ON LEISURE FOR THE OLD. — October 30, 2021


Or as Davies puts it……

“What is this life if full of care

We have no time to stand and stare

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep and cows?”

If William Henry Davies were my neighbor, I might see him on my morning walks as he stops to feed the ducks or to see the sand crane do his courting dance, or we might share a conversation on many things because we are both old and time is what we have in abundance.

Have you noticed that in  these times defined by  sheer hustle and bustle, we have lost the  true meaning of leisure? I note with concern that “leisure” days for the young mean a frenetic dash to do things. Move. Get going. Never sit still. Become a  hostage to modern living.

Now, those of us who are retired see leisure in a different way. I see older  people taking long, slow, leisurely walks, hands clasped behind their backs, or holding on to a walker. They stop in the shade  and look. They notice things.  They  greet each other and stop to say things that might have no meaning but  are sincere. I do that too. And why not? We bring years of thought and wisdom into understanding the value of things. We think more deeply on the meaning of life. We don’t want to change the world. We just want to be nice to each other. Time is our “capital” to be used as judiciously or as frivolously as we desire.

I’m retired so I have time.  Time to  look at the birds, time  to  feed the ducks in the pond, time to see perfect  reflections in the still waters of the pond and consider if I should bring a few water lily plants and ask a young person to stop long enough  to plant them in the pond. That will bring a smile to all who can “stand and stare” for a while.

If I do this then there is a bit of beauty for people like me to “stand and stare” and enjoy. 

I bemoan the fact that our culture doesn’t see leisure in a wider sense. Think about it. There are stadiums, ball parks and theme parks, ice rinks and other places  to hold the energetic in thralldom and steal their leisure. But these are for the energetic young.  If you have ever been to a theme park after you retired, you might understand the revulsion with which old people view them. Why would I want to stand in line for two hours waiting to go on a five minute-ride and listen to the young scream in ecstacy  and which might give me a heart attack ?  Heaven forbid. I’m not ready for that.

In the place where I live, there are no parks with shady pathways. No benches and tables to allow for a leisurely walker to sit and think, to sip her coffee, listen to songs from the 50s or  to read a book. No place that says to the elderly “Come bide here awhile”. This might be a dream fulfilled for those who might be put out to grass otherwise. We have become the forgotten. Do you know why? Giving us a foot-path with  a bench, a table in a shady place, might not put money in someone’s pockets. No sarcasm meant. It’s the truth.

I am not a dog walker. I don’t own a dog.  A few weeks ago, I saw (with not a little consternation), that there is a “dog park” not far from where I live. A DOG PARK mind you. Where are the parks for PEOPLE pray?  Is there a bit of irony here?  Or don’t the old deserve? We who have given much to life and to community, must now give way to DOGS. So you see, we are also held hostage to  modern living when dogs become more important than we.

Much of the stresses in our lives might be seen differently if we understood the value of slowing down, but sadly, it is only age that brings this wisdom with it. I do not begrudge the young their energy and their rush to “be” and “do”.  After all, it is the way of things. But  I do not have the energy to be  on a continual rush to be, and to do. I am old.

This is why  I would like for someone to say, “Let’s create a place for the old to enjoy their leisure hours. They too need to enjoy something. It’s time for them to stand or sit  and stare, if they wish to do so.”

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