ISSUE No. 37 | September 2023
If you’re new to CULTIVARE we welcome you! CULTIVARE is a monthly field guide for life and faith, brought to you by TEND. Each month we explore a specific “field” – a topic or theme through which we seek to cultivate contemplation, engagement, and deeper understanding. Our guiding questions are:
What are you cultivating in your life?
What fruit do you want your life to bear?
Each issue of CULTIVARE is structured into three parts:
Cultivate: Examines a specific “Field” or facet of life and offers questions to unearth and challenge our held perspective; along with concise kernels of truth which we call “Seeds.”
Irrigate: Explores the ways we nurture our understanding, which varies from individual to individual. We offer six means of irrigation: Art, Poetry, Profile, Film, Essay, and Books.
Germinate: Encourages practical ways to engage in becoming more fruitful and free in our lives.
Our name, CULTIVARE, in Spanish means “I will cultivate.” We hope each issue of our field guide will encourage you to do just that – cultivate new thoughts, actions, faith, hope, and fruitful living. We invite you to dig in and DIG DEEP!
For we are partners working together for God, and you are God's field.
(I Corinthians 3:9)
Our theme this month is AGING WELL. In the United States the month of September marks the beginning of a new school year, a time when children move up a grade as they age. Though you may be decades away from your schooldays, the idea of aging cannot escape us. How do you view your current age? How do you view the aging process? What does God’s Word tell us about the process of aging?
The famed baseball player Satchel Paige once asked, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?” It’s a wonderful question. Think about it for a moment. How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were? What impact would that have on your view of the world and your life choices? The novelist Gertrude Stein once asserted: “We are always the same age inside.” If that is indeed true, what age are you?
No matter what age you may be, the process of aging often prompts a deeper engagement with the spiritual life and propels individuals to face questions of purpose, meaning, and connection. The desire to age well often focuses our attention on our spiritual needs and aspirations. By doing so we can become more attuned to our gifts and callings. We can be more aware of the unique place God has positioned us. We can renew our outlook on life. Aging well can be a refining, renewing, and reenergizing experience.
In this issue we feature an interview with a physician who specializes in geriatric medicine as he reflects on his decades-long work with the elderly. We feature an article spotlighting ten well-known artists, including Claude Monet, who did some of their best work in their senior years. We feature two films, a feature film and a documentary, that highlight the aging process starting at age seven. And we feature an article written by the beloved 99-year old theologian James Houston.
The famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright once observed, “The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes.” Our hope is that no matter your current age, no matter the gains and losses that aging brings, that you would see the aging process as one that leads to greater beauty, awareness, understanding, wisdom, grace, peace, and trust in God. May you know with certainty the insight of the Psalmist: When my skin sags and my bones get brittle, God is rock-firm and faithful. (Psalm 73:26 MSG). (DG)
Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
(Isaiah 46:4 NIV)
Is not wisdom found among the aged?
Does not long life bring understanding?
(Job 12:12 NIV).
Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
your mighty acts to all who are to come.
(Psalm 71:18 NIV)
A handful of quotes to contemplate and cultivate into your life
Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.
Aging has a wonderful beauty, and we should have respect for that. (Eartha Kitt)
The best tunes are played on the oldest fiddles! (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.
(George Bernard Shaw)
One day you will look back and see that all along you were blooming.
(Morgan Harper Nichols)
There are six myths about old age: 1. That it’s a disease, a disaster. 2. That we are mindless. 3. That we are sexless. 4. That we are useless. 5. That we are powerless. 6. That we are all alike. (Maggie Kuhn)
It’s paradoxical that the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn’t appeal to anyone. (Andy Rooney)
My physical body may be less efficient and less beautiful in old age. But God has given me an enormous compensation: my mind is richer; my Soul is broader and my wisdom is at a peak. I am so happy with the riches of my advanced peak age that, contrary to Faust, I would not wish to return to youth. (Robert Muller)
Do not grow old, no matter how long you live. Never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born. (Albert Einstein)
10 Senior Citizens Who Made Great Art
It's not just young whippersnappers who pop out classics! Sometimes it takes a lifetime of experience to produce works of art. In this article from mentalfloss.com, we find ten famed senior citizen artists, musicians, writers and otherwise creative dynamos who didn’t let a few gray hairs stop them. Indeed, for several, success didn’t arrive at all until their later years.
