Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday Night Frolic — Fifty is Nifty?

Fifty is nifty when you're twelve years old and in pressing need of rhyme for Mother's birthday card. But when you're fiftywhen you're actually fifty, well, somehow it doesn't feel so nifty. Nor peachy, nor swell, nor cool. Nor... you get the picture. I mean, you get the picturejust look at it! Filled with squiggly lines and creases and greenish-brown age-like marks. It's a bit crumpled and uncertain of whether it's an upper or lowercase condition! Clearly, it wants to be uppercase, but the t and y informs us that its appearance is dwindling.

Say what? You don't see age marks and wrinkles on that card? You mean it's confetti and streamers? Ooooh! You see how twisted one's perception becomes at the ripe old age of fifty? Fifty is shifty is what is fifty.

For my birthday, Hubby gave me poetry 180A Turning Back to Poetry, which is an anthology of contemporary poems carefully selected and introduced (said introduction can be read here) by Billy Collins. In it is one I loveprobably the shortestby Carol Snow:


Near a shrine in Japan he'd swept the path
and then placed camellia blossoms there.

Or—we had no way of knowing—he'd swept the path
between fallen camellias.

Without touching upon the poem's symbolism (camellias, shrines, Japan, paths!) which might reveal much about its meaning, but I have no way of knowing—just as I have no way of knowing if the flowers have drifted to the ground, or have been trampled upon the ground, or are untouched in full bloom on the ground, or who he is or when or how precisely he may have swept the pathwhat Tour speaks of to me (and that is what a poem is all about, after all, right?—what it says to you) is perception. 

In Tour, there are possibilities. There are lovely fallen camellias on a path that has been swept near a shrine in Japan. Does it matter if we do or don't know when or how the camellias came to be placed upon the path?

That's what fifty is like. I'm on a tour. Paths have been swept. Camellias have fallen. There are other bits and buds with which I've littered the path, and some I've gladly cleared it of. I can't know everything about the path, or the fallen camellias—other than they have, indubitably, fallenbut there are possibilities. Still.


Maybe fifty is nifty. 

If I had to pull together a soundtrack covering the paths I've traveled these past fifty years, there would likely be a trail sprinkled with Neil Young song crumbs. It would lead one from his early days with Buffalo Springfield, Crazy Horse, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young up to his live album A Treasure, released in June 2011, which includes a half dozen previously unreleased songs.

Some of the many paths I've followed over this half century remain constant, reliable courses lined with pretty flowers, while others became worn and treacherous and had to be abandoned. Still, paths await to be swept. Or littered with confetti and streamers.

Here, Neil Young returns to his native country in 2005 to perform with his wife, Pegi.

The Bridge School Concerts—25th Anniversary Edition—will be available on DVD and CD this Monday, October 24, 2011. You can preview the official trailer here.


  1. Dear Jayne, if you keep using up all the Nifty, what will be left by the time I turn fifty? Please, leave some for the rest of us. Thanks in advance!

  2. oh, the 50s are good. I liked the 50s.

  3. Happy (belated?) birthday.

    Perhaps, 50 is gifty? As long as you are still on some kind of path, it's all good;)

    Wrinkles? Made me laugh, where do you come up with this?

  4. I hope each of your days is better than the next.

  5. You don't look like you're 50, those kids must be keeping you young.

  6. Dearest Jayne, I hope you will soon be so much in your fifties, as you were in your forties, that this particular scary landmark is behind you and not thought of again as you will just be in your life, and yourself still, though a changing self, as you've been all along.

    All blessings and best wishes for a rapturous decade, full of freedom, curiosity, peacefulness and a reliable sense of fun. Those of us who got here a bit ahead of you are reaching out our hands to pull you into the pigpile!! xoxo

  7. Am I old wrinkly and dry? Do I look into the mirror and cry, How did all those years go by?..sigh.

    What the hell did I do to deserve this unholy screw. Time you bastard drove away. Laughing said "You can't stay!"

    Fuck it Jayne its just that way.

    So grab your kids go out and play, dont ever act that way. You know old, cold, not bold.

    You been told.

    Fifty is nifty Kiss my ass. That shitty feeling will come to pass. Until it does keep your foot on the gas. And I will raise my glass. "To pretty cool chick, with a pretty hot ass."

