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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Seventh Decade - a personal essay on life and living

Seventh Decade

The sky is soft blue as the sun lightens to the east. These days, as I begin my 7th decade on the planet, I have come to enjoy the early mornings – cool, sweet-smelling summertime mornings. The birds whistling and chirping and singing to each other and the universe is a daily reaffirmation that Mother Earth and the natural world abound and abide, without too much regard for the sillyness or stupidity of humans. The most that I do for them is to provide a shaded eve here or a bushy shrub there, where they can build their homes and flutter about raising babies. Short of allowing them to destroy my house, I do oblige.

I am coming to love my friends more in this time of life. Perhaps that’s because I’ve lost too many of them, sometimes as the result of tragedy or geography, sometimes negligence, apathy or meanness. So many of us race through life during the early years -- competing, working, climbing or falling off career ladders, raising families – when we are too young to know what we’re doing, how to do it well, and how to avoid mistakes. We learn those lessons later. And time – the good times and harsh times -- passes so quickly. I look back often at so many mistakes, some work-related, some having to do with relationships, things I did or didn’t do, should have done or should not have done, the coulda-shoulda-woulda things that can drive you mad or deep into depression or apathy if you let them.  But mostly these days I see lost opportunities.

Friends I might have made. Colleagues with whom I could have built a connection. Loves I lost or threw away. Trips I might have taken. Books I never read. Stories I never wrote. The things I should have taught my children that I didn’t know.

The sense of loss can feel overwhelming at times, and it seems to me that the only way to remedy the sadness and loss of those dark memories, the ones that live in a shadow world of sorrow and grief, is to build new memories, every day. To make new friends, to love better the ones I have, and perhaps even give some old ones another chance, another bite at the apple of John. (He’s sweeter now, I think.) To read new books, write new stories. And to seek – and find, and nourish -- what brings me joy and fulfillment. At this point, it is mostly about wind and waves, a boat and a dream.

By grasping and holding those things, the dreams, the friends and family who love and cherish me, I find I begin to recoup the enthusiasm for life, for living a good life, that must come naturally to the young, yet so easily and so often gets beaten out of us as we grow older.

The sky turns pink now and the birds have quieted. Cass sleeps with a soft inflow and outflow of breath, innocent to my monkey mind. My children are down the road, or half a world away, and I must trust they will be safe and well. Sleep escapes me some days, but that’s a good excuse to write, to think about new friends, old friends, about family, life and death, children, our elders and the planet we all live on, that struggling, surging, shining, shattered Earth to which we, the billions of her children, are irrelevant.


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