Since I’ve Been Gone

IMG_5697 The BIG ISLAND

I thank all of you who have recently discovered this Blog in my absence and you loyal followers who have continued to read, substituting my Archives for the regular Blog entries, since I have been gone…..it is very gratifying to know that the Blog lives and breathes without my assistance. It did not even need life support, almost having more views than when I was home and writing more often. Hmmm…that makes me wonder.

I have been in Hawaii, on the Big Island, specifically 1000 feet above Kona on the west coast, for about six weeks. I will not rub it in; simply put I had a spectacular time. As with any extended vacation, one’s life changes, adapts and settles down to a new routine even within just 6 short weeks, and soon you realize you do not care anymore what happens beyond your days and nights in the paradise that has become your temporary norm. You hear all the news back home – the political crap and every other ridiculous media report back where your people are, but you pay it little attention and it sort of slides off of your consciousness like jello off a plate.

The more profound issues stay with you however and you gain greater clarity about them, including a dearly beloved family member who is battling cancer. With the sunsets and sea you do gain a degree of calm…just a bit more enlightenment…and your faith renews. Then just as you nestle deeply into that faith, really deeply, and you are sleeping every night  like a well-fed baby, hoping and believing again that all is actually going to be well in the world it is time to fly home on the red-eye and you are rather miserable to be returning to reality. You attempt to carry the good vibes with you. You want to believe. You want your faith to stay strong, back where it is still winter.

I have so many stories to tell. Wish we could sit and have a glass of wine and talk. Some are X rated and hilarious and there were other happenings I will never ever forget, standing out from everything else and those will be flashing memories in my mind like bright lights at a dive bar at 1 am for years to come. Crazy funny stuff, a scary thing or two (like nearly tripping over the huge, black coarse-haired, sharp-tusked, bloody, totally severed head of a wild pig on my happy little mindless walk one morning) to important spiritual stuff and everything in between. I am in love with the island and in love with the important reason I go there.

We went to new beaches I had never before seen in my past five years, painting on a different one every Friday morning with the West Hawaii Plein Air Paintersorganized by http://Richard Rochkovsky.com  and then some afternoons from 3-6 pm with the sunset painters group of Peter and Lily Jefferson. Every beach has a personality; gorgeous & benevolent, rocky & dramatic, and the black sand beaches are especially startling next to Prussian Blue and emerald green water. Giant, cruise-ship sized waves (those beautiful burly thugs come roaring in this time every spring) once again crashed the coast on several of the islands including parts of the Kona coast and we were spectators to a Mother Nature show that never disappoints.

And now I am home again to the west Denver area, literally just at the base of the Rocky Mountains, only about 5 minutes from my favorite canyon and it is snowing cottonballs outside my windows and although it is magical, I long for sea breezes and salt air. I do have the perfect combo of a mountain and sea life. When I am here or there, I love the scenery I am sitting in, I soak it up, and either parting is bittersweet.

Thanks to all the new friends I met this trip! You were so hospitable and fun! See you again, same time next year. I am thankful for such a lovely visit!

Jo Ann Brown-Scott, Author and Artist

Books – New novel,  A CANARY FLIES THE CANYON available on Kindle, and THE CREATIVE EPIPHANY, both available on Amazon.com

Webhttp://www.acanaryfliesthecanyon.com

On Google Chrome  http://www.joannbrownscottauthor.com

Arthttp://joann-brown-scott.fineartamerica.com

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YEAR LONG CANVAS, mid-January, 2015

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YLC, untitled, copyright 2015, Jo Ann Brown-Scott

Holy cow we are nearing the end of January. Did you notice that?

Just this morning in a fit of panic I did some stuff to the YLC. Some stark white, the enhancement of a couple areas, the extension of the vertical cadmium orange line up behind and beyond the swath of black, couple turquoise dots – but the white has been the thing with the biggest zing.

If you zoom into this image you will find nuance and texture, shades upon shades, and lots of emphasis upon line. That’s what I like.

