In a few weeks, I’m going to celebrate my 60th birthday for the third time.
I think it’s worth repeating because sixty is considered the far edge of middle age, anything over and above leaves you teetering on the brink of elderdom, and that province can be ruthless.
My eyesight might be shot to hell, I can’t remember shit, and backflips are a thing of the past but I still have bladder control, my driver’s license, and most of my teeth.
Speaking of teeth, Larry and I completed our fourth tandem biking event in beautiful Chico, California, and let me just say it was a grind. This was our most challenging ride due to a 1,500-foot elevation change in the first thirty miles. For those of you with little or no imagination that’s frickin steep. We survived, some of us did better than others, in fact, only three people accused me of not pedaling. One person boldly asked if they could borrow my services.
Larry seems to think my services are exclusive?
Emphatically, he says, “no,” leaving the struggling cyclist in the dust.
Let’s face it, women our age don’t get a lot of positive messages. Just as we’re hitting our prime society is telling us we have nothing to offer, we’re invisible, undesirable.
Not true when you need a good stoker.*
Death Valley is the location of our next ride, in November. I’m not sure this is how I was hoping to celebrate my anniversary but Larry is very excited about the resort, the ride, and the location.
Let’s not get caught up in the deeper meaning of names. It’s called Death Valley because a group of “gold rush” pioneers got lost there in the winter of 1949. Only one died but they thought the valley would be their premature grave and named it accordingly.
From what I’ve read Death Valley is as beautiful and dangerous as a post-menopausal woman. Her temperature fluctuates between one hundred and thirty-four degrees Fahrenheit and can drop as low as forty degrees below zero in the winter. It seems as if our planet also has large-scale hormonal fluctuations. Been there, done that. The attractive thing about Death Valley is the ancient landscape, her formidable mountain ranges, colorful wildflowers, even her erosion is compelling.
I think I will sign up for a massage after the Death Valley ride. I will have survived a torturous fifty-mile ride, a thirty-nine-year marriage (not to be confused with torture), and a recently retired husband. That’s going to require the ministrations of a talented masseuse.
Yes, Larry is officially retiring after forty years of courageously slaying the daily dragons. His last day will be the third of June. It’s as if someone sliced him open from stem to stern and stuffed him with sunshine. His countenance is blinding and it’s why I’ve taken to wearing sunglasses in the house.
Unbeknownst to Larry, I’ve been creating a honey-do list, it’s more like a novella, but I used bullet points. There are walls to paint, rugs to replace, structures to be built, windows to wash, side yards to organize, and let’s not forget the garage. My strategy is to keep him busy and out of my hair. I’ll keep you posted.
At my age, you understand that life is only as good as your relationships. The real ones. The people you can call day or night, share your silly little secrets, but without the shame. They will take your hullabaloo with grace and candor, then drop by with a bottle of wine.
They’re able to do this because three days ago they were standing on the cliff and you provided the parachute. When you find someone like this, hang on tight, they’ll land you safely time after time. As Emily Dickinson says to speak to you is my shelter.
We’ll have a lot of time on our hands come June. We plan on visiting all our friends. Lock your doors or move if you don’t want to find us on your doorstep, hungry, thirsty, and looking for a game of Mexican Train.
In the meantime, I was toiling in the garden yesterday when life almost surprised the pee out of me.
After the initial shock, I pulled myself together and decided those kegel exercises are paying off.
I spent two hours replanting succulents that have become overgrown after the long winter, neurotically staging colorful pots of impatiens around the patio, and throwing out the rubbish that has collected from sheer neglect. I was feeling quite accomplished.
We’re in the middle of a rather severe drought in California so succulents make a lot of sense. We purchased a new nozzle for the hose that restricts the water and after attaching it I proceeded to give everything a good soaking. I even drank right from the hose like I did when I was a kid.
And I didn’t die.
So I’m putzing around the patio, paying little or no attention to anything but the current needs of my new flora, when this angry beast comes at me from out of a wall planter, and practically takes me down. Well, not really a beast, but a very pissed-off dove.
She made this sweet little nest in my planter, I call this squatting in its most practical sense, she was sitting on two darling white eggs when I accidentally sprayed her with water. I was impressed with her bravado.
Of course, I apologized profusely and backed away from her nest. She eventually returned along with her husband who was fluttering about in a protective manner. I assured both of them that they were safe and I would not water their nest again.
They seemed mildly subdued and returned to their nesting duties.
It made me think about the necessity of shelter, and how important it is to the survival of any species, especially humans.
Sometimes I forget to be thankful. I take for granted that I have shelter, food, and a safe place to rest at night. I can’t imagine how it would feel to have my home destroyed by fire, extreme weather, or taken out by a bomb from some enemy force bent on malicious destruction.
And here I am fussing over my yearly mammogram, ask my sister, she doesn’t send a parachute, she becomes my parachute. It’s different.
A peaceful home, a safe sanctuary, an impenetrable fortress is not insanity. As Louisa Brits claims, although home still represents stability in an unstable world, we’re beginning to see that home can be how we live, a situation that we create and recreate.
Some of my favorite people came over last night for a glass of wine. We gathered on the newly spruced-up patio, toasted to one another, and spent the evening lost in conversation. The kind of discussions only established friends can have, our core people, the ones who make it possible to lay bare and shelter simultaneously. I might be recreating my age, but it’s not about the facade, it’s about the way we connect and rest in the shelter of each other.
I showed them my new roommates, the doves, nesting in the planter. There is something about a fresh nest, fowl parents, and soft white eggs that strongly resonates. We were unduly charmed.
Well, today is a new day, and just like in Ukraine, my nest was attacked by gigantic crows. They stole the eggs right out of their home, upsetting me and my doves to no end. When I chased them away they acted as if I was the criminal, squawking, and ruffling their silky black feathers.
Damn. I used to like crows.
This is simply the cycle of life. There are no beginnings or endings, happy or otherwise. Life is in a constant state of fluctuation. Things overlap, our stories blur, and we have no idea when it’s going to end. See I’m a linear thinker when life is actually cyclical. We don’t need a happily ever after, because we don’t live in the future, we live here in the present, mourning an empty nest because the things that touch our soul are all that matter.
I’m Living in the Gap, an empty-nester, I’d be delighted if you joined me in the comments.
Stoker* The stoker is an important part of the tandem bike’s engine. She in in the rear seat and should give a steady output of power, with some held in reserve for when bursts of speed and power are needed. A stoker needs to be smooth and predictable in the saddle while pedaling.
“I guess I think differently than most folks. I think the reason the world is a mystical, enchanting place, is because of the cycle of life. My body will decompose, but maybe some little element of it will be transformed into a particle of dirt, over years and years, and then a glorious flower will be nurtured by this particle of dirt. Then this flower will nourish a random bumblebee, who in turn will be eaten by a raven. So, in some future life, I’ll be able to fly. I look forward to that. I’ve always admired the freedom of birds.” E. M. Crane