Recently, a tree in the Municipal Park close to our home was cut down. A view of the cross-section reveals its growth rings.
According to my online research: “Visible rings result from the change in growth speed through the seasons of the year; thus, critical for the title method, one ring generally marks the passage of one year in the life of the tree.”
In pioneer days, a person my age — I’m swiftly approaching 58 rings — would be considered elderly. Today, however, even with silver hair and deeply etched laugh lines, that’s mere change.
By intent, many of us have cultivated a combination of habits that contribute to our number of growth rings. These might include eating certain foods, steering clear of certain things, exercise, taking vitamins and/or minerals, etc.
Even though you’ve cultivated a bevy of healthy habits, what single one stands head-and-shoulders above the rest toward your quality longevity?
I would say a habit of enquiring. The rest follows. If you could get into a habit of being more flexible, so much the better!
FuriousCuriousCancerSurvivor — “The habit of enquiring.” I LOVE IT! 🙂
Movement. Whatever you do, keep moving in whatever way you can.
Arlene — “Movement.” Yes, indeed! 🙂
Laurie, I don’t think there is ONE thing. It’s many things working together. I’ve definitely stepped up my exercise over the past couple years (since I was diagnosed with breast cancer). I’ve always eaten a balanced diet, but I’ve cut back on the goodies (not eliminated, mind you). However, I also think it’s important to keep the mind active–AND to have fun and enjoy life.
By the way, I laughed at your blog post title, and immediately pictured Ernestine. 🙂
Merril — I love that you have FUN and ENJOY life. I share your perspective that they’re vital elements to quality longevity 🙂
You’ve ask for just one, so I’ll give you one letter “F” with three branches: faith, family, friends, all connected just like the rings on the fallen tree you’ve pictured. Movement and minerals with good nutrition are part of the equation too as Arlene and Merril suggest.
You are young, Laurie!
Marian — I love your TRI-branched F: Faith, Family, and Friends. And I’m so happy to be counted among your friends 🙂
Breathe! Keep breathing…
Serenity of spirit, being in the Now.
along with all the other activities you mentioned above!
Jeff — “Breath,” Serenity,” and “BEing in the now” (present-moment living). yes, Yes, YES indeed! 🙂
Beautiful photograph, Laurie! I’d have to say my oldest habit is to avoid food that is not natural, and chemicals as much as posssible. As a teenager I took those “if you think it’s butter, but it’s not, it’s Chiffon” commercials seriously, but not the way the manufacturer intended. I still passionately believe it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!
Barbara — I resonate strongly with ingesting food that is natural, and I love your thoughts (though not as they intended) about Chiffon and NOT messing with Mother Nature! 🙂
I remember being younger than I am now. (We can all say that.) I believe an open and active mind keeps me moving day by day. There’s always something new to explore.
LakeAfton — An “Open and Active Mind,” along with “Exploring” makes for an unbeatable combination! 🙂
Laurie, whether it came of genetics or the grace of God, into my 60’s I’ve maintained what Dennis calls a “ballerina shape”, meaning that I am much taller than I am wide. Frankly, I am shaped like Olive Oyl, Popeye’s main squeeze. Having enjoyed the blessings of good health all my life, no one was more surprised than I when I was blindsided by a heart attack in my mid-50’s. My body was strong and in good working order, I had no dietary issues, stress was not so much a factor, my electrical system had just tripped a circuit breaker…atrial fibrillation. However, having had the shock of my life, I make sure to at least once in a day to do something with all my heart, my soul and my strength. Something physical to get my heart pumped up and challenged, something visible for the sheer satisfaction of making progress, and as a way of reminding myself that I am here to not only BE but to Do as well. I don’t always do my best every day, who does? But I do try to give myself the satisfaction of knowing I tried, and that beats the daylights out of whining, “I can’t”, I try to live a life of Positives as instead of Negatives.
Sandi – I had to laugh at, “…Olive Oyl, Popeye’s main squeeze.” I will never — ever! — forget when you had your heart attack. You’re one of the hardest working (physical labor) people I know, digging in the dirt with your bare hands and loving every moment of it. I think that gardening is actually therapeutic for you — and it shows! Popeye (in this case, Dennis) is extremely fortunate to have his Olive Oyl (Sandi), and I’m grateful to have her as my friend 🙂
They’re all important, Laurie, but moving is my most favorite.