If you divide the canvas into 4 equal rectangles, with a vertical line down the center and a horizontal line from left to right, each quadrant tells a story and is a painting unto itself. But they all work together as well, geling into one large rhythmic piece. In my opinion, that is a good thing. The painting has movement, focal areas, lights and darks, brights and dims, strong color and a powerful composition. It is a joyful painting; nothing grim or menacing about it. The YLC is a happy canvas. You can see how she began in this blog’s Archives, and there are still a few hints of her left in the painting from when she was much younger. (Kind of true of us all.) My son wants me to title her “Rio” – one of his favorite places. He sees a distant skyline in it, a hot sun and a carnival atmosphere. But then if you knew him you’d already know that he sees a potential party in every situation…smile. Wonder where he gets that.

But isn’t that what art is all about? Seeing images through your own distinctive perspective? Depends on the day and the time and what you are going through in the moment. You are more than entitled to your own vibe. I welcome your vibes as well as mine. Just try not to get all gloomy on me because I never paint gloomy. I have to express the joyful colors of life! I must! Don’t try to stifle me! I’m recently back to myself after a rotten decade and life is just so damn good again.

Thanks to Homare Ikeda of the Denver Art Student’s League for this remarkable assignment – and I am not officially finished yet, but I must say that he opened me up and allowed me to pour it all out. I needed a strong nudge, a weird idea, a new awakening and a place to go that had a purpose. Hope you are still listening, Homare. I will see you again soon…

http://www.homareikeda.com

 

“This Being Human is a Guest House” – Rumi

 

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Mixed media titled RedSeaMoon by Jo Ann Brown-Scott copyright 2014

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness, some monetary awareness comes, as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture,

still treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

RUMI, 13th Century Poet and Scholar

Sometimes I wonder how I would have managed to paint if the context of my life had been different…if things had been less to my liking in my life, would I somehow have struggled to rise above it and paint anyway? Would I still have been a painter, or maybe even been a better painter, if I had been forced to deal with more obstacles, dysfunction and disorder? Do I have the determination and drive to be a painter no matter what, or must I have all  conditions favorable in order to be my most creative self?

I have painted, actually, through many misfortunes, if I stop to think about it, but I saw them as temporary and surmountable. I consider myself fortunate indeed in that regard. Some would go so far as to say that my life has been hard, and have told me so, but I think it has merely been a life. Everyone has a story – I know of no one who gets off without being beaten down, scarred or broken.

I follow a blog on WordPress written by a lost and lonely fellow who cannot seem to work his way to the safety of dry land but continues to nearly drown in his pool of self pity. I feel very badly for him. I wonder when he will discover that he is the single one person on earth who can pull himself out of that situation and open up his future to a new path? We are all responsible for our own survival. No warriors of happiness are ever going to ride in on horseback and storm the walls to your city, to save the day and bestow happiness upon you. Don’t wait for that to happen. For god’s sake do something now for yourself. Rolling around in the muck, wallowing in it for an eternity is not working for you.

I do not happen to believe, either, that artists must be depressed and lonely, unfulfilled and angry to do profound work and be taken seriously. But I do think that, like actors, adversity can be used as a tool while acting or painting, adding depth to the performance or the composition. Consciously or not, it seems that certainly your particular adversity will work its way into whatever you are creating, whether that be art or music, poetry, pottery, novels, design – because it requires that you dig deeper. So do dig deeper if you are going to milk it for whatever it is worth. And in the digging experience you will find your way through the mess and come out on the other side. The larger problems in life must be dug through – you have to “go in” rather than around. Skirting around only makes the healing a longer and more difficult journey and often leaves you just lost with no destination at all. Learn about yourself in the process and OWN your part – your responsibility – in the adversity. The you will be a better person for it and on your way to a better place.

I believe the life context that has always surrounded me, while fluctuating wildly at times, was always still viewed by me as workable, and that is a big factor in my artistic progress through the decades of my life. My decades have ebbed and flowed with the good, the bad and the ugly – I have not always been gifted with smooth sailing. Some people ask, when shit happens, why me? I always wonder why they thought they were so special. Bad stuff does happen to good people, as the book of a similar title explained. Why would I or anyone else be exempt? But for me, at the base of it all is a bedrock of faith in a world that I have consistently found to be both astounding and bursting with positive potential. I see the glass as more than half full.

