May 16, 2023

Still kind of wintry.


Life isn’t about finding yourself.  Life is about creating yourself.

_-George Bernard Shaw


Two days ago, the high temperature was 91℉.  Today, it’s a cool 63℉ and the sun is out with nary a cloud in the sky.  Crocuses, irises and tulips have bloomed and even the tall oaks blush a pale green arising from nascent tiny leaves on their pencil-like limbs.  There are clumps of garlic mustard and the Japanese knotweed is sprouting from last year’s stems.  It seems strange, after so many months, to look out over the horizon and see a tint of light green mixed in with what has been a dull grey undulating horizon.  It won’t be long now and so much of what I can presently see will be hidden behind an impenetrable dark emerald curtain of foliage.  We’re in the twilight of a renaissance of verdure for sure.

The year crawls on, day by day, week by week, month by month, season by season.  Every day is different from every other day, and the same can be said for the weeks, months, seasons and years.  There is a sense of movement, a flow, to these differences that point to a destination, albeit a vague and poorly defined one.  My sense is that this movement is in more of a spiral than merely a circle.  The question is, where is the spiral headed?  This is not completely unknown.  In the coming years, for example, we’re clearly headed for a warming planet with the serious consequences that implies.

As I watch all the changes occur on the rail-trail and as I watch Waldo get older (and see how he develops as he ages) I can’t help but wonder where I’m headed.  Of course, we all know our ultimate destination — death.  But what happens between now and then?  What particular path will I take to that inevitability?  Since all paths lead to the same place, does it even matter how we get there?

As I look back on my life and how it has unfolded, I see a cyclical, although not repetitious, development, much like that of Mother Nature.  Not only have I changed with the seasons, I’ve also moved on from one chapter of my life to another, but cyclically.  I get out of bed, go out of the house, return home and go to bed.  Day after day.  Then I move to a new house and repeat the cycle.  For many years, I went back to school every fall, and then left for the summer.  I changed schools and eventually got a job with the same spiraling pattern.

Clearly, there is not just change that happens in life, but also some kind of evolution.  There is a direction to the spiral, a development, a growth from what one was to what one becomes.  I’m not saying there is a teleological nature to life, a predesigned end that draws us inexorably onward, but there is a path we tread that goes some distance from the person we were at birth to that we are at death.  Maybe life can be seen as a quest for what we want to be.  A quest to become all we can be when we die – to meaningfully taste as much of life as is possible.  It is the search for whatever it is that “meaningful” denotes that drives us forward.

For me, now, in the last years of my life, I have not devolved into someone who does nothing more than walks his dog over the same path, day after day, merely watching the change of the seasons.  I am the sum total of all that I experienced in my life and I have evolved into someone who now is assimilating what all that means.  After retirement, I went from someone who was glued to work as a prime mover of his day, to someone who drifts with the current as it carries him inexorably on, all the while awash in the magic of what life has been and embracing what it is now.  I no longer think about medical issues or how to care for people’s medical needs.  I rarely think about being a physician and don’t miss practicing as one.  It feels like all that was a chapter of my life that I closed and I moved on to the next.  When I was an adult, I talked like an adult, I thought like an adult, I reasoned like an adult; when I retired, I did away with adultish things.  Instead, I spend my time enjoying the day.  I think about not what it all means as much as absorbing all that has and is happening and making it my own.  I no longer have a set of goals to achieve, but rather a path to follow.  Wherever that path leads is where my spiral is headed.

In the meantime, walking with Waldo down the rail-trail, watching as he chases his sticks and sniffs the ground, and observing the flora and fauna as it changes with the seasons, does more than just add to my library of experiences.  The communing with nature and watching and hearing her play her symphony, serenades and soothes me as I try to become all I can be with what time I have left.

I am not done yet.



Just one week later.

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