook. Even a compromise position still ignores how self-direction shapes our destinies. When we ignore the role of free will and active participation in our own lives, we damage and discourage ourselves.
~ David Schnarch
(Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love & Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships)

It was perhaps fifteen years ago when I read an excellent book, Passionate Marriage, quoted above, back when I was very interested in the balance between autonomy and intimacy in marriage and other relationships. And the gist of the above paragraph was etched into my mind as I embraced the idea of self-determination playing as much of a role in the course of our lives as heredity or environment.

Ever since I started this blog I have wanted to find the quote to add to my collection here. But memory is a funny thing. About the same period of time I had read another excellent book, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon. I was certain I had read that paragraph in this book! Self-determination can definitely apply to will in the fight against depression, a very cruel disease. Who knows how many times I thumbed through The Noonday Demon, looking in vain for the desired paragraph? Eventually I abandoned the search.

A couple of weeks ago I happened to be rearranging my daughter’s bookshelves when I came across my old copy of Passionate Marriage. I started leafing through it, looking to see what ideas I had underlined all those years ago, before passing the book on to her. Voila! There it was. I was dumbfounded.

Tim and I often joke about our ever-changing memories. I’ve taken to saying that the more certain I am of something I remember, the more likely it is that I am totally mistaken! This was certainly a case in point. 🙂

middle summer

“The Flowers of Middle Summer” by Henri Fantin-Latour

The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. There is no thunder, no relieving rain. These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after.
~ Natalie Babbitt
(Tuck Everlasting)