(Did you win an Earth Pathways 2014 diary? See the end of this post.)
I used to love the TV show The Waltons. Do you remember it? The large family growing up in Depression-era America, struggling through financial troubles and a changing world seen through the eyes of the eldest son, John-Boy? If you do, you’ll remember the nightly routine of all the family settling down to sleeping calling out goodnight to each other from their separate rooms at the end of each episode.
My favourite character was the proud, irascible, big-hearted, stubborn and wise Grandfather, played by Will Geer.
It wasn’t until a few months ago that I looked up Will Geer and found out what an amazing man he was: award-winning actor, botanist, activist, musician, some-time communist. He toured the Dust Bowl work camps with Burl Ives and Woody Guthrie in the 1930s. At that time he was also the lover of Harry Hay, who credits Geer with his own political awakening. In the 1950s, Geer had the honour of being blacklisted by the House Committee for Un-American Activities, and founded the Theatricum Botanicum in California with his then wife, the actress Herta Ware. (The theatre company is still going strong today.) On the land there, he grew every plant ever mentioned in Shakespeare’s writings. The patriarch Grandpa Zebulon Walton was his last and most famous role, from 1972 to his death in 1978.
He died with his family around him. They recited poetry and sang Guthrie’s anthem This Land is Your Land.
This is all by way of saying that I came across a quote by Geer that really hit me:
I’m a lifelong agitator, a radical. A rebel is just against things for rebellion’s sake. By radical, I mean someone who goes to the roots.
As we grow older, we can rebel against the process of aging, or we can go to the roots of our age and everything it means.
Whatever the activity or the attitude, if it’s rebellion, there’s probably a still small voice inside somewhere saying you’re just in it to rebel against. I know that’s been true of me.
But growing older in radical ways is being true to self.
What might it look like? Embracing age while mourning loss? Using humour not to deflect from uncomfortable truth but to put discomfort in its place? Acknowledging truth about ourselves and about others, good and bad? Speaking up when it’s most important? Wisdom to… well I find myself thinking of the Serenity prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
Going to the very roots of things. What would that be like for you?
And the winners are:
And now… drumroll… the two readers whose names came out of the Earth Pathways diary draw are: Towanda and Joanna Paterson! I’ll email to get your snail mail addresses. I’m only sorry we couldn’t send a diary to every person who commented. The Earth Pathways team are delighted at the fantastic enthusiasm.