Why am I on this subject tonight? I have no idea – well yes I do – I see a lot of friends struggling and I wish I could help. But I will just say that when life brings you those “character building” experiences, then accept the challenge and prove that your character is in fact going to be made stronger from it all…..easier said than done, but workable.

 

 

 

 

 

Art at the Speed of Life

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Mixed Media Collage titled Life Weavings by Jo Ann Brown-Scott copyright 2014

It occurs to me that the Year Long Canvas of which I have been writing in my recent posts is humming along at the speed of life – one day at a time – with some days more attentively dedicated to it than others. What else can a painting ask for? I mean really, I have worked on many canvases for months, on and off, off and on, and at the end the best I can do is to call it DONE, with many unrealized possibilities for its final form still floating around in my brain. In my sleep. In my waking hours too. But I had reached my limit of endurance for working on it and so it stays where it is for all eternity…I have a long way to go before I make that decision on the Year Long Canvas.

All you can do in life is to take each day, doing the best you can, 24/7, under the circumstances of the situation you have to work with. That is the best scenario you can hope for with any of your endeavors. You cannot be expected to perform based on information you do not yet have….you have only the NOW’s worth of information to go on.

It you look back at any kind of big thing or event or occasion or circumstance in your entire life, (and this usually happens when you can’t sleep at about 3 am) and you begin to second-guess the way you handled it, questioning the decisions you made at the time, and believing that you might have done better in hindsight, try to remember all the extra-curricular stuff that was going on in your life at the time. Chances are you had a lot going on – a lot to deal with – many shades of gray to be considered. All of that factored in to the way you handled things at the time. There was more going on than just the activity in the center ring at your circus of life. You were juggling and trying to keep a lot of balls in the air.

So go easy on yourself. I am certainly trying to do that myself. Seems to me that our lives are all like paintings, and we have a lifetime to paint them with endless possibilities for the composition. We make choices based upon what we know at any given time.Then we make more alterations, more changes, more adjustments and we paint some more, eliminating the negativity and giving prominence to the positive. We brighten the color, then we tone it back down. We try new things or we revert to an old idea and make it new again. This is art at the speed of life and life at the speed of art. I think it’s all the same thing.

The Creative Epiphany – Your Fountain of Youth

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wave5 Watching the massive wave events on the west coast of the Big Island, Hawaii in late January, 2014

 

“Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is a matter of the will, quality of imagination, a VIGOR of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life”. – Samuel Ullman

I believe that if you can find a geographic place – a safe and enfolding place of  contentment, magic and wonder where you can go when you need renewal – you have found your version of the fountain of youth. Some people never manage to find that unique and stirring location, but others who are young at heart and keep an open mind to the gifts of the universe search for and find their particular GPS of choice and they use it time and time again to recharge the batteries of their souls. My daughter who has traveled the world says one of her favorite places of all she has seen is Yosemite Park, practically in our own backyard.

I have not traveled the world but still I know what brings me back to the places where my heart is fulfilled and brimming up with contentment and peace. For me there are several locations – Big Sur, the big island of Hawaii, Yellowstone and Yosemite Parks and the mountains of Colorado – and when I spend time in those locations I feel sure that I am a positive force in a greater universe. I am infused with such joy at every return trip, highly energized, feeling that my life is enhanced and perhaps even prolonged by the adrenaline rush I experience. The epiphany here is that what you want to happen will happen, and so if you believe in the power of a place, you will undoubtedly reap the rewards by using it to bring quality to your days and additional time to your life. You are what you think constantly about, as they say, and so whatever brings positivity and happiness in its purest form directly into your veins – to your very being  – can only be good. If it is in your power to find your place, do find it and hold it dear. If for some reason you are unable to go where you want to go, use your powers to picture it, find it, embrace it in your soul. Do not allow the boundaries of your physical world to confine you. Go beyond and get there.

The Creative Epiphany – Pioneer Woman

surf muirbeachsurf wavesMany years ago I saw a woman who was a reputable psychic – so amazingly in tune with the universe and correct in her readings, and so instantaneously able to pick up the info about total strangers by phone that she had a Denver radio show and she also took private appointments. She could tell you about your past lives and she could predict your future as well. She knew nothing about me of course, and I was both open-minded and skeptical at the same time upon arrival at her private office. She was sort of a flamboyant person, likable, talkative, laughing a lot – but she seemed so normal, so down to earth. I asked myself how such a normal person could see things and know things no longer of this world? I guess I thought to myself that I would have had more faith in her if she had been a little more wierd.