Read the full article here: View Now
I Dare You
It’s autumn, and we’re getting rid
of books, getting ready to retire,
to move some place smaller, more
manageable. We’re living in reverse,
age-proofing the new house, nothing
on the floors to trip over, no hindrances
to the slowed mechanisms of our bodies,
a small table for two. Our world is
shrinking, our closets mostly empty,
gone the tight skirts and dancing shoes,
the bells and whistles. Now, when
someone comes to visit and admires
our complete works of Shakespeare,
the hawk feather in the open dictionary,
the iron angel on a shelf, we say
take them. This is the most important
time of all, the age of divestment,
knowing what we leave behind is
like the fragrance of blossoming trees
that grows stronger after
you’ve passed them, breathing
them in for a moment before
breathing them out. An ordinary
Tuesday when one of you says
I dare you, and the other one
Dr. Todd Fearer
Specialist in Geriatric Medicine
In this issue, we have decided to profile an ordinary person doing the extraordinary work of caring for the elderly. Todd Fearer, M.D., is a board certified geriatrician, who has been in private practice for 35 years in southern California. Dr. Fearer graduated from Westmont College with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. He did his pre-Med education at UC Irvine, medical school at UCLA, and did his residency training at Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara. He is well-respected in his field, and much loved by his patients for both his clinical acumen and his compassionate care. Join us as we ask him a few questions…
Why did you go into geriatric medicine?
Because I loved my grandfather. I looked up to him. He crossed the Donner Pass in the 1890’s, and arrived in Los Angeles at a time when there were just over 50,000 people living there. He could ride his bicycle from one end of town to the other. He provided for his family as a building contractor during the great Depression, and because work was scarce, he planted turnips and rutabagas in the back yard to keep them fed. He was fascinating to me because he had a front-row seat to history. He traveled along the lima bean fields (which is now Santa Monica) to watch, from the bluffs, as Teddy Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet steamed past. He lived the history that I later learned in school. His stories gave me respect for a generation that was ahead of mine, and I wanted to hear more from other generations before they were gone.
As I watched my grandfather age, I observed how he was less noticed as he grew older and more infirm. It made me want to not only hear the stories of the elderly, but to care for their physical needs. I came to learn that geriatric medicine is clinically more subtle than general medicine, with common conditions presenting in uncommon ways. It calls for vigilance to capture the nuances of illness and disease. For example, a younger patient with pneumonia will likely have fever and cough, whereas an elderly patient may have neither symptom, but might present with confusion or delirium. A middle- aged patient with angina will more likely have chest pain or pressure whereas an elderly patient may have nausea or shortness of breath. I teach medical residents that many varied conditions manifest themselves through several final common pathways which are: falling, acute confusion, loss of appetite/global functional decline. The consequences can be much greater than for a younger patient.
Can you name some of the things you’ve learned about aging from your patients?
Here are what some of my patients have taught me:
Claiborne– wonder and a fascination about life keeps you interested – and interesting.
Prudence – one of the advantages about getting old is saying whatever you want and getting away with it. You’re released from the worry of caring about what others think about you.
Henri– a grateful heart and open expression of gratitude deepen life experience and cause a person to be beloved.
Walter– never too late to start exercising (started swimming daily at 60 and died at 106).
Nelson – being other-centered rather than needing to be recognized for your achievements helps a person to engage with others at any age and feel like they’re contemporaries.
Susan – maintaining a sense of humor gives you a resource that helps you deal with life’s indignities and unexpected change.
Brittney – embodying humility fuels both gratitude and other-centeredness.
What has surprised you in what you’ve learned from your elderly patients?
The absence of a fear of death. Dealing with the truly elderly, almost all are surprisingly less apprehensive about their life coming to an end. Many feel that they’ve reckoned with the fact that they won’t live forever, and they’ve embraced that.
Interestingly, age alone seems insufficient to kindle an interest in the eternal. With rare exceptions, people seem to carry on thinking the way they’ve thought throughout their lives and there’s no predictable awakening to the need to set matters right with God, or even answer questions about the reality of God. As an aside, most people have some homespun theory about what happens after they die, and they tend to be satisfied with it.
What have you learned from your patients that has proven true in your own aging process?
You never know how good you had it in youth until you’re not young anymore.
It takes aging and loss to appreciate what it’s like to enjoy everything working smoothly and normally as it should. Even though death need not be feared, life is still valuable and precious.
If you could give advice to our society about how to honor the elderly, what would you say?
Notice: Remember that the person you’re looking at, who might look older and different from you, is fundamentally not that different. They have likely gone through much of what you’re going through, and probably share many of the same hopes, dreams and fears, but has been seasoned by time and often has much to bring in terms of wisdom from experience.
Ask: Ask for their stories; ask for their perspective or advice.
Learn: Be humble and receive life lessons from the elderly whom you respect.
Closing thoughts on aging?
First, no one expects it. We all tend to have a point in our life – typically in young adulthood and middle age—that we continue to think of ourselves. Until reality catches up to us and forces us to think of ourselves as old.
The most successful and well-adjusted elderly are those who are forward-looking (have something to look forward to), have something to do, and someone to share it with. I always love hearing from a 100 year-old inquiring how long the warranty on his new watch is.
