“Ripening Time”

“Ripening Time: Inside Stories for Aging With Grace”

There’s an intriguing new book about getting older in our fast-moving society and world. It is completely different from the self-help books that present any number of steps to survive the physical and mental challenges that lie ahead. This is a slim paperback with a gorgeous cover painting of harvest fruits and vegetables, the analogy to nature that the author weaves through the true life stories of “elders” . Whether a reader is in the middle years or beyond, “Ripening Time” is a positive provocative book, combining deep knowledge with expressive prose.

Sherry Ruth Anderson, Ph.D. is a writer and speaker who has spent the last decade studying conscious development in aging. She is the best selling co-author of “The Feminine Face of God” and “The Cultural Creatives.” In Canada, she chaired the Department of Psychological Research at the Clark Institute of Psychiatry and was Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto Medical School. Her research from that period appears in her book with J.R.Martin, “Crazy Talk: Studies in Schizophrenic Thought Disorder”. She lives in Northern California with her husband, Paul and “takes great joy in walking in nature preserves near their home.”

This how she describes her latest book: “Ripening Time” presents a new perspective on aging through the art of inner inquiry. We enter the inside stories beyond the culture’s mind traps, listening as elders name the lies they’ve believed for too long and uncover the tender and bittersweet and ferocious truths of growing old. The stories become an indispensable compass to a new kind of maturity where aging can be a fruition, the genuine grace and gift of human ripening.” In her book, she poses possible answers to the most searching questions that middle aged and older women and men face in their daily lives.

An easy way to find out if this book is for you is to click on the author’s website: sherryruthanderson.com She posts blogs and some are available on the web site that correspond to chapters in the book: “Is There a Map for Growing Old?” , “Shadows of Aging Part I: Powerful Forces”, and Shadows of Aging Part 2: Disturbing the Furies.” That third blog became the blockbuster Chapter 8 in the book. An earlier chapter tackles the common assumption that “Old Age is Boring”. The writing throughout is gripping, drawing the reader into what it means to become an “elder”. The author shares experiences from her own life that add first person authenticity and generosity of spirit to the narrative. The subject of aging is serious, especially to those of us who are in the midst of the process. Yet, Anderson has been able to write as if she were having a conversation with the reader.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 12: “Ancestors” : The author was visiting the ancient city of Dubrovnik in Croatia in 2011.
“I’d found my way in the Old City to Zudioska ulica, Jew Street, on one of the alleyways leading off the Stradun, the main promenade . Getting directions in a pizza shop, I arrived at #5, an old house with a sign announcing, Sinagoga, 15 kuna. I gave my kuna to a bored -looking young man who handed me a ticket.
“What time are Shabbat services this week?” I asked brightly, thinking I’d like to sing prayers in Hebrew with Croatians.
“No services,” he said.
“No services?”
“Only on High Holidays.”
I wanted to make some contact with him. (Hey, hello. Are you Jewish? What’s it like living here? I grew up in New Jersey.) I figured that was too over-friendly American and tried for something more neutral.
“How large is the Jewish community?”
“Forty-five.”
“So no rabbi?”
“No rabbi,.” he replied in the same flat voice. And finally, to get rid of me, “Go up to the synagogue first, then come down to the museum on this floor.”

Anderson climbs wooden stairs to the third story sinagoga and then the final stairs to the women ’s section. She sits for awhile and then descends to the museum on the main floor.
“Two very old Torahs lay open in a glass case. A sign says they date from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries and ‘bear witness to Drubrovnik’s Jewish community throughout six centuries of history.’ …Suddenly what has happened here breaks in on me. I’m looking at a yellow arm band with a black star of David printed on it. The next exhibit is the order for confiscation of Jewish books, and after that the order of confiscation of Jewish property, and then the deportation order of all Jews from the city of Dubrovnik. I’m crying by the time I get to the list of names with a scroll drawn around them. Two vines with thorns curl down the scroll, and at the bottom under the dates 1941-1945, a small sign reads, ‘Died in the
Holocaust.’”

There are two valuable sections after the close of the book: “Creating Elders Circles” and “Questions for Discussion and Reflection”. The questions are springboards that follow each chapter and can be pursued individually or within a group. She suggests that an optimum number for an Elder Circle would be 6 to 10 people and her web site offers resources for creating Elder Circles. Finally, every book has blurbs that extol its virtues. This is my favorite for “Ripening Time”: “This book is a harvest of shining wisdom — earthy, funny, lyrical and very human. Maturity, Anderson says, is as complex and rich as old-vine wine. And it is hard work — the fruit of a life lived with honesty, soul and care for others. Stand by and for what you love she urges, and the miracle will happen.” Janine Canan, author of “She Rises Like the Sun.”

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