Might As Well

November 27, 2013 § 15 Comments

Fin reading while Penny milks

Fin reading while Penny milks

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.

§ 15 Responses to Might As Well

  • Eumaeus says:

    From a fire dragon to a metal pig – congratulations on 42…
    Here is to walking those same paths twenty years, thirty, forty years from now….
    ps. you’re about as stingy with pictures of Daisy as you are of those w/ Penny. Lots of cows – looking at me crazy

  • Kent says:

    Home-made knife sheath, birch root hat hook, cheese cake, and Daisy-Dog drawing bespeak the best of all birthday gifts: a family’s love. With such gifts Ben, you’re probably good to reach a hundred and forty-two. Congratulations!

  • Heather says:

    Loved this. Sweet and optimistic. Happy Belated. I shoulda known, Nov 23 is mimeographed on the wall of our bathroom.

  • Vonnie says:

    Happy belated birthday to you, Ben!! Just wanted to share with you a little good news from our front…
    Happy Thanksgiving to you all! ~Vonnie

  • Lindsay says:

    Love your writing, Ben; just beautiful. I second Kent’s sentiments!

  • May your birthday wishes come true! May you age as you imagine you will.

  • pmpayette says:

    Happy Birthday. That is how I image myself to be too. Equally as able as I am now at 48, still doing what I do. May it be so.

  • I’m heading into my late-60s, my husband is in his mid-70. We still feel the same as we did years ago but our strength is starting to go and we can’t do everything we used to do. I still remember 42 well – the year my mum died. Everything in that year is magnified a million times.

    Stages I noticed along the way:

    I lost my ambition for success at 55 – and as soon as I looked away, I was successful.

    While I’ve always been an optimist, I became very optimistic about our future.

    Time moves faster than it use to (but I don’t).

    Happy birthday Ben dear.

  • Happy Birthday! I was just thinking about how part of embracing aging is accepting the inevitability of the changes that go hand in hand with that most natural process. I’ve got a growing old with grace plan and am meaning to add that one to the list. There is something to be said for going with the flow, and indeed making the best of the ride. It seems to me that you’ve got that pretty well figured out. A commendable accomplishment, to be sure.

  • Linda says:

    I hope you know how stupid-happy it makes me to see your missives in my email! I really admire your life. It is not in the cards for me to live that life, but I enjoy living it vicariously through you. I am 15 years ahead of you (as the calendar rolls), and I can’t roll back the hands of time. Congratulations on finding your dream while still young enough to live it!

  • Eric R says:

    Powerful parenting words, just slipped right in there… “Whatever stories they write with their lives are not mine to imagine.” Thanks for those, a good reminder.

  • Dawn says:

    Having just had a birthday myself, I spent a little time having some of these same musings. I admire people who practice acceptance in their lives including their own aging, continuing to do as they have with adaptations as needed, but not resisting. Like the other reader above said, the flow of life is something we can ride or resist but I think the ride is a lot more fun. Thanks, Ben.

  • Me Diane Lawrence says:

    Beautiful writing, lovely thoughts.

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