“Man may turn which way he please, and undertake any thing whatsoever,” wrote Goethe, “he will always return to the path which nature has prescribed for him.”
We do our best. We tell ourselves from a very early age what we’re supposed to do, the school we need to attend, the career that best suits us. We follow the prescribed path, live the in the apartment or house we find along the way, often have the spouse or children we know is expected of us, and then we are told that now is the time to rest, to sit back, to retire.
And yet, our minds do not retire. Our passions do not retire.
And very often, we really aren’t ready to retire.
Movies will tell us it all just works out. Television commercials show alarmingly attractive people with flowing white hair sailing, drinking coffee on the porch of a magnificent A-frame in Montana, or laughing with perfectly behaving children flying a kite.
Who are these people, and what did they do for a living?
But it’s more than that. It’s hitting the 60’s and not feeling that much different inside than you did in your 50’s. Or 40’s. You are even more curious. More interested in absorbing great poetry, great wisdom, great wine and great silence. The kind of silence you find on a walk in the woods.
A silence that beckons you to really listen to the voice inside of you…the voice that might be speaking even louder than ever.
“The great affair, the love affair with life, is to live as variously as possible, to groom one’s curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred, climb aboard, and gallop over the thick, sun struck hills every day. Where there is no risk the emotional terrain is flat and unyielding, and despite all its dimensions, valleys, pinnacles and detours, life will seem to have none of its magnificent geography, only a length. It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.”
I don’t want to let go of that mystery. Yet sometimes, I can feel the forces of aging (or is it what I perceive as aging?) pulling me into a kind of lull, as though a soothing being with a harp was telling me to pull out of the race, retire my dreams, and put aside still-deep desires to see new things and learn new ideas.
It’s as though I’m about to summit Mt Everest, but the storm is too strong, the winds too mighty, the cold, too much for me. “Just close your eyes and sleep”, the voice wants to say. “You’ve had a good climb.”
HEY! WAIT A MINUTE!
I’m not ready for that. Note even close.
For one thing, hitting the 60s and beyond is not the end of the road. Life expectancy is far beyond that for most of us. So in practical terms, we still have to pay our bills, try to somehow afford health care, and have a productive life. Some are blessed with pensions and ample nest eggs. But many of us must still earn our living.
Maybe we can’t run the marathon, but we better lace up and get on the track.
Recently I had a bit of an epiphany. No blinding lights or trumpets sounding, just some shifting in my thinking. I was letting my world get too small. I was receding from a bit too many things. I was trying to convince myself that it was okay to give up the things that bring me the greatest joy: living in a beautiful natural setting, hiking and walking along mountain trails, and simply breathing in the beauty of the universe.
I went back for a visit to the place I had moved to almost a decade ago…the same place I left about a year ago…and the flame was re-ignited.
I’m just not ready to “act my age”. (What does that mean, anyway?)
It might mean I get back to where I was…in more ways than one.
It might mean I go somewhere entirely new…physically, but maybe just mentally.
For sure, it means I’m not standing still. Not now. Not ever.
Because moss is beautiful. But I don’t want any growing on me.
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”