Old Age…or Life in the Woods?



Odd question, right?

Of course I’m old. Not that old…but old enough.

My house was built on the front, semi-cleared area of a woodlot. This was a farmstead over a hundred years ago. Large maple trees with rock piles at their bases mark the old boundaries of the plowed fields. Still, the woods want to move back in.

We removed a dozen small trees to make space for the foundation of this little house.  In the thirty years since, I have removed a dozen more – as well as over a hundred wild juniper – to make room for a garden, and to have a small lawn. I’m having three overgrown, diseased wild cherry trees removed this year, along with a pine tree that is threatening to take out my electrical service in every big wind.

Clearly, I live in the woods.

So, two questions; the answer to both is yes. One would think one has nothing to do with the other. And yet…

My sister, Brenda has developed “floaters”. Fortunately, I developed them several years ago, so I could enlighten and advise.

Brenda is one year and twenty days older than me. She hit puberty a full three years before I did. She reached adulthood at least ten years ahead of me. Maybe more. Being the oldest child in our large family, Brenda had to grow up fast, to allow me and the other younger siblings our “slacker” childhood.

She may be making up for that now.

Retired, Brenda is having quite a bit of fun.  She and her husband are on their way to Seattle right now, to get on a cruise ship. And, although (did I mention?) she is one year and twenty days older than me, Brenda is far behind me in all areas of aging, from menopause to wrinkles. Now it’s the “floaters.”

There was no one to advise me. It is one of those aspects of aging that nobody talks about. Until you are diagnosed. Then everyone says, “Oh, that, yes that’s been driving me crazy for years.”

It makes me wonder what other secrets are waiting.

Floaters, in case you don’t know, are caused by the stiffening and separation of layers of the eyeball, usually due to age. It causes the afflicted to see tiny dark spots moving in their peripheral vision, randomly and annoyingly.

Because no one had advised me of this, and because I live in the woods, I didn’t know I had floaters.

I thought it was “no-see-ums.”

No-see-ums: the tiny black, biting gnats that come out in swarms in the Spring of the year. Because the wind will carry them away, they like to get inside the ears, behind the eyeglasses, under the collar or at the hairline. There, they take an enormous bite with their tiny jaws, usually leaving blood running and an itchy welt.

They look amazingly the same as floaters.

For months, I was waving away insects. I was complaining to others, “aren’t the no-see-ums terrible this year?” and “do they always last this long into the Fall?”

Finally, it started to dawn on me that this was a vision issue rather than a living-in-the-woods problem.

Then I wondered about a detached retina. Or a stroke. Or several other scary scenarios.

Lucky Brenda – not living in the woods – thought about stroke right away!

I went to the Medical Center, and then to the Eye Doctor. Everyone assured me that it was a normal – albeit secret – part of aging. They told me coping strategies that I was later able to pass on to Brenda, in my new role of  “expert on aging.”

Now, this year, after what seemed like an exceptionally long winter, Spring has arrived on Beaver Island. What a noisy Spring it has been, too!

I’d lay down at night and hear loud chirping. Such pleasant sounds of the season! Birds…at night? Was it the little peepers? Crickets? I read somewhere this was going to be a tremendous year for Cicadas. Maybe I was hearing Cicadas.

After several nearly sleepless nights spent trying to decide what life form was making the sounds that were keeping me awake, I decided to try earplugs. No offense to Spring and all of the sounds of the season, but I need my sleep.

Oddly enough, the sounds are just as loud with ears plugged.

Come to find out, once again this has nothing to do with living in the woods.

It seems I have Tinnitus.

I’ve heard, at least, of Tinnitus.  A problem of the inner ear (most often associated with age) that results in a buzzing or ringing in the ear.

Or, as in my case, the sound of Springtime in the woods.

20 responses »

  1. oh that is funny! you thought the floaters were no see-ums! i laughed. i’ve had floaters for – ever it seems.. they’re no worse, thank goodness.. as for the insect and bird noises, i will continue to think/hope that they’re natural sounds, which are perfect music for easy sleep for me. i hope that you can find a way to embrace that music and smile your way to sleep! z

    • Oh, yes, I agree, I’d much rather have the sounds of the forest in my head than a mechanical buzzing or ringing. I’m so glad to have made you laugh. Sometimes a post like this elicits only pity, which makes me think I’m not very good at telling a funny story. Thank you for reading, Lisa, and for your comments!

  2. Lord have mercy, Cindy. This was/is funny-not! Truly I feel for you because I’ve had ear ringing since I was in my thirties. Sometimes the ringing is quite loud but I’m used to my “ears ringing off the wall.” I don’t have “floaters” but I have glaucoma and that is a bitch as well. I hope the “B” word does not offend you. That is my best description for all the things that happen to the body as one ages.

    This post was well written, as usual.

    • Glaucoma IS a bitch…there’s no getting around that! I always thought it was a done deal, glaucoma = blindness.When a friend was diagnosed, I was pleased to learn that, with lasers and other modern technology, they can now stop the progression of the disease. That’s a ray of hope, anyway. I’m glad you saw the humor that I intended. We’d might as well laugh, right? Thanks for reading, Yvonne, and for your comments!

    • I’m hoping it’s not a permanent condition, Tammy. I’m treating a little ear infection and the symptoms may go away. I know of several people that live with this ailment, and – yes! – I’m sure it gets to be quite a burden. Thank you for reading, and for your comments!

  3. I started having floaters a couple years ago and yes I was swatting at my hair because I thought it was black flies. You tell a great story 🙂

    • Yes, those of us that are used to life in the country cannot be too put off by whatever is handed to us, I guess. Black fly season, 20 below zero winters…we will not be easily taken down by symptoms of age! Thank you for reading, Annie, and for your comments!

  4. Oh, Cindy, you made me laugh. I haven’t had floaters yet, but I have unfond memories of no-see-ums from evenings on the tennis courts. And my sister has tinnitus. It sounds dreadful. I think I would just try to keep enjoying the sounds of springtime in the woods. I hope I can do so, as well, when I’m inevitably afflicted with these little gifts of aging!

    • Yes, it could definitely be worse! A mechanical buzzing or ringing could drive me crazy! Or mosquito-type buzzing. At least these are benign, friendly sounds of birds or frogs or crickets. I’m so glad I made you laugh! When stories like this don’t get that response, I think I’m not telling it right. Thank you for reading, Kate, and for your comments!

  5. I have a similar relationship with my younger sister– this makes me wonder about how we will be when we age!

    • Well, if you have Brenda’s youth of always having to be the responsible, hard-working one, then I wish you, at least, the pleasure of watching your younger sister get all the creaks and quirks and wrinkles first. I know my sister is taking quite a bit of pleasure in that! Thank you for reading, and for your comments!

  6. Try looking for bees upwards in trees. I’ve always got to let the floaters settle down first. My wife has tinnitus as well as some kind of muscle ‘spasms’ in her ears that comes on when she talks on the phone or when she’s tired and yawns. The only good thing about getting old is not having to work as hard and, well, social security is pretty nice too.

    • Oh, my! I checked out your blog, and the amazing and wonderful things you do…but, yes, I can see where floaters would make spotting your bees very difficult! I’m glad you’re reaping some of the benefits of age, anyway! Thank you for reading, and for your comments!

  7. Gees Cindy it sounds like your falling apart- I’m not going to say anything that would require me to knock on wood.

    • Oh, thank you, Bridget! Too often with a story like this, I get pity, not laughs. I’m sure the fault is in the telling, but I love when people see the humor in my stories.

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