Ah, I can remember when sixty was a distant thing, and how wise and patient I’d grow to be by that age – if indeed I’d live that long.
Now that it’s here, what is it really like? Am I wiser? A life of ashes and rebuilding teaches one a great deal. Things like:
Nothing lasts forever.
Each day we choose how to experience things.
Experience IS the best teacher.
Expectation is a cruel task mistress.
Yes, common phrases, even though they contain immense truths within them. But if we’re gifted time to live long enough, we begin to see the realities, the contentment, the beauty, that comes to us. Okay, sometimes you do have to search for it, particularly in times like these. Almost everything is a choice, when it comes to perceptions.
The last six months have been filled with so much, it’s difficult to give it all justice in the telling. Hiking, dancing, music, Pin the Trash, Skooliepalooza, Van Aid, National Parks, rock hunting, star gazing, majestic vistas, snow capped mountains, blooming Joshua trees, art walks, casinos, and on and on it goes! I do so much living these days that it is difficult to find time to put down words about the living, in addition to working a full time job, maintaining relationships, and getting sleep in there somewhere!
It is a gift, a blessing, an honor, to live this life. To be employed, to travel, to experience all of this and so much more. When I am having to pack up and move for the third time in a month it can feel a little strained, admittedly. But then I arrive, and there are new people and old friends, new experiences and reconnecting with those who have traveled a different circuit, and it all settles in all right. And there are days when it is down right normal except for the fact I’m living in a bus. Get up. Make coffee. Log in to work. Fix breakfast. More work. Tend to stuff on lunch break. More work. Plan dinner.
But most of the time these routine things take place against a backdrop of incredible beauty – mountains;desert flora; inside a forest with a creek burbling past; within a canyon where the late afternoon light turns rock into flaming pink hues where the moon rises so fat, golden and immense that you feel you could reach out and touch it; by a lake where the sunset is reflected so achingly magnificent that it brings a sense of awe; where owls hoot softly back and forth, and the calls of coyotes accompany the drift into sleep beneath skies so dark that one can see their place in the vastness that is the Milky Way. It is the ordinary made extraordinary.
I suppose one can experience many of these things in one place. I often looked for the magic within the everyday wherever I was. Out on the road it feels bigger than life. But some things only exist outside of our normal place. Joshua trees, for instance (Joshua Tree National Park). Cholla Cactus. Mexican grey wolves(Kofa Wildlife Area). The highest city in the United States (Leadville, CO).
Death Valley (a short drive from me at the moment). The Rockies. Hoover Dam. Zion National Park rock formations, The Strawberry Pinnacles in Utah. Parowan Gap petroglyphs. I could go on. There is just so much natural beauty in our country; my mind can hardly comprehend what else lies beyond our borders in other places!
But, there is a trade off. My twin grandsons know me only from photographs, too young when I left to remember me. The other grandkids know me from phone calls and gifts, and remember me in person. My mother ages with only my brother nearby. I lived in another state away from all of my family, but only a day’s drive if I pushed it. The last time I saw family it took five days hard driving to get there. The business I entered with one of my daughters will open in April, and I will not be there to see her hard work in person – only through photos and animated phone conversations.
To live one’s life as one sees fit can be difficult – there are societal and familial expectations. To feel your spirit lies outside of those expectations takes courage. Mine falters in moments. Those that you love the most can toss out words that wound. When my husband died at forty, I was face first with our mortality, with the fact that plans are what are made while life happens, and carpe diem.
Nothing in my life has gone as planned. And as I reflected on that thought during the week of my birthday, hiking on soaring bluffs above a river, watching the golden, full moon rise above the trees, alone in a chair in deep darkness, the Big Dipper coming alight, I began to understand that I am wiser. This week as I have hiked among blooming Joshua trees, captured the blossoming of Indian Paintbrush among the creosote bushes, stretched and worked my body in dance and yoga, watched quail coveys teeter along in formation – I realized the person that I must have the most patience for is myself.
~SE, from the road