In the end, geriatric medicine has been a rewarding career because it is both clinically challenging, and personally fulfilling. I get to know – and care for-- a very unique population of people often overlooked by our society, but precious to me. It has also brought me into a community that is sacrificial in their caregiving and that has lifted me up and called me to more. I am grateful for the many role models I’ve had showing me new ways to express compassionate care.
*Interviewed by Bonnie Blundell
Each month we recommend films focused on our theme
Aging begins the day we are born. Boyhood is a groundbreaking story of growing up as seen through the eyes of a child named Mason, who literally grows up on screen before our eyes. Filmed over 12 years with the same cast, the film was written and directed by Richard Linklater. Starring Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as Mason’s parents (Arquette won an Academy Award for the role), Boyhood charts the rocky terrain of childhood like no other film has before. Snapshots of adolescence from road trips and family dinners to birthdays and graduations and all the moments in between become transcendent, set to a soundtrack spanning the years from Coldplay's Yellow to Arcade Fire's Deep Blue. Boyhood is both a nostalgic time capsule of the recent past and an ode to growing up. Nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Available on various streaming services.
Young at Heart (2007)
Documents the true story of the final weeks of rehearsal for the Young at Heart Chorus in Northampton, MA, whose average age is 81, and many of whom must overcome health adversities to participate. Their music is unexpected, going against the stereotype of their age group, performing songs, for example, by James Brown, and Sonic Youth. Although they have toured Europe and sung for royalty, this account focuses on preparing new songs--not an easy endeavor--for a concert in their hometown, which succeeds in spite of several real heart breaking events. Available on various streaming services.
Fighting Back Against Ageism
Recent studies have found that over 93% of adults between 50 and 80 experience ageism, which can have negative health effects; people who have an upbeat take on getting older actually live longer. CBS Correspondent Susan Spencer talks with Ashton Applewhite, author of This Chair Rocks, about raising awareness of ageism, and talks with scholars who discuss the benefits of rejecting social cues that insult growing older.
How I Became an Entrepreneur at 66
It's never too late to reinvent yourself. Take it from Paul Tasner -- after working continuously for other people for 40 years, he founded his own start-up at age 66, pairing his idea for a business with his experience and passion. And he's not alone. As he shares in this short, funny and inspirational talk, seniors are increasingly indulging their entrepreneurial instincts -- and seeing great success.
Reflections From a 99-Year-Old
By Duane Grobman
For those unfamiliar with him, James “Jim” Houston is a British-born Canadian theologian and academic who was Professor of Spiritual Theology and the first Principal at Regent College in Vancouver. He is a beloved mentor to many. I had the privilege of spending a weekend with him on retreat in the late 1980s. It was one of the most impactful retreats I have ever been on and that was primarily due to the gentle, caring, attentive, and inspirational nature of Jim Houston.
In this reflection from Jim Houston’s personal blog, he wrote from a hospital bed last year on the eve of his 100th birthday. We think you’ll be blessed and encouraged by what he wrote. We’re happy to report that as of September 1, 2023, Jim is still alive and well and continuing to bless many.
To give you some insight into Jim’s spiritual wisdom and graciousness, here is a reflection he wrote on the subject of prayer:
I used to think that prayer was a spiritual exercise – something that needed to be worked at, like running or vaulting. But I was never any good at sports, and perhaps I would never be any good at prayer either. After years of feeling useless and guilty, I began to realize the truth of a comment made by one of the early Fathers of the church, Clement of Alexandria. He said that “prayer is keeping company with God.” This began to give me a new focus on prayer. I began to see prayer more as a friendship than a rigorous discipline. It started to become more of a relationship and less of a performance.
We hope you’ll be encouraged by reading his Reflections from a 99-Year-Old and explore his many other writings. Be blessed! (DG)
Each month we recommend a book (or two) focused on our theme
By Alice Fryling
Would you like to grow in life-giving ways as you age? Do you have the courage to let go of former ways of thinking to receive God’s love and life in new ways?
As we age, we experience the loss of physical stamina, independence, and career fulfillment. Yet within each of these losses is a holy invitation to grow. God calls us to let go of our need for accomplishment and embrace the gift of fruitfulness so that we might be transformed in this final season of our lives. In Aging Faithfully, spiritual director Alice Fryling explores how to navigate the journey of retirement, lifestyle changes, and new limitations. In this season of life, we are invited to hold both grief and hope, to acknowledge ways of thinking that no longer represent who we are, and to receive peace amid our fears.
By Marilynne Robinson
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award, GILEAD is a hymn of praise and lamentation to the God-haunted existence that Reverend Ames loves passionately, and from which he will soon part.
In 1956, toward the end of Reverend John Ames's life, he begins a letter to his young son, an account of himself and his forebears. Ames is the son of an Iowan preacher and the grandson of a minister who, as a young man in Maine, saw a vision of Christ bound in chains and came west to Kansas to fight for abolition.