She erased my skepticism within five minutes.

She described my aura as unusually vivid, with pinks and purples and brightness all around. She said I was full of life and joy. She knew I was a painter. She knew I sold my art. But she knew nothing about menot even my nameand she knew nothing of my family situation. And yet she actually knew everything. She began to tell me what she knew had gone before. She described three past lives to me. In one I was living in Europe, the wife of a German professor; a large bear of a man, highly educated and well respected, and I was of an artistic nature and had many creative hobbies. My husband was devoted to his wife and children; she said that he and I had adored eachother.

In the second life she saw me as a young girl in Ireland, sickly and frail, loved by my devoted and worried mother. I died in my early teens. She said that I decided I would not choose to be born again unless I could live a long and healthy life.

In the next life I was  pioneer woman in the northwest area of the US territories, once again artistic and crafty, married to a ruggedly handsome and physically fit man who was a carpenter by trade. He made beautiful furniture and other wood items including our home, and we had two little girls together. We were very happy.

Then she turned to my current life. She knew I had two children. She told me that my handsome son was a fine boy of high intelligence who would proceed to climb peaks in his life both intellectually and physically, always questioning things about himself and others while competing with his own high standards, choosing sports where he could better his own records. Within five years or so of her declaration, and with no prior indication of his talent,  my son was suddenly fascinated with rock climbing, learning it well, and then rapidly excelling at it as he began progressing to mountain climbing resulting in achievements in climbing around the globe and continuing to this day. He has also written a book, is now writing a second, and is the kind of person you would want to call immediately if you needed historical or political advice about a destination you were going to visit. He is a fine embassador of life who will always champion the plight of the poor and an author who writes with great intellect, insight and humor.

She told me that my daughter would dance, just as she had done in the womb 24/7, and she would dance her way through life as well as on the stage. She said that my daughter was an old soul, wise as she was beautiful,  kind of heart, artistic like her mother and intelligent. She, like my son, would travel the world and spread her love of life. And so it came to be – within a couple more years (and no prior hint of dancing) my daughter would find that she was drawn to the dance – and she would eventually perform in The Nutcracker on a prestigous Denver stage. She would also choose to become a graphic artist, award winning, and proceed to travel the world visiting many people and places that time forgot. With so much talent and such enlightenment she has gained the respect of people wherever she goes. She is a fine embassador for joy, as evidenced in her colorful Blog about her travels.

All the predictions from the “normal psychic” about my own life proved true – I later made the decision to divorce as she said I would. Once again I was a pioneer woman in my life, in new ways other than those mentioned above from previous lives – I think of it often – how much there has been in my life, and probably yours, to pioneer for and around. On another level with the vast changes of the past few centuries and into the now, all of us continue to forge our individual paths as pioneers in a strange and wonderful new world of astounding technology and fast-paced progress. Whether or not you believe in psychic readings you must agree that my experience was fascinating. Kinda makes you want to find a good “normal psychic”, doesn’t it? Undoubtedly he or she will tell you that there is a great unknown.

The Creative Epiphany – Nature’s Holiday Offering

path lichen sunone treemoss water suntwo fernsIt has been a week since I last posted and I am here to tell you that there is good reason. I have an excellent explanation wrapped around a thoroughly entrancing story, all true, which will remain undocumented in this Blog. It is a story well worth telling, but in another space and time. It is the kind of a story that marks a pivotal change; a “sea change” in my life – a story that will forever hold a bookmark as one of my favorite chapters.

I believe a theme runs through everything, and if there is a theme revealed in this untold tale it is that for everything there is a season, and a reason, and that timing is everything. However, SOMEDAY is not a day of the week. Don’t be putting stuff off for that future some day. Be alert and don’t be skittish – when opportunities brush quietly against you, notice that. Sometimes a softer touch delivers a more monumental impression that a wallop. Live in the now and sieze the magical moments that life offers you.

