Bacon on the Bookshelf

Savory picks for the free range reader

“Too Old for This”

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Photo by Brigitte Lacombe  for Conde Nast's House and Garden

Photo by Brigitte Lacombe
for Conde Nast’s House and Garden

Dominique Browning’s article in last Sunday’s New York Times is one of the boldest, frankest, truest, and most encouraging accounts of getting older that I’ve ever read.  Correction:  it’s one of the best essays on how to live that I’ve ever read.  Here’s just a taste of “I’m Too Old for This,” her article and new mantra:

“Take a pass on bad manners, on thoughtlessness, on unreliability, on carelessness and on all the other ways people distinguish themselves as unappealing specimens.  Take a pass on your own unappealing behavior, too: the pining, yearning, longing and otherwise frittering away of valuable brainwaves that could be spent on Sudoku, or at least a jigsaw puzzle, if not that Beethoven sonata you loved so well in college.

My new mantra is liberating.  At least once a week I encounter a situation that in the old (young) days would have knocked me to my knees or otherwise spun my life off center.

Now I can spot trouble 10 feet away (believe me, this is a big improvement), and I can say to myself:  Too old for this.”

The rest of the article:  Masterpiece.

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About Dominique Browning:  From 1995-2007, she was editor-in-chief of House and Garden.  She has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York magazine, O, the Oprah magazine, Departures, Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure, and Wired, among others.  She blogs at SlowLoveLife.com and writes a monthly column about environmental issues for the Environmental Defense Fund website.  In 2011, with the Environmental Defense Fund, she founded the Moms Clean Air Force, which treats air pollution as a children’s health issue.

Browning has written three books: Around the House and In the Garden: a Memoir of Heartbreak, Healing, and Home Improvement; Paths of Desire: the Passion of a Suburban Gardener; and Slow Love: How I Lost my Job, Put on My Pajamas, and Found Happiness.  She is a classically trained pianist and has two grown sons.

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Photo by Marian Wood Kolisch

Photo by Marian Wood Kolisch

Another woman who seems to have aged awfully well – with her own wisdom to share – is Ursula K. LeGuin, who answered some questions for the “By the Book” column in the same Sunday New York Times that I’ve just gotten around to reading.  I was utterly charmed by many of her answers.  In particular, these three…

Who is your favorite novelist of all time?

I can’t do all time, I don’t even believe in it.  It depends on which time, doesn’t it?  If I’m reading Austen at the time, it’s Austen, but if I’m reading Tolstoy, it’s Tolstoy.  If it’s 1940 and I’m reading “Black Beauty,” it’s Anna Sewell, but if it’s 2010 and I’m reading “The Cave,” it’s Saramago.

If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?

Poor man.  Something as far as possible from Washington, D.C., and noisy self-righteous jackassery.  “Mansfield Park” maybe?

What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?

At my age, nothing I haven’t done embarrasses me.  Only some things I did do.  And that was long ago.

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What I hear in these women’s words is discernment – and contentment.  Nothing smug – but still, a fundamental satisfaction with the self she has become.  I hope one day I’m old enough for that.

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