Wednesday, May 18, 2016
I am hunkered down over a black ceramic cup full of dark roast coffee that has a nice espresso bloom spreading over the surface. My reflection reveals circles under my eyes, crow's feet, gray beard, but not quite the detail of hair sprouting from my nose or ears. I rode my bike eight miles as the sun broke over the eastern ridge of the Rincon Mountains to get here. The sky and the ensuing, immediate heat signal the arrival of summer. Summer means change from my Tucson life of teaching, grading, meeting, and time with friends over beer and workouts to a life of construction labor, rustic living, and utter absence of technology. Soon I will find myself off the cell phone service map, beyond the reach of DSL, and in the grip of sun, wind, and stars. Not bad work if you can get it. But the work is hard and my body has begun to decline. That transition is on my mind, as much as my mind can handle such looming and inevitable mortality. It used to be funny to joke about "getting old." Suddenly the jokes are not jokes and they are far from funny. I really do need glasses to see anything within two feet and my joints feel stiff, muscles tired, and stamina.... what stamina? Of course, my father traveled this path before me. He stands now on the brink of dementia, incontinence, and loss of mobility. I want to say I will never decline that far, that, yes, my aging is a fact, but it's only "lite" aging. The power of denial, disbelief, and an undying illusion that "it won't happen to me" staggers me. I want to go on record as not looking away. I see my reality, embrace the decline, while simultaneously blessing the faculties that linger. I almost weep at the pleasure of climbing stairs, doing a pull-up, gliding along on my trusty bicycle. I hold it all, but not too tightly. When the time comes to surrender, I will hand all these pleasures back to the mystery that gave them to me. I know it is work to sidestep the cultural conditioning that values only youth, that does not learn how to age or die with grace, but I am going to learn how to do that. I will act with patience, kindness, focus, and persistence to the end of my days. That coffee is getting cold but the heft it, the transience, the beauty... Onward, as they say, into the fog of the future, the long days of figuring out how to put things together. Summer is coming. Oh yeah. Oh shit.