Joan — I betcha a dollar to a donut that Sherlock Holmes would say, “Movement is elemental, my dear Watson.” 🙂
Laughing out loud. At bedtime, if I can’t recall at least a coupla incidents of laughing heartily that day, I think of something that has given me a good chuckle previously and make sure I get my daily haha in. I figure if you go to sleep laughing, you have a better chance of waking up smiling. Seems to help all the other health efforts.
ljoljoljo — Like you, I love to laugh. It’s oh-so good for the heart, mind, and soul 🙂
I was trained to worry. Everyday I work on not worrying and finding positive thoughts and outcomes.
Right now I am amazed and happy for all the folks helping me heal and getting back to walking and living full. How lucky am I !? I am also so careful to think about how glad I will feel when this house sells in perfect time for retirement and moving into the new single story house. I have a bottle of champagne chilling.
It is hard on the days when no one comes looking. 66 is fast approaching and partner is nearly 70 and his investment in this house and his work is huge. It will happen just right I am sure.
Patricia — I’m so glad that you “bucked the system” and figured out healthy ways to make lemonade out of lemons! You even have a bottle of champagne chilling for a future even! I’m so happy for YOU!
Yoga, when I am consistent with my practice, movement, breathing, vitamins, healthy eating, sleeping well, all fall into place.
Linda — GREAT to see you here. Thank you for weighing in with YOGA (consistency with practice) and the rest of the phenomenal supports: movement, breathing, vitamins, healthy eating, and sleeping well. Blessings to you and yours! 🙂
Recently I read a story about a 90 year old man being interviewed at a gym. When he was asked what he attributed to his longevity and good health he replied smiling, “Look around, I hang out with 60 year olds,” I concur.
Thanks for a great post, Laurie!
Laura — I love the story you shared about the 90 year old man being interviewed in the gym! 🙂
“Exhale” … letting go of stress … a very healthy practice. Noticing as a part of that practice where I’m holding stress in my body and releasing. When things get ugly out in the world or in my life practicing Tonglen helps too.
I love the wisdom reflected both from you Laurie and in the great responses posted here. Especially today the comment about “not always doing my best every day.” Truly I too am far from perfect any day. There is also such release packed into sandiwhite’s “who does” statement. I do incorporate many of the other practices mentioned here at times with a focus on one over the other. Never perfectly.
I’ve read in the past that the rings in a tree also tell a story of good seasons and particular stresses the tree has experienced, times of drought or even fires. Those wrinkles we show on our faces (yes I agree they are our rings) do speak of the many times we smiled as well as the difficult brow furrowed moments. I’ve been worrying lately about the increasing presence of these wrinkles (especially as it related to work). Twice this week the universe has sent posts embracing wrinkles. I love synchronicities! “Exhaling.”
Thanks Laurie I always look forward to Tuesdays and your creative reflection prompts!
Audrey – Like you, I’m a tremendous proponent of Tonglen (https://tuesdayswithlaurie.com/2010/05/06/tonglen/). Again like you, I love the heart-based responses from each and every reader.
I think of the deeply etched laugh lines in my face somewhat like I do my silver hair — they’re ribbons of valor — I earned each and every one of them 🙂
Oh so love the image of “ribbons of valor,” I honor your service in the world!
Audrey — I do I honor your service in the world 🙂
Probably exercising. Whatever else I’ve had to do and however busy I am, I try and always keep active. It clears my mind. I try to eat reasonably and also do some meditation. And read… I love the suggestion of laughing. Must take it up!
Olga — “Exercise,” “Keep Active, ” and “Meditation” go a l-o-n-g way toward quality longevity. Add “Laughing” to your list and you’ve got yourself a Home Run! 🙂
Many things – a passion for writing and gardening, connecting with family, friends and others, walking, eating healthy, no smoking and no drugs except for the odd Tynelol (and yes, I am aware that too much of it can cause liver damage). Now if I could just stop worrying. Like someone above said, I was trained to worry – both parents, particularly my late mom were worry warts. I wonder if worrying is hereditary.
And I love the tree rings and trees. And your title, Laurie. I too immediately thought of Lily Tomlin’s character.
And that dates me but so what?
Sharon — What a wonderful bevy of healthy habits you’ve curated! 🙂
When I was thinking of the title for this post, I went out to YouTube and watched a couple of short clips of Lily Tomlin doing Ernestine the operator and cracked up!
Good therapy. 🙂
Lori — Thank you for throwing your hat in the ring! “Good Therapy” is not to be underrated!