Gilead is a New York Times Bestseller and has sold more than a million copies. It is one of our Team Cultivare’s all-time favorite works of fiction. We highly recommend reading it!
Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge
By Mem Fox
Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge tells the story of a small boy who tries to discover the meaning of "memory" so he can restore the memory of an elderly friend. Illustrated by Julie Vivas, the beautiful softness of each illustration, and the thoughtfulness that is evident in their creation, carries the reader gently along every page turn.
Practical suggestions to help you go deeper into our theme
1. QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
Devote some time and thought to these reflective questions on our theme:
a. What do you fear about aging?
b. What activities do you participate in that keep you physically active?
c. How do these activities compare to those you participated in in your youth?
Your 20’s, 30’s, 40’s & 50’s?
d. What activities do you participate in which keep you intellectually challenged?
e. What do you do that keeps you socially connected to family and friends?
f. Do you have someone in whom you can confide your sincerest and deepest feelings?
g. What gives you a sense of joy and peace? How often do you experience this?
2. A CONVERSATION ON AGING RESEARCH
A conversation with Richard Hodes, the director of the National Institute on Aging, one of the twenty-seven institutes and centers of the National Institutes of Health. The NIA and its researchers take an encompassing scientific approach to understanding the nature of aging and investigating how to extend the number of healthy active years humans can enjoy. Established by the U.S. Congress in 1974, the NIA is the nexus of research on aging conducted throughout the Department of Health and Human Services. For twenty-eight years, the institute and the work of its scientists have been directed by Hodes.
3. THE FAR SHORE OF AGING
It is a story of our time — the new landscape of living longer, and of dying more slowly too. Jane Gross has explored this as a daughter and as a journalist, and as creator of the New York Times’ “New Old Age” blog. She has grounded advice and practical wisdom about caring for our loved ones and ourselves on the far shore of aging. From On Being.
4. 63 UP (Documentary film from the Up Series)
The Up series of documentary films follows the lives of ten males and four females in England beginning in 1964, when they were seven years old. The first film was titled Seven Up!, with later films adjusting the number in the title to match the age of the subjects at the time of filming. The documentary has had nine episodes—one every seven years—thus spanning 56 years.
The series has received high praise over the years. Film critic Roger Ebert said that it is "an inspired, even noble, use of the film medium", that the films "penetrate to the central mystery of life", and that the series is among his top ten films of all time. The series Director, Michael Apted, won an Institutional Peabody Award in 2012 for his work on the Up series. The film series also appears on the 100 Greatest British Television Programs established by the British Film Institute in 2000, voted for by industry professionals. Available on various streaming services.
5. A PRAYER FOR AGING GRACEFULLY
Dear Lord, I feel odd about praying this prayer, but I want to age gracefully. I don’t want to become bitter about not being young anymore. I don’t want to fret about what my body can or cannot do anymore either. I don’t want to look in the mirror and see wrinkles, but a person who has lived a life and has more to go.
I want to feel at ease with my age and my body. Help me accept both my limitations and my possibilities. Help me to be able to see what I can do now that I couldn’t do when I was younger.
I am grateful for all that has happened in my life to bring me to this point. I give you thanks for directing me in my journey and allowing me to pick up wisdom along the way. Through the successes and the challenges, you have been present with me.
I look forward to your presence and guidance each day now. With each new year of life, I gain not just age, but strength in you. In the name of Jesus I pray, AMEN.
But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.
(Jeremiah 17:7-8 NIV)
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Images used in order of appearance:
1. FIELD: Ted Heller, Washington Square Park Blog, July 12, 2017
2. SEEDS: Arianne Clément, Umeto Yamashiro, Family Bond in the Blue Zones
3. ART: Allison Usavage, Christina Muscatello with grandmother Mary Muscatello, Lesley University
4. POETRY: Arianne Clément, Villagrande, Province d’Ogliastra, ile de la Sardaigne, Italy
5. PROFILE: Bonnie Fearer, Dr. Todd Fearer celebrating his mother’s birthday, 2018, Santa Barbara, CA.
6. FILM: William Glaser/Redux Pictures, Fred Stanton, AARP
7. ESSAY: Arianne Clément
8. BOOKS: Arianne Clément
9. DIG DEEPER: Arianne Clément
10. ROOTED: Brian Bakke, The Glory of the Lord, 2006, Montmartre Cemetery, Paris, France
TEAM CULTIVARE: Duane Grobman (Editor), Amy Drennan, Greg Ehlert, Bonnie Fearer, Ben Hunter, Eugene Kim, Nick Kinnier, Andrew Massey, Rita McIntosh, Heather Shackelford, Jason Pearson (Design: Pearpod.com)