I turned 60 this year, and for the first time in my life I’ve realized I have far fewer days ahead of me than behind. It’s a startling revelation, one that leads me to portion out my days like a miser hoarding gold. A very small stack of gold. One that I should have appreciated much sooner.
There is no good time to live through a pandemic. I wonder if I would have felt the theft of days as acutely if Covid had happened when I was 50, 40, 30. Be thankful, I tell myself, you don’t have small children at home. I’m fortunate that I have a job that can be done remotely. The only health damage my husband and I have sustained is the extra pounds that have crept up on us. I’m not replacing the batteries on our digital scale. When it dies we’ll stop monitoring our gains. That, at least, will have a finite ending.
We decided to forego any gathering of friends and family for Thanksgiving and instead reserved admission to Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, Texas. It seemed safer to spend the time outdoors, passing strangers on trails.
Outside, with the clean scent of juniper and cedar surrounding us, it was simple to tie my shortness of breath to the steepness of our hike, and not to the irrational fear of illness. Worry dissolved with each step over tangled roots, each rustle of leaves blanketing the trails.
We stopped at an overlook to admire how high we’d climbed and I ate an orange, impossibly sweet, from my pack.
I snapped a picture at a spot I’d stopped at a few years back, intending to look up that photo and compare it to the present, but I decided I’d rather keep the current image in my mind without regret for the changes brought by time.
The trek downhill was harder, perhaps because it marked the winding down of the day. My knees complained and my ankles, not to be outdone, insisted on wobbling with each step. Someone had installed a small wooden step at a particularly steep portion of the trail. As I tested the sturdiness of the steps I clutched the trunk of a cedar tree leaning over the path. The usually shaggy bark was worn smooth, polished by the thousands of hands that had gone this way before me.
At the end of the trail, as at the beginning, we had to cross the slow-moving Paluxy River. Andrew hopped across the stones laid in rows in the shallow water while I, not trusting my balance, decided to take off my boots and go barefoot through the crossing.
I tested each step, carefully navigating over slick, moss-covered stones worn smooth. Cold water up to my knees, I felt both a child-like joy and the very adult fear of falling. If I made it back to dry land safely, I decided I would devote time each day to the yoga tree-pose.
I find gratitude in nature, for the ability to set out on larger journeys with small steps. I forgive myself for the ennui that has gripped me this past year and I realize that instead of wasting time I’ve been healing. So that when this pandemic is over I can go out and face the world like the bad-ass, mature woman that I am.
“There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” Henri Matisse