Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Thoughts on Saturn & Growing Older: A Privilege Denied to Many

While the Sun is in zodiac sign Capricorn, planet Saturn, as ruler of that sign could be said to be "in its element". Astrologer Ingrid Lind wrote that Saturn corresponds with the side of a character that is respected, or feared, rather than loved. Sense of duty, responsibility, caution, commonsense, sobriety, punctuality - all that good stuff is the reserve of Saturn. Saturn, aka Chronos, Greek god, lord of time (as against Dr. Who, Time Lord) also governs old age.

Trawling through my husband's archive (Saturn must rule archives too) at Thinks Happen the other day I came across something he wrote back in March, 2006, which seems to me to be rather Saturnian, not at all his usual style. It must have been written on a 'bad back day" - replacement for bad hair days which no longer trouble him. He titled the post The Sixth Sense: Gravity. Personally, I'd hoped that age would bring a different sixth sense - something more esoteric, other worldly: ability to read minds, the gift of prophecy, talking to the animals....or suchlike. But no, it seems something far more mundane awaits, or is already here.

The Sixth Sense: Gravity
The human body seems to compensate for its own inadequacies or attempt to balance for missing parts. Blind people seem to have an acute sense of smell. Losing an arm means the other arm will grow stronger to make up the difference. That seems natural.

Growing older includes among other things, a lessening of all of the senses it seems. The muscles soften, the organs work slower, weaker. The menu narrows so the sense of taste goes bland. Glasses and hearing aids are often required to boost those senses. The odors that used to be annoying, overwhelming or embarrassing before now seem to have become tolerable or maybe stinks have gone extinct. And dressing in the dark is no longer an option. Is that corduroy or velvet? Green, blue or black?

But in growing older one does seem to develop a sixth sense, maybe to sort of compensate for the slowing of the other five: The sense of gravity tunes up. Our awareness of gravity approaches the acute at about the same speed as the trudging, then galloping years.

Everything gets heavier. Picking up small objects such as a coffee cup cannot be done at arms length anymore. Too much strain on the elbow. So the time spent getting closer to things increases, new methods are learned to get things moved from one table to another; new rationalizations are developed to just leave things where they are. It’s the new sense of gravity teaching us new skills.

Getting the local newspaper from the driveway must be done much like young mothers are taught to pick up youngsters: squat at the knees, keep the back straight. Keeping the back straight seldom gets easier as years go but then bending the spine enough to pick something up from between your feet is impossible. So our knees and back contribute to that sixth sense of gravity by learning to cooperate in order to reach objects on the floor.

Now, since newspapers and other common objects are much heavier than a few years ago, because of that increased sense of gravity, obviously, getting back up in a standing posture is even more of a challenge. But our bodies develop ways to compensate for gravity. Pushing with one hand on a knee will aid the spine and knees in returning to the erect position. But we would never have thought of that before our sense of gravity began to develop.

All of which brought to mind a little-known song I've always loved Defying Gravity. It was theme of a TV mini-series The Executioner's Song, and sung by dear ol' Waylon Jennings, written (I think) by Jesse Winchester.

I live on a big round ball
I never do dream I may fall
And even one day if I do
Well, I'll jump off and smile back at you

I don't even know where we are
They tell you we're circling a star
Well, I'll take their word, I don't know
But I'm dizzy so it may be so

More Saturnian words on the coming of old age, this time from one of my favourite poets: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - last two verses of Morituri Salutamus (See full poem here)
As the barometer foretells the storm
While still the skies are clear, the weather warm,
So something in us, as old age draws near,
Betrays the pressure of the atmosphere.
The nimble mercury, ere we are aware,
Descends the elastic ladder of the air;
The telltale blood in artery and vein
Sinks from its higher levels in the brain;
Whatever poet, orator, or sage
May say of it, old age is still old age.
It is the waning, not the crescent moon;
The dusk of evening, not the blaze of noon;
It is not strength, but weakness; not desire,
But its surcease; not the fierce heat of fire,
The burning and consuming element,
But that of ashes and of embers spent,
In which some living sparks we still discern,
Enough to warm, but not enough to burn.

What then? Shall we sit idly down and say
The night hath come; it is no longer day?
The night hath not yet come; we are not quite
Cut off from labor by the failing light;
Something remains for us to do or dare;
Even the oldest tree some fruit may bear;
Not Oedipus Coloneus, or Greek Ode,
Or tales of pilgrims that one morning rode
Out of the gateway of the Tabard Inn,
But other something, would we but begin;
For age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day
Gotta love that last line!


anyjazz said...

I've never had a bad hair day. It's always been just sort of ...naughty.

Anonymous said...

GP: "Initially he goes on four legs, then two. At the end with three". My case. Since I had a knee accident, I now walk with a stick.

Gravity may be as tough for a new born as for an ageing person. Watch them when they learn to walk...

T. may not remember that one: when some time ago I grumbled that getting old was difficult, you asked "What's the alternative?" Cannot avoid but cope with gravity!

James Higham said...

But in growing older one does seem to develop a sixth sense, maybe to sort of compensate for the slowing of the other five: The sense of gravity tunes up. Our awareness of gravity approaches the acute at about the same speed as the trudging, then galloping years.

Haven't noticed it yet but will keep my eye out.

Have a happy New Year. Anything planned?

Twilight said...

anyjazz ~~ Yeah - went into hiding didn't it?

Twilight said...

Anonymous/Gian Paul ~~
Yes! We begin and end tussling with gravity, and in between....well we stumble around a lot and pretend to know what we're doing.

Sorry to read that your knee has never properly returned to its former efficiency, GP. Must have been a very nasty fall you had.

Yes, I do remember - it's my favourite response to comment about getting old(er) - "it's better than the alternative" (not getting old(er)).
It originated as a quote - from Maurice Chevalier I think.

Twilight said...

James Higham ~~ My sixth sense of gravity is still developing, a couple of glasses of Scotch can help bring it along a stage or two quite rapidly though. ;-)

Nothing planned for New Year - we usually slump in front of the TV, have a few drinks, grumble about the programmes, surf channels, grumble some more, put on a DVD then note when the fireworks start crackling outside that it must be....whatever year comes next.

When we were both in the UK we tried to find a cosy pub in which to celebrate among others, but they were all full to the gills, so we went home and did as above, even there. Here there are no pubs as such, only some low dives of bars where you go to find a fight. ;-(

Happy 2012, James, when it comes.

Wisewebwoman said...

Very interesting on the gravity. My father pointed this out to me a long time ago. Gravity drags our feet downward which causes tripping over stuff we would not have done in our youth. I have noted it myself. But it is so hard to fight the gravity and lift those feet a little higher. I learn from my tumbles.
A very merry NYE to you, sounds perfect, I dislike the parties very much.


Twilight said...

Wisewebwoman ~~ As we sense gravity the more, we also gather gravitas (or so it's said).

We hope your New Year's Eve, when it comes is warm, peaceful, with just enough gravity to regulate the feet - all in all, just as you'd like it!