If one happens to walk past James Hipsher’s house, one might notice a wooden box supported on a post. It is behind the hedge row, but close enough to inspect. Its glass front is hinged, and inside the box is a piece of paper with poetry on it. The box is shared with the next door neighbor, and the two neighbors alternate months for posting. The poems are changed each Friday. When it is Jim’s month, he posts his own poetry.
He didn’t start out writing poetry – he started memorizing it. He had plenty of time to read and memorize poems as a young adult given his location: Tok, Alaska where he worked in engineering and later as a customs inspector. He landed there due to a job offer where he was welcomed by 15 feet of snow. He traveled between Valdez and Tok and other towns in the course of his work. He was lucky to be in Tok in 1964 when the earthquake hit. Several friends of his who were on the dock in Valdez were not so lucky.
After taking the Federal Service Entrance Exam, he became a customs inspector. He and his wife and two daughters made Anchorage their home for 40 years. Jim took his oldest daughter to her piano lessons and decided he should learn to play as well.
When he retired, the arts spoke to him. Perhaps it was years of long winters or living near the wilderness. The creative spirit blossomed! He moved to Portland and continued working on his music and started writing poems as well as memorizing them (he knows more than 100 of them).
About three years ago, he registered with ElderAudience—a website that helps senior facilities find entertainment in the Portland area. So now he's a poet, a musician and an entertainer.
Here is a poem that is apropos for all of us called “Age.”
Age - By James Hipsher
Do not judge me by my age,
But you may count my scars.
Every day that I turn the page
I’ll fling arrows t’wards the stars.
The body mortal is my judge,
As my being ebbs to sea.
I only want to hold no grudge,
Against what could not be.
There is but one and only one,
Goal of life I seek for me.
And that is to bless the life I own,
And to bless yours equally.
Young at Any Age is a collaborative project with the AARP Oregon Volunteer team of Carlos Romo, Steve Carter, Joyce DeMonnin, Sam Jones and Debbie Cahill. Send in suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org for outstanding Oregonians 50+ who prove that age is just a number. #DisruptAging #RealPossibilities
[Photo: Sam Jones]