Having read all these great answers, can I pick just one? I try to do all of the above. But the answer that I enjoy most, from the title to the comments, is laughter. I love to laugh, and I think going into older age with a conscious desire to increase the laughter in my life will help my get to my maximum “ringy dingies.”
Shirley — I love that LAUGHTER is adding to your “ring dingies.” Your response made ME laugh! 🙂
Thankfully, I had many fine examples of how to live a happily-ever-after life.
Say, for example, my grandma. I recall doing a study on aging for university. My questionnaire revealed that my 50ish classmate felt old; my 60ish dad felt like he was definitely getting older; but my 70ish grandma felt young. When asked for her secret, she said something like, “Each day is a treasure. I cherish them.”
I took many things my grandma told me to heart. She was a wise youthful woman.
So my tip is to focus on the positive.
Leanne — “Each day is a treasure. I cherish them.” Your grandma was a wise woman and with “focus on the positive” as your motto, it’s obvious that the apple didn’t fall very far from the tree 🙂
Stay young at heart… And mind! My boys keep me young and on my toes, they are just approaching their teens. Most of my friends are actually younger than me. And I write fiction for young people… I guess I just never really grew up!
Ali — yes, Yes, YES to “…STAY (action word) YOUNG AT HEART and MIND.”
So many great things listed by others already.
If there was just one thing, it would be supplement with Vitamin C. Get pure L-Ascorbic Acid, as pure as you can find it, and take a minimum teaspoon full twice a day. I take a heaped teaspoon twice a day, and if I feel even the tiniest niggle from a cold or flu or cough then I up it by adding in a 1/4 teaspoon very waking hour (on top of the heaped teaspoon twice a day.
Since adopting this regime I have been free of visible symptoms of any disease. I have felt the presence of colds and flus, with the same frequency as everyone else around me, but have not displayed any visible symptoms.
Tree rings are really fascinating.
Trees are not like us, they do not have a fixed final size and they do not display any loss of function with age, and they do not stop growing.
They do have some limits, the technology they use to pump water to their top branches does limit their size to around 400 ft tall, though in areas with regular fog they can potentially grow a little taller by harvesting water directly from the fog, and not pumping it up. There is no limit on width however.
However, as trees get older, they face the odds of those rare events that few things survive, forest fires, huge storms, very large earthquakes, volcanoes.
The oldest single trees known are about 4,900 years old.
Here in New Zealand our oldest trees are only a little over 2,000 years, and very few of those left. Over most of the North Island there are very few over 1800 years old, because of the explosion of the Taupo Volcano in AD186 that destroyed most things within a 160 mile radius (a very big bang – actually a series of very big bangs, about 10 minutes apart).
Large earthquakes also affect trees. If the tree manages to stay standing (which many do) then it usually has many of its roots destroyed by the shaking, so often there is a period of very little growth, that can last 3 to five years as the root structure recovers and new growth appears on the main trunk. Coring very old trees is one of the tools that earthquake researchers use to precisely date major earthquakes. By coring thousands of trees, and taking very precise measurements, they can get amazingly accurate information about location of the epicentre of the quake, and the size of the quake. Using old trees buried in swamps, and overlapping cores, this technique can locate old quakes to the year, going back 10,000 years in some locations. (Another technique used is to measure the size of lichens on large boulders. The lichens grow at a steady rate throughout life. With hundreds of thousands of measurements, it is possible to age and locate large earthquakes with amazing accuracy – down to a month or so, over a period of the last thousand years.)
Here in NZ we have the giant Kauri trees, which are not as tall as you sequoias, but are even more impressive in a sense, as the mature ones are huge, 20 ft thick or more, and the trunk is the same diameter all the way up to the first branch, which can be a hundred feet or more up. Standing in a mature stand of these giants makes one feel very small indeed – very much like Alice. Trounson Park (just north of Dargaville) is the best example that is easily accessible.
In the Waitekauri (between Paeroa and Waihi) there was a dance hall that was built on the stump of a Kauri tree – it was over 20ft across. It has rotted away completely now, but there was still a trace of it there when I was a kid.
So yeah – keep on breathing.
For trees that means keep on growing bigger.
We are different.
We can keep on the same size.
It seems very likely (now that Google have joined the game with Calico) that we will very soon be able to stop, then reverse the aging process in humans.
It seems that we as individuals will very likely get the chance to outlive even the oldest of living trees.
