Tuesday, November 07, 2006

10 Wellfleet Oysters and 10 Ways to Stay Young

10 wellfleet oysters

These oysters, which my friend Jake gathered from the bay in the middle of a heavy storm for his and Laura's annual oyster party are my art of the day. I thought of painting over them, collaging them, adding quotes or pasting shells around the edges. But when it comes right down to it, there's absolutely nothing you can do to improve on a Wellfleet oyster. Except maybe adding a little hot sauce and sucking them down right out of the shell!

For Part 2 of 10 Things, I decided to tackle a topic that has probably inspired more snake oil salemen and self-help books and magazine articles than any other. Since youth looks good and feels good and sometimes even provides the illusion that we will never die, how do we stay young?

10 Ways to Stay Young

And no, I'm not talking about merely looking the part. Or dressing up in leggings and a long sweater that barely covers your butt if you're a woman, or spiking your hair up like a rock star and buying the coolest sunglasses on the block if you're a man. I don't mean finding a younger spouse or undergoing fertility treatments just before the AARP card arrives. Nor am I advocating that you become such an expert on hot trends that you know more about them than you do about yourself.

Many of us who are over thirty -- and some even younger -- have already bought the potions, hired the personal trainer, and seen the hair colorist. And don't get me wrong, I'm not against those things -- as long as they don't consume your life. As long as they don't make you forget that your time here really is limited, and maybe you ought to be using it.

Ironically, the more we worship youth, the more we market it and exalt it and mock it by imitation, the more we deaden its spirit.

How do you define youth beyond its obvious smooth skin and raging hormones and washboard abs? Here's my definition:

1. Being young is discovering that you've just inherited the world and that it's a marvelous one. It's also flawed, woefully mismanaged and seriously imperilled. It means setting out with all the idealistic fervor of Don Quixote to rescue it, to change it, to polish it till its new again.

1 1/2.It's not caring that you are probably destined to fail in all the big ways. It's doing it anyway, and discovering that maybe the "small way" matters more than you think.

2. Being young means its your job to fall in love, and you do it extravagantly and often. You fall in love not only with potential romantic partners, but with trees, with the dark and shiny streets where you walk with your friends at midnight, with the color of the sky when you rise from your bed at five a.m., with a snatch of music that you heard once and never forgot.

3. Being young means you are perfectly beautiful and beautifully perfect. You are not too fat, too pimply, too large of nose or legs or teeth, nor too small of breasts or eyes or height--though some may tell you that you are. But believe me, there will come a day when you gaze at a photograph of your young self and be absolutely stunned by its beauty. And you will wonder how you could have failed to see it, to inhabit it, to celebrate it every day.

4. Being young means you make mistakes. Glorious mistakes. Dumb mistakes. Sometimes even the kind of wild mistakes that will cause you to wonder what you were thinking. It's crying and regretting and bemoaning those mistakes until you realize they weren't distractions from the road after all. They were the road.

5.Being young means your body is meant for movement. It's a time for dancing, for running, for being able to do prodigious amounts of work, then collapsing in exhaustion, only to get up the next day and do it again.

6. Being young means you have very little time and less patience for sitting on the couch, watching other people live their lives on TV. You're far too busy with your own.

7. Being young means you ask the big questions.

8. It means you stay up half the night with your friends formulating answers, and then go to bed deliriously tired, intoxicated with possibilities. Even though you know no more than you did before you started. And it means continuing the conversation in your dreams where maybe--just maybe--the real answers lie.

9. Being young means that you see really well, and you hear really well and so you look with all your heart. And you listen the same way.

10. Being young means that you're capable of surprising and rattling and inspiring your world. And so you do! Whether the world likes it or not, whether it listens or not, whether it cares or not. Because this is your time and you're going to seize it.

*And no, it isn't all about age. In fact, some of the youngest people I know had enough candles on their last birthday cake to ignite a wildfire.


a m y said...

This really does capture some of my favorite things about bein' 23 :)

Sharon Hurlbut said...

Thank you, Patry, for making me realize how 'young' I am! This is a wonderful list. I want to keep that sense of energy and wonder about the world so that I can stay young as long as I live.

Kerstin said...

Wonderful. Simply perfect. I wonder if it would have made a difference to my life if I had read something like this when I was young? Perhaps I even did, but discarded it as an older person's nostalgia. Because despite 7. and 8. I remember thinking that I knew it all!

Shannon Hopkins said...

Great list. May we all be young like this forever, starting at age 13.

MB said...

Patry, I love that you just had to include a 1 1/2!! That cracked me up.

This is marvelous. If I may say so, this list is ageless, timeless. It's just right whether you are 23 or 43 or (I suspect) 63... You have captured the essence of liveliness, of being fully alive.

Patry Francis said...

amy: It also captures some of my favorite things about being twice your age! Thanks for stopping by to blow a kiss.

sharon: I have absolutely no doubt that you will. You're a poet after all!

kerstin: Sometimes I feel younger now than I did when I really was, don't you? The adventure continues.

r: I'm not feeling nostalgic because really, now is the best time for me, but we DID have fun...

tarakuanyin: Yes, starting at age 13. Are you thinking of Mary's wonderful post, too?

mb: Yes! In fact, in nearly all these ways, my grandfather died young--at age 99.

