Thursday, June 21, 2012

Birthdays Fly By!



A man can withstand anything but a succession of ordinary days. That's what Kurt Vonnegut is supposed to have said. Trick is to find the magic. And not the excitable magic of one's birthday, or Christmas, or even a TGIF exclamation, but the real magic of the moments of changing light, of breathing, of being, of appreciation, and even at times of regretting. Positive and negative. To have it all is the magic. After all, what part of Everything is not?

Turning 60 is a mark that allows me reflection of a summative sort. Decidedly no longer a young man, physically, I can choose to keep being interested in what and who is around me, or I can go closet myself in the cloister of my mind and draw up the drawbridge and peruse the photos of the present past, there to slowly but surely devolve into a prune-like state of mental desiccation. "I have my books and my poetry to protect me," the song goes, "I am a rock, I am an island!" Seen many an old fogey do such. At the Calgary Bethany Care Centre, for instance, where I used to visit Hank, it was disarming to find vacant eyes among the elderly. For all the reasons of life's longing for itself, such people had retreated into their inner-scapes. Not that people choose such an ending. Not that people allow such an ending. Not that people are unhappy with such an ending. Not even that some people prefer such an ending. Just that I, me, being of sound mind and intention, declare hereby that I choose to find life interesting!

"You'll never believe where I was today," said the fly just now as, finally free, he at last buzzed into the nearest neighborhood bar, plopped himself down, and took a long swig on the day's offing. The others were not quizzical. "Well," he persisted, "I was inside one of their palaces! I slipped in through the bedroom window, buzzed into bathrooms and kitchens and spare rooms and inspected countertops and flowerpots and even flew inside the opened fridge for a moment! Incredible! Their world, those aliens, is so-o different from ours! And on the fireplace mantle there were cards; a card from Keith, two from a Nancy, and one from a Wife. And there was a statue of a wren beside a little birthday card. A blue wren. Never seen one like it in Canada! And then..." But his conversation did not reach the others. Not all of them. Only the ones who could relate.

We are so very relational. In the long run of our lives it is not the things we've acquired nor even the photos we've collected that becomes of significance to others, or even of significance to ourselves when we see another's, until we or they can relate. Richness, magic, lies in the ability to relate. That is what was missing in the eyes of some of those seniors I've encountered, a disinterest, a non-caring, a non-taking in anymore of the concourse of life. Our nearest and dearest are one thing, but what about everyone else?

The final third of one's life is ahead of me. Maybe even the final quarter. I always said I wanted to be 104, to get in my kayak, and to paddle into the final sunset. Should I get scared, and turn around to come back to shore, then I will not be ready to go. In the meantime (as I am made aware even by my visit to the orthopedic specialist just this last Tuesday) constant pain will not leave me; it will be a lifetime of inevitability, such is stenosis in its degenerative nature. So I can choose to suffer, or I can make the moment by moment of life a little magical. That venturesome fly this morning, the day of my 60th birthday, showed me the way. You gotta make life interesting! Moment by moment. Ha!

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