Keep breathing, keep a largely plant based diet (at least 90% of calories from plants) and aim for half of that raw, cut out refined sugars, take heaps of vitamin C, and get lots of exercise; and we just may live to see 5,000 and beyond.
Ted — I learned so much from your thoughtful, knowledge-based response! I’ve seen photos of your impressively giant Kauri trees — Amazing! And I love (and adhere to much of) your wisdom:
“Keep breathing, keep a largely plant based diet (at least 90% of calories from plants) and aim for half of that raw, cut out refined sugars, take heaps of vitamin C, and get lots of exercise.” 🙂
Great advice about Vit. C and fresh organics. I never get sick, thanks to god. So to answer u’r question, develop good habits early, be kind & loving toward one another, have fun. Longevity takes care of itself. 🙂
I love all the comments here enriching the conversation. There are a few themes … Movement, breathing, enquiry, healthy eating, loaves and relationships. All of the above does the mind body and spirit good 🙂
For me, its practicing yoga on and off the mat.
Val — Me to, too, two — yoga as a way of life! 🙂
Ps. Loaves should read love … Apple word intuition is not aligned to mine today!
Endurance,followed with prayer.
JenGaryNewAdventures — I agree that “Endurance” and “Prayer” make a phenomenal one-two punch toward quality longevity! 🙂
Listening with my heart….something you taught me.
Tamara — You just made me smile 🙂
58 ????…never you jest . You can only be 30 at the most 😉
For me it has to be fresh air and yoga…that’s two but only one really because breathing fresh air is very important with yoga .
I have practised yoga since I was in my early twenties and I think it kept me supple and helps keep depression at bay . It’s a must for me . I have just discovered Dru Yoga , it’s really good for the spine and such fun .
Cherry — yes, Yes, YES to fresh air and yoga. (Now I’m going to have to go check out “Dru Yoga…thanks for the tip) 🙂
Well that’s a tough one to nail down one thing. For me it would be to wake up every day and choose happiness. Happiness has many health benefits attached to it and for me, I hope it works for a long time 🙂
Chase & Chance’s Mom — CHOOSE HAPPINESS. Yes, indeed. That would go a tremendously long way to quality longevity! 🙂
That would be seeing the glass half full. Happy spirit, happy life. And a good second would be moving every day.
Tiny — Positive perspective, happy spirit, happy life, and movement: FANTASTIC ingredients for quality longevity! 🙂
FatimaSaySell — ACTIVE (body, mind, and spirit). Yes, indeed! 🙂
What a fabulous post here using a tree’s growth rings for human being comparison. I still need to get a proper exercise regimentation in place, but I’d like to think I eat the right foods on a regular basis. I was saddened to learn last week that my massive consumption of blueberries (I always thought they were person the healthiest food on the earth) may have exacerbated by acid reflux and sour stomach issues since everywhere I read they are saying they have more acid than any other fruit and are very low on the life giving alkaline, irregardless of the fact they have a high level of antioxidants. I just don’t know what to think of them anymore, though I am most reluctant to give them up totally. I do eat plenty of broccoli, which has virtually no acid, is one of the highest alkaline foods, and as everyone knows is loaded with antioxidants. Salmon, grilled chicken, escarole avacados, oatmeal and brown rice are also regular foods for me. And of course I am a non-smoker and never drink alcohol.
Sam — I wouldn’t steer away from blueberries altogether, just maybe enjoy them in moderation. And you can’t go wrong with broccoli — a miracle food (like kale) in my opinion. I hope your recent knee repair is coming along nicely! 🙂
My best tip is to enjoy and appreciate very old people. They give you a great perspective on life – and they make you realise you’re not that old after all! Once you’ve learned to see the beauty in the oldest faces just as easily as in the youngest ones, age seems a wonderful thing.
Probably not liking alcohol and walking lots!
Marie — They’re both definite advantages 🙂
No pepperoni, salami, or bacon ! I’ve had that triple by-pass.
Carl — Definitely things to steer clear of after a triple by-pass 🙂
Probably having a cup of tea, which becomes like a form of meditation for me. I collect antique china teacups and have at various stages used them daily just to take a moment.
I was going to say walking along the dogs along the beach but I missed a few days this week so I left the side down a bit there. This not only gives us all exercise but also Vitamin D and I chat with a group of other dog walkers and am becoming friendly with them. It’s a great social outlet when you can’t or don’t want to commit to being somewhere at a certain time xx Rowena
Rowee — I love that you have turned your tea time into a form of meditation. Way coooooool! 🙂