Thoughts on Aging

A few years ago Jeanne Calment of Arles, France turned 121. At that time she was the oldest woman in the world where her age could be documented by reliable records. She has long since passed, but her philosophy is worth remembering.

The day she turned 121 there was a big birthday bash at city hall. A cake with ten dozen candles, plus one. 121 roses and a city medal. She didn’t make a speech, but the mayor did and half way through his remarks, she shouted: “has he finished yet?” You can do that at 121. She also told reporters that she has only one wrinkle and she’s sitting on it.

She said her secret to long life was olive oil and port wine. She gave up cigarettes at 120, only because she couldn’t see clearly enough to light up. At 85 she took up fencing lessons, at one hundred she was still riding a bike, and before moving to a retirement home at 110 she lived alone.

It was Longfellow who wrote:

“For age is an opportunity no less
than youth itself, though in another dress.
And as the evening twilight fades away
The sky is fitted with stars, invisible by day.”

Jeanne Calmet said:

“I’m afraid of nothing, I don’t complain.”
“I dream, I think, I never get bored.”
“Life will last as long as it lasts and I hope to die laughing.”

I like that wisdom.

And for my friend Bob, who’s liking retirement, this addendum.

Everyday is Saturday
© 2008 Rolland G. Smith

There comes a time in all our lives
When busy days are changed in name.
It’s only then, if we survive,
We stage the play and play the game.

All Sundays past were day’s for rest
And little things that needed done,
But there were always chores we left
To watch the game or ski the run.

Most Mondays of our working life
Were one’s we wished would never come.
And then came Tuesday’s weekly strife
That lead to Wednesday’s hump when done.

With Thursday came the week’s relief
Knowing Friday was THE next day.
But Thursday night oft’ gave some grief
With Friday morn, “some hell to pay”.

But now is when the times have changed
Our job is done and we retire.
The days of week are then renamed
To fill our wishes and desire.

Now everyday is Saturday
No matter what and when the day
Yes, everyday is Saturday
Enjoy it, be it, Saturday.

Ground Observer Corps

It’s one of those I remember days.

I am old enough to remember a number of things that the young people of today have either never heard of, or remember only in stories from their family conversations.

When I was fourteen I joined the Junior Ground Observer Corps. This was in the middle 1950’s and America was still comfortably nestled in the fear that war with Russia, with the Soviet Union, was always possible and could happen.

I joined the Junior Ground Observer Corps in my community. A bunch of us kids would volunteer to take a shift of time in a tall tower on a high point in our town calling in the altitude and direction of any plane we could observe with binoculars. We were sort of citizen radars using our eyes instead of electronic beams.

I was given a wallet size plastic card with little transparent circles on it. The circles ranged in size from just smaller than a dime to about a quarter inch in diameter. When a plane would fly over I would hold the plastic card at arms length and fit the plane’s silhouette into one of the circles. Depending on what circle the plane fit into, I could determine the approximate altitude.

Then I’d pick up the phone, there were no dials on it, and an operator would say, “number please” and I’d say, “aircraft flash” and be immediately connected to some distant male voice who’d say, “report please”.

I’d give my location, and then the approximate altitude, the direction of travel and the type of plane I observed, prop or jet, how many engines it had, if I could determine it and then hang up.

Eventually radar got better and the Ground Observer Corps was no longer needed. The towers vanished, but not the memories of a simpler time.


Red is a primary color that mankind has symbolized into different things and meanings and sayings.

In the past red has signified martyrdom for faith. In dress or costume it meant divine love. In Heraldry, the art or science of having to do with coats of arms, red was called gules and that probably came from the Old English meaning the mouth or jaws. The reference is due probably to the color of the open jaws or reddish. In Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens there is a line that reads: “With man’s blood paint the ground, gules, gules.”

Yeats once wrote that ” Red is the colour of magic in every country, and has been so from the vary earliest times., The caps of fairies and musicians are well-neigh always red.”

Today the color red has taken on the meaning of revolution and radicalism. Tennyson in Guinevere wrote: ” Red ruin, and the breaking up of laws”. The Communists of the old Soviet Union were called “reds” There are the Red Chinese and a terrorists group who called themselves the “Red Brigade”.

There are a number of expressions we use every day that have the word red in them.

If you are “in the red” it generally means you’re overdrawn at the bank or your business is running at a loss. “Not a red cent” means no money at all and refers to the copper penny which looks reddish.

The expression “Red Tape” may have introduced by Charles Dickens. It means rigid adherence to rules and regulations. In the old days lawyers and government officials used to tie their papers together with red ribbon tape. And, of course, there is “seeing red”, anger. Caught “red handed” In the act of a crime and “red-eye” a cheap whiskey. Oh yes…I hope you have a “red letter day”. It’s supposed to be lucky.

Count to a Trillion? Impossible!

Some numbers for thought, if we can think that far.

The United States National Debt Clock as of August 20th 2008 is $9,610,188,550,946.94. The estimated population of our country is 304,572,762 so the per person share of this debt is $31,553.01 and our National Debt continues to increase an average of $1.85 billion a day.

For most of us it’s difficult to fathom what a trillion dollars really is.

Sure it’s a million millions, or a thousand billions, but beyond that it is hard to understand what a trillion is except to say that’s a lot of money.

If we look at it another way the understanding of the amount becomes mind boggling.

If someone started counting seconds, like one…two….three, the moment that Jesus Christ was born that person would be up to just over sixty five billion seconds now.

That is six point five percent of trillion.

It takes thirty one thousand seven hundred years to count to a trillion seconds.

That is three hundred and seventeen centuries and we are only in the very beginning of the 21st century. Somebody, maybe Congress, ought to count a lot faster for as of today we are just over 9 and a half trillion dollars in debt.