Anonymous said...

Those are very beautiful oysters, very temptingly laid out.

I like your list. It's completely true. It also reminded me how very happy I am to be middle-aged.

Patry Francis said...

sara: Would you be very offended if I said I found your spirit to be brimming with youth?

Anonymous said...

Well then, Patry, you're bursting with youth. It's my birthday soon, I think I'd better print up your list, post it beside my computer and get busy.

Thanks for giving me a good shake!


Anonymous said...

ahhh this was nice to read; feeling young now.

I spent some time looking over your links this morning; many I have never been to before so those were a treat. I only got about half way through so am looking forward to returning and catching the last half.

rdl said...

Yes we did! when can we have more? :D

Darlene said...

Great list Patry!
The OYS. look divine ;)

xox darlene

Anonymous said...

Patry - Lovely culinary presentation and photography = Art; especially when it's something that you love! Actually, I believe that's the secret ingredient in any art whether it's cooking, writing, painting, whatever you do, love it.

I love this list of 10 things so much, I'd like to post them beside the bathroom mirror - as a reminder to look beyond what I see there!

Patry Francis said...

Tish: You don't look a day older than Amy. No list necessary for you.

ascender: Oh, glad you're enjoying the links. Quite an eclectic and amazing bunch, don't you think?

r: That's the big question. These days it's way all work...except when I'm making art of course.

darlene: And number 11. Smile and spread around lots of love like Darlene always does!

Anonymous said...

We are so used to looking at and studying our physical reflections that I think we sometimes forget that our outer selves are often a very poor indicator of our inner youth. Nice list. :-)

Zhoen said...

I love this. I strive to be young in some of these ways, but with experience to keep me on my feet a bit more often.

Anonymous said...

Of course it wouldn't offend me, Patry. I'm a big girl now. I can take it. ;)

I'm sort of fixating on #9 at this moment because one of the pleasures of getting older (but not necessarily growing up) has been learning to look, not just see, and to listen, not just hear.

I'n not claiming mastery, mind you. Just saying.

Anonymous said...

FanTASTc post


Anonymous said...

very encouraging ... I love that you added a 1 and 1/2. Only an artist would think to do that - the rest of us would whittle it down to the normal 10. You are just plain fun to read ... and you have a very edgy, adventurous spirit!

Anonymous said...

the only way one can really experience staying young, is when you begin to age...then everything we've learned in our lives leads the way...

love your post!


Anonymous said...

i love this list, and i am taking notes...

kenju said...

"But believe me, there will come a day when you gaze at a photograph of your young self and be absolutely stunned by its beauty. And you will wonder how you could have failed to see it, to inhabit it, to celebrate it..."

How DID you know??!!

Patry Francis said...

tinker: We must have x-posted. Anyway, I LOVE and absolutely agree with your expansive defninition of art.

sara: You know I was working on those very things today. And today I did a little better than I did yesterday. For me, that's as good as it gets. Baby steps.

sarsparilla: Thank you and lovely to see you here again.

becca: Today was one of those days when I felt distinctly unadventurous and more blurry than edgy. But just reading your words made me feel restored. Thank you for them and for your presence here.

sage: Welcome! And yes, I agree. It seems that aging is an accumulation of ironies, some bitter ones, but others incredibly sweet.

ruby: I'd love to read those notes!

coll: Maybe we should all cover the mirrors one day a week and look inward--after we've combed our hair, of course.

zhoen: I feel both your youthful, creative spirit and your groundedness every time we visit.

kenju: Personal experience is the greatest teacher!

Anonymous said...

"Being young means you make mistakes" especially, though all of this is wonderful... you are a woman after my own heart, thanks for this, has cheered me up....

gerry rosser said...

Ah, youth, it is all the rage isn't it? I suppose (I've already read your next post) it has to do with the certain intellectual knowledge of death (as in, if you are young, death is generally--and hopefully-farther away). I say "intellectual" because we know we are going to die, we just don't "believe" it.
Anyway, dem oysters look good. Wellfleet is a cool place, I usually go there once or twice a summe.

Patry Francis said...

ainelivia: I suppose that's one of the advantages of being not so young? When you make mistakes, they tend to be less spectacular ones.

gerry: I hadn't thought of it until you mentioned it, but it is an interesting sequence of posts. Not only do we spend much of our lives disbelieving the obvious inevitability of death, we (or at least I) can never understand it when it strikes close to home. How can a person who is so real, so solid, so eternally complex just disappear?

Anonymous said...

I must be really young for all the questions I ask. I love the oyster mandala! Have you ever run into Marge Piercy? Read her book "Sleeping with Cats?"

Have I asked that question before? Does that mean I'm not young if I'm repeating myself?

Patry Francis said...

Colleen: Seeing an oyster mandala definitely means you're young. But of course, I already knew that.

paris parfait said...

This is wonderful - we need reminding of these things over and over!