“Getting old is one damn thing after another.”
-Irvin Yalom, Becoming Myself
Above our fireplace in the den is a painting by Ed Sandoval, a member of the Nambé Pueblo in northern New Mexico. Sandoval has an international reputation; his paintings have been featured in numerous magazines, and one was chosen some years back as the official White House Christmas card.
Many of Sandoval’s paintings feature an elderly man traversing a dirt road—hunched over, dressed in black, walking stick in hand. In this particular painting, he is walking toward the setting sun. The man has lived a long life and has trod this road many times. He could walk it blind. His shadow is long and he is going home.
Also featured is a church, a sturdy Pueblo-style adobe structure; no doubt, his people built that church centuries ago. Cottonwood trees frame the borders of the painting, which is asplash in golds and greens and blues and yellows. (My spell checker says that asplash isn’t a word. But I think it should be. Don’t you?) It’s a classic Sandoval print.
I cannot enter the den without pausing before that painting. I know that man. He is everyman. Every older man, anyway. He still has a fair number of tomorrows left to him, but far more behind. He is thinking about mistakes made, opportunities missed, apologies left unsaid, people hurt by careless remarks. He is also thinking of the blessings that have come his way, often in spite of himself. All in all, he is a good man. And he is tired.
That old man speaks to me of life and death and transitions and passings. Things to let go of as more of life’s road graces the rearview mirror. He speaks to me of slowing down.
This is my final Connections newsletter. I have been churning out articles and newsletters for almost 50 years now, and it’s time to put this particular format—which started as a weekly newsletter, morphed into a monthly, and in recent years only as the spirit moved me—to rest.
This is not about retiring, just slowing down. My counseling practice and my work with doctoral students at the Graduate Theological Foundation fill me with that sense of meaning and purpose we all need, particularly as we age. I am holding on to them and nurturing them and offering daily thanks for them. I’m working on a revision of my Journeys of Faith book, certainly my last publication. Meeting regularly with friends. Walking every morning, accompanied by one of my seven walking sticks (I’ve always been something of a collector). Filling my spiritual needs through my men’s group, which keeps me centered and grounded, while serving as a much-needed reminder that it’s not all about me. Life is good.
To all my readers, thank you so much for putting up with my newsletters through the years. I have enjoyed your occasional comments. And please continue to keep in touch.