These photos were taken in Muir Woods – a northern California treasure near the Pacific coast just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. The rains had come down in sheets for two solid days – walls of water – with serrated, biting teeth – leaving open wounds on trees, shrubbery – maiming things – tearing the last of the fall colors limb from limb. But then when it stopped, it stopped.

I found myself in Muir Woods, a glistening cathedral of giant redwood trees dripping irridescent liquid from every branch as if in holiday regalia. The filtered sun added golden sparkle to the silver, and the tumultuous creek became the hallelujah chorus. Mounds of newly washed moss appeared deeper green on tree trunks, rocks and entrances to the same hollowed logs you see in the pictures of fairy tales books. Rocks displayed new colors wet with rain, ferns uncurled their feathery fronds to lap up drippings.

The respect paid by fellow visitors to nature’s display was apparent and  walking the woods became a prayer.

The Creative Epiphany – possessed

I managed to make it well into my sixth decade without ever having a bug in my ear until last summer. I am not referring to that cute phrase people use when they want to give you a hint about something by whispering in your ear – I am telling you it was a real bug. Inside the personal space of my actual ear.

This never once happened to me in the most logical of environs, like when I was a kid, raised on 8 country acres at the top of Munger Road hill in southern Ohio amid horses and horse flies, ducks, gnats, chickens, lice, rabbits, cats and dogs with tics and one goat, fireflies and mosquitoes and ordinary house flies and the neighbor’s cows which were walking bug habitats. This bug woke me from a deep sleep in the safety and comfort of my own bed. There was absolutely no warning…..suddenly I was possessed.

I thought at first that a B52 was landing in my backyard. Then I realized it was an internal thing and what ensued was mayhem. If it had been filmed it would have been mistaken for an exorcism at the very least. Paranormal behavior to be sure. Wild, eye-popping panic and a snarl, mine, accompanied by distorted grimacing, jumping up and down on the bed as if I was plugged into jumper cables, trying to expel the satanic demon. The 10 decibel BBBUUUZZIIINNGG  and then the thousand-a-second-vibrations of wings that seemed like a hummingbird smacking against the insides of my ear canal. I jumped to a standing position, began hopping around the room shaking my head from side to side, then up and down, and in a nano-second I considered:

a Q-tip – no! – I might push it in deeper – OMG – to my brain!

water – no! – I might float it in deeper – OH NO! to my brain!

suction of some kind – the dustbuster –  no no no! – I might break my eardrum! Or suck out my brain!

All the while I am spinning and twisting my head to such an extent that it must have spun almost a full 360. I hoped I could potentially force the monster out by sheer vibration and centrifugal force because the SOUND was unbearable. The flapping was horrendous but the NOISE! I pictured the thing, his feet glued by earwax to the floor of my ear canal, beating his wings in frustrated fury. Every once in a while the bug would stop. And I would stop. Then it would start flapping and buzzing again, even more violently than before. I was screeching – I was yelling! Surely he would soon wear himself out and die. Or would I? Should I jump in the car and dash to the emergency room? Could I drive? Could I keep still enough in the driver’s seat to control the car? Should I just call 911? Hello? YES!! HELP! I have a bug in my ear! Bring equipment!

And then it stopped. I could not believe it – I didn’t trust the silence. I braced myself for another round. But all was quiet and still. I rushed sweaty and panting to the bathroom and got the magnifying mirror, trying to look in my ear, or in my hair, for the monster that had invaded my body space. There was nothing to be found.

Did it really happen? Was I dreaming? Is the devil gone?

Send me some butterflies.

 

The Creative Epiphany – 24

Art class – University of Colorado – the sixties

The university fine art professor who first opened my eyes to the possibilities of collage art was an eccentric and gifted man, and mixed media collage was a relatively new concept in the sixties. I had signed up for his watercolor class, so imagine my surprise when he strode in one day carrying a pile of rubbish and flopped it down on the table. He announced that we would be learning the art of mixed media collage. We had no exotic papers imported from around the world available to us – we had no precedent to follow except his wild and confident direction. He had stopped in the restroom and grabbed some paper towels, he had crumpled newspapers, brown paper bags, candy wrappers, string and other trash. Our instructions were to begin layering paper with paint in a highly abstract sort of way. Watercolor was not well suited to this process at all, and we used the same kind of paste that kindergartners used. There were no other choices available to us at the time. Now there are industries built around supplies for mixed media artists – the alchemy has caught on and we MMC artists are on the map.