  8. Nessa- OK, I'll save a little nifty for you. At this stage of the game, it's more important for me to be thrifty rather than fifty, anyway. ;)

  9. Ellen- Each decade has its jewels. Really, I'm looking forward to hunting those down. :)

  10. Antares- Gifty! Oh, I like that. I can really use gifty. And wrinkles, well, I don't come up with those and I certainly don't ask for them--they just appear! Fifty is wizardry, too. ;)

  11. Laoch- Thanks. So do my kids! Ha! ;)

  12. Kono- The benefits of having kids later in life... they do keep us young. Even if we don't feel it! ;)

  13. Melissa- Oh, thank you for helping me into that pigpile! That makes me feel so much better--now I want to jump right in like a little school girl.
    After all, I should be thrilled to have reached this landmark. And I'm in excellent company.

  14. Man- Hahaha! You're a poet and you didn't... wait, yes you did. Good lord Man, do you realize we've been friends for more than half of our lives?

    You owe me a huge drink--not just for turning 50 (after you!), but for being your goddamn friend for so long. And don't tell me I still owe you for that donut you stole for me back in college.

    I want my wine. And my foot's on the gas you ass--now let's go!

  15. Happy birthday! Trust me, when you get to fifty-one, fifty seems nothing at all! Heck you're only half-way to a hundred...
    I loved the poem and all its possibilities - that's a real gift, thank you for sharing.

  16. Happy Birthday! 50?! I say, let the games begin!! Time to throw off any leftover insecurities, put on a super cape with a "B" for Boldness on it and hit life head on- Time's a-wastin'! Wrinkles? Those are a disguise so you can get away with stuff.

  17. Happy birthday. Finally fifty, it's a good age, if anything it's for looking back and remembering how easy it has been all the way despite the obstacles and stress and hard times. So give yourself credit, what a great job to get here. The next decade is easy peasy, let it roll.

  18. They say fifty is the "new forty".


    Love Neil Young! "Comes a Time" brings back soooo many memories.

    Happy Birthday!

  19. 50, if that isn't nice what is?

    as neil would say, long may you run!

  20. Many happy returns. Sorry... I don't even what to think about 50 - I'm still trying to get over 40. The cake picture did make me laugh; I hope it was supposed to?

  21. for you J girl..fifty is foxy! Well done...and the rhyme is groovy too. Though we have a bathroom cleaner called nifty in oz...
    anyway....flirts and cleaning products aside..congrats on reaching the half is a kinda groovy number...jeez i sound like greg brady....groovy baby...((big hug))

  22. Sharon- Thank you! Wednesday morning I woke panic-stricken, but the nerves have calmed and I'm feeling much more accepting of the number. Just wish I could shake that Pinot Noir cloud from head. Takes a lot longer to brush off the fuzz at 50! ;)

  23. Leonora- Ha! You know I'm dusting off the sewing machine again to help my daughter with her Halloween costume---maybe I should whip up a cape while I'm at it? Paste an enormous B on it and flash my wrinkles and, Yes!, getaway with anything! Oh, maybe I'll even take to the streets for a trick-or-treat myself! ;)

  24. Sabine- So good to see you here! I should probably resurrect my bike and start peddling miles like you--really get the decade rolling. ;)

  25. Loree- Brings back great memories for me, too. Thanks for the wishes.

    Yes, the new forty. I like that outlook. ;)

  26. Billy- So very, ugh, nice, eh?! Thanks, BP! :D

  27. Dicky- Oh, I loved forty! Forty felt very, um, legitimate. Although at the time, I was still muddling through some very foggy days as a sleep deprived mother of toddlers.

    Forty is wonderful. Enjoy! Oh, and the picture is actually that of a card (one of several) my daughter made for me. And yes, it's supposed to be funny! (Well, I thought it was, anyway.) :)

  28. Dan- darling... So nifty is a cleaning product--now it makes sense! In that case, yes, 50 is very nifty, all right.

    Thanks for the groovy wishes. (I watched that show faithfully, you know. Friday night was a Brady Bunch/Partridge Family festival. Popcorn and soda permitted. It was the grooviest night for my siblings and I.) ;)

  29. *laughing at Common Man's comment -- and your rejoinder*

    Dunno about you, but most of the Libras I know have certainly grown up to fit the profile: tortured by imbalance throughout their younger decades, they come to accept that they can't balance everything at one time... but they can do so serially, in small increments, settling sanely for the net overall effect rather than requiring balance in every, single, step. An inspiring thing to watch and aspire to. Your place here seems to be an expression of that for you, and I suspect that's one reason why you've developed a following. Middle age -- no matter where you put the pushpin -- can be great like that. :)

    Thank you so much for including the "Mr. Soul" clip. People's awareness of "For What It's Worth" so overwhelms their awareness of Buffalo Springfield's output that you'd think they produced only one song ever worth re-hearing. (But dang -- they all look like such babies in that vid!)

