June 29, 2021

It’s peaceful in the early morning out here.


It is not death a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.

-Marcus Aurelius


There’s a heat wave wafting through the land with highs in the low nineties and lows around seventy.  This has pretty much put a kibosh on any long hikes in the woods for Waldo and me.  He still needs daily exercise, though, so we get up near dawn and head for the rail-trail in the coolest part of the day.

Today, we start just before 6 AM.  The air has a mild coolness to it and, with a slight breeze, it is quite pleasant.  The skies are clear and the shadows are long, the shade adding to the refreshing ambience.  The life around me is new and full.  If you think of it as being reborn in spring after a cold winter death, resurgent nature would now be somewhere in her late teens.  Hearty, hardy, vibrant, lusty, full of promise, it throbs and flows, shines and sings all around us.  Birds are all atweet, squirrels achatter, insects abuzz and leaves aflutter.  It feels like Mother Nature, now in late-spring, is just coming into her full stride.  Soon enough, it will be fall, then winter, and the cycle will repeat itself.  Looking out over the world around me, I think it is no wonder that many cultures believe in reincarnation.

Waldo trots along the side of the path, grabbing his essential sticks, sniffing the foliage here and there and reveling in the newborn day.  He is now almost three.  In dog years, that would put him in the full summer of his life, about 27 years old.  I’ve noticed the difference in his behavior as he’s aged.  He’s still very energetic, lives in his own world that is sometimes hard to break into, curious, playful, and full of joie de vivre, but he seems less frenetic, calmer (boy, that’s a relative term), and more responsive to me.  Waldo has always been loving and friendly, ready to meet and sniff other dogs as they pass by, eager to seek out hugs and pats (especially from small children) and generally a real sweetheart.  But, now, he seems to do it all in a more placid, relaxed manner.  Waldo is maturing.

Me?  I’m somewhere in late fall.  Oh, okay, full winter.  Many of my leaves have fallen, I’m growing winter weeds where there shouldn’t be any (including in my ears, nose and eyebrows) and there’s snow on the roof.  Many of my body parts are in hibernation, at least partially, and the functions of the others are not what they used to be.  Still, I’m able to walk 6 to 16 miles with Waldo, write and enjoy my family.  I’m not yet in my late winter.

You know, I’ve never been afraid of death.  What’s the point of fearing the inevitable?  I will admit, though, that the process of getting there leaves me a bit jittery.  Who wants to suffer?  But that’s somewhere in the future, even if it is not as far off as I might like, and I’m more interested in deciding how to meaningfully fill the days I have left.  I’ve led a full life and done most of the things I’ve always wanted to do.  I really have no items on my bucket list that have a burning need to be crossed off.  Even so, there are plenty of ways I can still fill the hours that have loads of magic.

As you can see from what I’ve written in this blog over so many weeks, I am in a place where I’m full of wonder about life.  Not so much a wonder about the meaning of life; I think the only meaning to life is what you choose to put there.  It’s not why stuff is in the world that holds my attention; it’s more what is there that’s important.  I’m more interested in experiencing the human experience, bathed in the universe around me, fully and in depth.  I want to reach out and embrace as much of what is as I can.  Now that I’m retired and not as distracted by an overwhelming flood of demands by life’s mundanities, I have a powerful urge to meet raw reality, face to face, such as it might be.  I don’t want so much to try to understand what life is about as to dive in and be fully a part of it, to be consumed by it.

Walking with Waldo is a wonderful stroll into magic.


Even early in the morning, we meet other people on the trail.

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