This charismatic and visionary professor taught us the value of texture, layering paint with paper and placing pattern on top of pattern. We learned that painting can become sculptural and sensual and tactile. We learned that exposed rough edges are good, wrinkles in the paper are just great, and paint applied the thickness of cupcake icing is fantastic. It was the beginning of my love affair with abstract mixed media collage. And look how far art has come! Look how free we are in our expression now!

If you are familiar with the art of Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008), Picasso,  Robert Motherwell, Helen Frankenthaler and others then you know that these prominent artists and a long list of other innovators experimented with mixed media collage. The technique of adding paper, odd items and urban debris into painted art or constructed assemblages actually goes way back. I mean really, if you want to venture even farther back it is quite apparent in some pre-historic cave art where the person sketching with charcoal made the decision to stick on the cave wall with wet mud some grasses and weeds underneath the drawings of the animals. How cool is that?  He/she must have been so proud of that creative addition. I read recently that children are probably responsible for much of the cave art since it was a way to pass the time while staying safe and dry as mom tended to other things. Some things don’t change.

This composition  titled “24 HOURS” takes me right back to that precious time of art experimentation in my life  when everything was fresh, improvisational and serendipitous – and it  also signifies for me all that is basic, primitive, simple, raw and beautiful about merely existing on Planet Earth. The sun comes up and the sun goes down, the moon shines in between. People around the world do their thing, every 24 hours.  And then they wake up to do it again, but knowing that if they are lucky something wondrous might happen.

 

The Creative Epiphany – Years and Peers

Well, we might as well get it over with. It is hardly a secret that I am not exactly a spring chicken. I live in a 55+ ACTIVE retirement community, located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas in northern California. We are halfway between San Fran and Lake Tahoe, and happy to be here thank you very much. Our community here in Lincoln prides itself on the word ACTIVE. To put things in perspective for you younger people, many of our residents are, shockingly, years older than the Rolling Stones (older than the actual ages of the Stones, not how long they have been rock legends) and these people are in great shape and holding, rather than being hit like a train by the passing years.  So who cares about age? They don’t care. We don’t care. I don’t care. We  could show those prune-faced Stones a thing or two, prancing and dancing all around the stage as they do, singing their faces off about getting no SATISFACTION… We can show you satisfaction.

For the past two years or so our community has been hit by a series of burglaries which seemed to be increasing in number as well as the threat of violence, and the local police department is stretched to the thinness of a potato chip in this California economy. The two cops can’t be everywhere all the time. So some retired cops, firemen, ex-military guys and amateur sheriffs formed a kind of volunteer security squad and it was not long until the thugs were apprehended. Oh of course there will be more thugs some day – but now we know we are ready for them. We are not sitting ducks here in this gorgeous, peaceful community. We are more like hawks, smart and vigilant and beady-eyed.

As far as retirement is concerned, we all feel that we have been blessed to be able to live here. It truly is a rare and wonderful place. A great emphasis is placed upon the arts, both in nearby local communities such as Roseville and also in  Sacramento and San Fransisco. I am happy to be an art instructor at the Orchard Creek Lodge in Lincoln, teaching Mixed Media Collage to an energetic group of adults who are open-minded, creative and eager to try something that many of them have never done. I am consistently pleased to discover that people who have put the art experience “on hold” for the decades when they held high-powered careers are able to now not only enjoy this class but thrive and produce extraordinary, frame-worthy art. These classes feed my artistic soul as well as theirs; they make my days productive.

Research has proved that people who live long, healthy, productive lives have several things in common. One of the most important of these factors is simply a reason to get up in the morning – a way of remaining relevant. If it cannot be an art class it might be a computer class, a billiards game, a marathon, a garden that needs tending, a dog that needs walking, laps to swim at the pool, grandchildren to visit, a pot of soup to make, a day-long hike, a bus trip to the Bay, a friend to check in on or volunteer work to be done. And we see all of those here in our community and much more. We are not all as old as the Stones, but if we are not we want to be. Nobody talks much here about being hit like a train by old age. Attitude is everything.