    Very nice reading of "Tour." You're right: about all we can say is that flower petals are on the ground. How and when they got there, relative to the route we're taking -- pretty much immaterial. (Another possible way the path might have so magically appeared: we created it ourselves, in walking through a ground cover of petals... and then turned around and looked back, forgetting how we got here.)

    Throughout Collins's introduction you so handily linked to, while he stresses clarity, I like how he never says he doesn't want poems to lead to conversation -- just that using them SOLELY as springboards for classroom discussion is a good way to kill them. Sometimes "significant" birthday milestones work like that: "It's time for me to take stock, re-appraise yadayada." It's so great to find you frolicking in response to your own! (At least to balance out that mild early-morning panic attack. :))

    *still laughing*

  30. A very happy belated birthday, Jayne. Cause I be late saying it.
    Also, I just mangled the English language.

  31. A happy belated birthday to someone who I would NOT have guessed was fifty. But now that you're older, get a blanket, because it might be drifty.

  32. JES- Ha! Those dang scales have always been a constant source of frustration for me. I do believe in the mantra, though, you can have it all, just not all at once. I think that quote is attributed to Oprah - ha! - who probably can and does have all of it at once!

    In my little developing mind, Neil Young was Mr. Soul. That song, his look, hooked me from the moment I first heard him sing it (much to my parent's chagrin)--so I simply had to include that song.

    So glad you mentioned the introduction to Poetry 180--I couldn't agree more with Collins--high school is where a poem goes to die! My son was introduced to poetry as part of his 8th grade curriculum last year - but rather than analyzing poems to death, the kids immediately began assembling fractured thoughts on paper and later submitted their poems directly to publications. My son's poem was selected for an anthology of poems by high school students and he now can see his poem in print. That's a pretty darn cool way of getting kids excited about poetry!

    And I'm still working on creating my very own petal-covered path. Every once in a while I stumble over a jagged stone but I'm learning to kick those aside without too much angst. ;)

  33. DB- It's good to mange language now and then. ;)
    Thanks for the belated birthday wishes. I'm belated with just about everything so no worries!

  34. Beer- Oh yes, drifty it is!
    There's always a blanket at the ready for someone so unsteady
    as I. At 50.
    (Talk of poems that are not heady!)

  35. Munk- You're absolutely right. Fifty is a blessing, indeed. I'm still here! Hooray! :)

  36. A belated Happy Birthday Jayne!

    Love the poem. What a beautiful gift to receive.

    p.s I thought I should tell you that I bought my first ever Kurt Vonnegut book!

  37. SF- So nice to hear from you! I've been wondering when you'll be posting your next London postcard/photo??

    And Vonnegut! Please let me know which book you're reading and how you're liking it. i've never read a Vonnegut story I didn't like.

    Thank you for the birthday wishes. :)

  38. "Four Strong Winds," be still my heart. Hah, being 16 years farther down the road, Neil Young, or the original Ian and Sylvia, have such resonance. And doesn't he sound unchanged, great as ever.

    Here is what I think: it keeps getting better. At some point we realize that much of what we thought we knew is part of the illusion (which is very different than the mystery). You have a head start, having paid attention all along, having saved the letters, having thought the questions. Reading Ray Bradbury by flashlight is, yet not widely know to be, a foretelling of greatness. Very belated birthday wishes. The path narrows but our hearts and minds open. xo

  39. Marylinn- I feel the same way about "Four Strong Winds." I remember playing that song over and over again. And very much so at one particular time in my life...

    "It keeps getting better," makes me smile, Marylinn. And reading Bray Bradbury by flashlight as forteller of greatness?! Well, does it take 50+ years for that to kick in?

    This year my daughter will be reading Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes with her English class, and I'm so excited for her. I told her we should have our own little Bradbury book club (I still have my old copy) and she just rolled her eyes (yeah, the 12 year-old eye roll). She's never read Bradbury and is convinced she won't like the story. This, from a girl who likes scary stories and dystopian novels. (Ha! She has no idea what she's in for! ;)

  40. Love this post and The Friday Night Frolics! One of the most fascinating collections of music I've ever seen! :)

    1. Michael- So glad you're checking out the Frolics. I'm so often inspired by music that I can't help keep a regular column that features the sounds that I love, along with whatever writing they may spark.
      Very kind of you to look back at this one. And if you like bluegrass/roots/folk music (which is what I lean toward), there's a pretty significant collection of the same under the Frolics. :)