Tag Archive 'growing older'

Oct 28 2015

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A Reflective Walk

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InBkRes LateOctIt’s late in the season now and most of the leaves are on the ground. Brilliant color remains in a few scattered trees but we know it won’t last. November is right around the corner, and here in the North Country that means snow.

I traipse around Indian Brook Reservoir lost in thought. My dog Matika, always in the moment, smiles broadly between her scent investigations. But I am still in work mode from earlier today, wondering what lies in the days ahead, and recollecting all the fun I’ve had since the last time I walked here. Mostly I reflect upon the recent past – upon the pleasant and joyful months of summer when everything was green and the temps are warm. Now the surrounding landscape is golden, as if it has suddenly aged, and there’s a distinct chill in the air.

I too have aged. Pushing 60, I’m thankful for all the blessings that have been bestowed upon me – for all my good fortune through the years. Yet I am weary in a way that a good night’s sleep can’t fix. Is this what it feels like to be growing old? Even though I enjoy life more now than ever, I’ve lost most of my youthful enthusiasm for both work and play.

Yet the world is just as beautiful as it has ever been, and there’s something in the crisp air that makes me glad I’m alive. It’s a paradox to be sure – a riddle I know I can’t solve. So I cut my pace and try to be as much in the moment as my dog. That’s challenging enough.



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Sep 01 2010

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Morning Walk

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Early morning walk on a hot and humid day.  A short hike, actually, up the local hill.  Just enough to break a sweat, get a few bug bites, and cough out the last of a head cold.  My dog, Matika, runs ahead and sniffs around.  She’s happy to be on the trail again, if only for an hour.  So am I.  It’s been a while.

Next week I’ll be footloose on the Appalachian Trail, doing some serious trail pounding.  But for now, this’ll do.  All I need is a little down time in the woods before going to work – a chance to reconnect with the wild before immersing myself in the world of commerce.  Yeah, this’ll do.

Already reddish orange maple leaves litter the trail.  Wood asters and jewelweed are in full bloom – summer’s last hurrah.  Temps in the high 80s this week.  This comes as something of a surprise.  Not that I’m complaining.  Probably the last of the summer heat.  The warm season doesn’t last long here in the North Country.

The trail underfoot is dry.  On the west side of the hill, forest shadows abound.  On the east, bright yellow sunlight cuts through the trees.  No one out here yet.  Just me, my dog, and my thoughts.

Thoughts?  Yeah, I turn pensive in the fall.  And while the leaf season hasn’t really started yet, it’s not too early to exercise the gray matter left largely unused since last spring.  One look at wood asters triggers it.  Not sure why.

Seasons change, the years slip by, and my body gradually loses its resilience.  But not my mind.  In fact, I’m a better thinker now than I was twenty years ago.  Not as fast or sharp, yet better.  I have more to think about – more dots to connect.  The big picture is easier to see now.  Much easier.

Thoreau once wrote in his journals that thinking seems to make people sad.  I think I know why.  Because all deep thought begins with an acute realization that nothing last forever.  And most of our energies are misdirected.  If the average person fully realized how short life is, he/she would spend more time going for morning walks and less time driving in circles, trying to get things done.  That’s how it strikes me, anyhow.

No matter.  Every walk, long or short, eventually comes to an end.  I step out of the woods a little sooner than expected and unconsciously pull out my car keys.  Enough fooling around already.  It’s time to go to work.

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Aug 03 2010

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Keep Moving

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Recently my friend John Woodyard and I agreed to hike a section of the Appalachian Trail this coming September.  We’ll hike about four days together, then he’ll continue hiking by himself a few days more.  I figure I can’t keep up with John much longer than that.  John’s a strong hiker in good shape.  I’m not.

A few days ago, I grabbed my pack, put my dog in the car, then headed for the hills.  Short on time, I wanted to make the hike count.  So I headed for a peak in the Green Mountains called White Face.  I knew that a round trip to the summit was a bit more than I could handle, but I’d give it a shot anyway.  I figured the more of it I did, the better.

On the way to the trailhead, I picked up a pair of twenty-ish thru hikers on their way back to the Long Trail.  During our short drive together, we talked about long distance hiking, physical endurance and growing older.  They don’t expect to continue backpacking more than another fifteen years.  I told them they could easily go another thirty years if they want.  “Keep moving,” I said, “No matter what.”  Then they headed north to finish their end-to-end hike, while I headed south just to stretch my legs.

Blue sky day.  Sunlight filtered through the leafy canopy overhead, illuminating the forest floor in places.  The trail narrowed as Matika and I charged uphill, forcing us into single file.  She wanted to be up front, of course.  We took turns.  Soon enough we reached Bear Hollow Shelter, about two and a half miles back.  Then the trail grew steep.  We kept going another hour, until the trail kissed the last feeder stream before the summit.  There we stopped and ate lunch.  I was tempted to keep going, but thought it smarter to turn around.  Nearly four miles back; 1500 feet climbed.  About two-thirds of the way.  Good enough for an 85-degree day.

It’s humbling to grow older, especially when you’re still engaging in the same activities that you enjoyed decades earlier.  I’m not nearly as strong a hiker as I was thirty years ago, but I like hiking as much now as I did then.  I like it more, actually, since every hike feels like an extension of youth.  Oh sure, I keep the ibuprofen, walking sticks and Ace bandage close at hand, and I sweat a lot more than I used to, but it’s worth it.  It’s invigorating, joyful, life-affirming.  So I keep moving, no matter what.  And if I hike hard enough this year, then maybe, just maybe I’ll be able to keep up with my old buddy John next year.  It’s worth a shot, anyhow.

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