Tag Archive 'aging'

Jun 14 2021

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Up the Mountain Brook

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Last week I had such a good time fishing a mountain brook that yesterday I decided to do it again. With temps in the 70s and under the cover of trees most of the time, I hardly broke a sweat. And the biting bugs weren’t too bad. But to my surprise, I learned something about myself that I’ve somehow missed during brook fishing trips in previous years. It suddenly occurred to me, as I was scrambling over some of the rockier sections of the brook, that I’m not as light on my feet as I used to be. Not even close.

This shouldn’t have come as a surprise. I’m in my 60s now and time takes its toll on the body. All the same, in my minds eye I am still a young man and expecting to rock-hop up the brook with all the agility I had in my 30s. So what a wake-up call it was to jump down a few feet from a large rock and feel the hard landing shoot all the way up my spine. My worn out knees didn’t absorb the shock.

Judy says I should be glad that I can even do it. Scrambling up a mountain brook full of boulders and blowdown and cascading water is no mean feat. She’s right, of course, and I am thankful for being in good enough shape to ascend a mountain brook. And only once did I fall down – during the initial descent into the steep ravine. So I can’t complain. Still there are only two occasions these days when I really feel my age: when getting up to pee in the middle of the night, and when negotiating the rugged terrain of the backcountry.

The exuberance that I felt as a younger man while immersed in the wild has given way to reflection in my advanced years. I think more about life and death as I walk a brook these days, accompanied by the ghosts of old friends and canine companions who have passed away. I am more grateful for simply being in the woods, and take none of it for granted. Consequently, I treat the fish I catch with greater reverence. Their lives are nearly as precious to me as my own, so I make it a point to put them back to the water unharmed. Rarely do I take them home for dinner any more.

Oh yeah, I caught a few brook trout yesterday, but nothing to brag about. And the ones that got away were bigger, of course. All that is beside the point. Nowadays I work my way up the mountain brook in deep forest solitude angling for something much more important – a sense of belonging in the natural world and delighting in it. In that regard, I am never disappointed. In that regard, I always return home with my creel full.


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Jan 10 2012

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The Distant Summit

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Like many people, I am hypersensitive to the march of time whenever a new year begins. We switch out an old calendar for a new one, then try to get used to the novel digit. That’s “12,” not “11,” though some of us will be making this mistake well into February. The clock moves too fast for us.

Seems like the older I get, the busier I become. Not quite sure what that’s all about but I’ve noticed that I’m not the only one. A lot of older people I know complain about not having enough time, while many younger folks have enough of it to just “hang out.”

Last weekend my wife Judy and I visited her half brother who is well into his last days. I talk with my parents weekly to stay updated on their ailments. Recently I learned that a friend of mine is confined to a wheelchair. Others have their issues. I can count on one hand the number of friends my age who can hike a whole day with me. I’m getting the message loud and clear but don’t like it. Nothing in our youth-obsessed culture is helping me prepare for the inevitable. “Stay healthy,” the medical professionals advise, and that’s the end of it. Meanwhile, I keep getting older . . . as everyone does.

A couple months back, while I was hiking Wheeler Mountain, I looked over at Mount Pisgah with its sheer cliffs rising dramatically from Lake Willoughby. A couple decades ago, while I was working as a hiking guide, I slowly crept up that mountain with a 75-year-old man while the rest of our group dashed ahead. It took forever but eventually the septuagenarian and I reached the top. I marveled at it. To this day that remains the most inspiring thing I’ve ever witnessed. And I have it in my head to do the same thing and hike that mountain when I turn 75. That is, if I’m still upright and able to do so.

I do not so much fear death as I do the prospect of wasting precious years. I live like a condemned man nowadays. “How can I make best use of the time remaining?” I keep asking myself. Maybe that’s why I’m so busy. There’s no time to waste. My days are numbered. That distant summit isn’t so distant any more.



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