Sunday, October 20, 2013

Thinking Young

Yesterday, I visited my mom and she asked me, “How old am I?” I said, “Ninety-nine, Mom. But no one thinks you are that old.”  She said, “I don’t believe it.” I told her, “You always think young.” She answered, “Yes, I think young.” And she laughed,  very pleased about it. I understand that this is one of the most important lessons that my mother is teaching me.

   I was out in the barn last night, standing with Silk in her stall while she ate the exquisitely tasty green hay from this year’s abundant harvest. Each night in the past couple of weeks, I have begun a new ritual. I stop cleaning the stall and just stay with my twenty-five year old horse, leaning against her or resting my arm across her back as we take some time to enjoy the silence. In her presence, I have been thinking about how we are both growing older and slower and wondering what kind of toll the approaching winter will have on us.  I see that I have a choice to make, either giving in to the aches in my arms and legs and back or actively stepping into whatever challenges life is going to offer me next.

   I’ve been reading the poetry of David Whyte and listening to these talks that he has recorded about being in mid-life.  What he says resonates for me so deeply. He talks about how tragic it is when children see their parents burdened by the responsibilities of their lives, never allowing their imaginations to carry them forward to the wildness or edge, only narrowing and succumbing to the burdens of their job, their mortgage, their health. And the children come to realize that the time they spend with their parents is also regarded as a burden by both of them.  It becomes an obligation that must be carried out before moving on to the next item on the list.  I am so glad that my family – especially my daughter and my mother and myself – don’t feel that way about the time we spend together. Each moment we spend together is a gift.

   Whyte talks about how at each stage of our lives, we go to a particular frontier or fierce edge that “allows us to taste the ripe fruit of our experience at any one time and celebrate and understand the season that we are occupying in that moment”. As I rest each evening with Silk in her stall, I am able to find some space in which to reflect on the frontier that I am at right now. Certainly, the winds of change are blowing around here, and in the next year, I will be facing the daunting task of once again re-inventing myself.  David Whyte says that one of the tasks of adulthood is to find the youthfulness at each stage of aging so that we grow younger again. “The radical edge is available to us, but it just looks different at each stage”.

   It’s getting dark so early now, and I’ve had to adjust my nightly routine in the barn to begin an hour sooner than I’d like it to be. As I walked back through the yard from the barn last night, wishing I had a flashlight, stepping carefully on the slippery fallen leaves and uneven ground, I was eager to reach the warm glow of the house. Whyte wrote a beautiful poem called “House of Belonging”, and he says, ”This is where I want to love all the things it has taken me so long to love.” Right here, right now, that is my mission. I’ll have to be patient and see where it leads.