When Walt Whitman wrote the poem that he entitled "I Sing of the Body Electric" he was vilified. The poem celebrates the human body and all it can do and be. This morning, I am reminded of that poem and how lovely it is. He wrote:
The love of the Body of man or woman balks account—the body itself balks account; That of the male is perfect, and that of the female is perfect.
He goes on to write how lovely every body is for what it can do and how the body reflects its owner. It is a lovely poem by any account...
I am reminded of it today after spending yesterday working outside. We cleaned the chicken coop (overdue by a month!), hung new outdoor lights (with the days shorter we find we need these to feed on occasion), hauled trash to the dump, and ran errands. Our bodies lifted, stooped, squatted, stretched, crawled (okay, I confess, some of the coop required on the ground attention), walked, scurried, and ambled. By last night, my legs and feet were telling me how hard they had worked and how grateful they would be for a little elevation and rest. I agreed.
We choose how we live and, really, how we die. My most favorite poem is "Ulysses" by Tennyson. The poem centers of the mythological character Ulysses and how he, upon growing older, realizes that his life isn't over, but rather, he can still dream and do. My favorite lines are these:
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,--
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
These past months I have watched people a lot more than usual. I have thought about their choices and their lifestyles -- not in a judgmental way, oh no!, but as a matter of information --- trying see how we choose to grow old. I know that I am; I am past the double nickel, yet my mind tells me that I am still that buoyant 24-year-old who could do anything. What I have discovered is this: those who remain young in their minds are young in their bodies. Those who choose to do what they can, regardless of infirmary or illness, are much happier than those who sit on their tuffett and wail that they just can't do such and such any longer. Those who stay involved in life, going, doing, giving, caring for others are much happier and better satisfied than those who don't. It matters not what the body is capable of doing, it is the attitude of the person, to do what one can, that seems to determine their joy and contentment.
I have a friend whose mother was found patching a hole in her roof when she was 94. I love that. This is the woman I want to be. I plan to sing of this old body until it is transformed into the perfect one I am promised on the other side. Until then, this one will do just fine.