Might As Well
November 27, 2013 § 15 Comments
My birthday was on Saturday, and it was a good day. Rye and I got up early to go deer hunting, a two-hour ramble through our woods and into Melvin’s back pasture. We didn’t see anything, and we probably should have found a likely spot and sat with our backs against a tree or stonewall, but that’s not what we wanted to do. It was cold and the walking felt nice, the exertion pushing blood into our cheeks, where it bloomed tiny roses. We stopped down at the barn to chat with Melvin and Janet and then we walked back across the fields to breakfast.
We don’t make a big deal over birthdays. We decided, many years ago, to keep them small and simple. If there were to be any gifts of all, they would be of our own hands or the passing along of some natural curiosity or another. For this birthday, my 42nd, Fin made me a knife sheath from a piece of hide once worn by our steer, Cinco. My belt knife – the blade forged by a local blacksmith, the handle I carved from a piece of spalted maple – fits it perfectly. Penny made me hat hook from a piece of birch root. Oh, and a cheesecake. Rye drew me a picture of our dog, Daisy, superimposed over a heart. My fawning over Daisy, who is as noble, regal, and loyal a hound as has ever strode this good Earth, is something of a family joke.
I do not mind growing older. Part of this is because my physical capacities and my general capabilities are still on the increase. At 42, I am more able than I was at 32, and damned if I don’t see any reason why I won’t be able to say the same at 52. At some point, of course, I will cross the inevitable divide between this improvement and the decline of my physical and perhaps mental being. So be it. It is only natural.
As I get older, I’ve begun to draw a certain quiet inspiration from some of the elders around me. Invariably, I am drawn to those whose lives are not easy, who – whether by choice or circumstance – are at 70 doing much the same as they did at 40. I suspect this is merely a projection of what I wish for myself, but then, isn’t that really what all inspiration is?
It is not hard for me to imagine being old, although I’m sure there will be many surprises, some of which are likely to be unpleasant. But for now, I have the luxury of believing a particular image I hold in my head, of myself walking back across the field in the early morning, much the way I do now. Penny is moving along the cow path at the height of the land, on her way to collect the animals for morning milking, much as she does now. And the boys? Whatever stories they write with their lives are not mine to imagine.
It may seem ridiculous to project like this; it may seem like hubris to assume that, 30 years from now, Penny and I will still be moving across this land the same way we do now. Perhaps it is. But I’ve been around long enough to know that in two or three decades, I’ll look back to the year I turned 42, the same year I first went deer hunting with my sons, the same year my older boy made me the knife sheath that still hangs from my belt, and all those intervening birthdays will disappear. They will be like nothing, a sliver of time that in its passing has become as impossible to hold as smoke from a fire.
This too is only natural. It is the way of things. It is a good, even, because if nothing else it serves as a reminder that all our lives are fleeting things. As such, we might as well live them the best way we know how.