BIG Questions

It seems that for all it’s feet-dragging and lallygagging, this year has gone by fast. Yesterday I went out and picked some apples with Elizabeth. She’s a real cook. I’m not. I only wanted a few. The best thing about it was the beauty of the apples on the tree.

So I took some photos and brought home four or five apples. The birds, deer and raccoons need their fair share, too.

I have so many incredible memories. Some of my discomfort lately is that I don’t want to live in them, but I’m not sure where to go. Yesterday I got somewhat jazzed at the thought of returning to San Diego for my upcoming milestone birthday (who said? Oh yeah, the Bible…) I checked airfares, AirBNBs, planned the trip in my mind and woke up this morning knowing that isn’t happening. I’ve been there and done that. Without a time machine, the trip I would take is impossible.

Last night I read an article about a guy from California who, sight unseen, bought a house in Billings, MT. He was happy because it was so inexpensive ($719,000). That’s NOT the Billings, MT I knew, but nothing is the “Billings, MT” I knew. He has the idea (illusion?) that Billings is healthier than California. No. I guess he hasn’t seen the giant, graphic billboards advising people not to use meth… I’m sure he’s never lived through a Montana winter with two weeks of -40 F temperatures and little sunlight. I love Montana but like all places it’s REAL.

People do so many things based on their idea of how things are. Me too. All the time. He has the idea that Billings is not moving as fast as California; he’s not thinking that every person like him who makes that leap is changing Billings (and all other places…)

Change is the nature of things, maybe particularly (but not only) in the human-driven world of which I am a part. Resistance to change is a huge power in human reality. It’s been a “force” leading to some of the bigger problems we as a species confront today.

I remember when I was growing up there were markers on the trail in front of me. Starting school. Becoming a woman. Getting into college. Graduating (several times). Finding a job. Getting married. All clear markers, markers one could reach, ignore, reject or fail. The marker ahead of me at 70 doesn’t bear thinking about, and I realize that THAT is the kicker.

After Elizabeth and I finished picking apples, we took some to my next-door neighbor. We chatted for a long time together and “the” subject came up. “After 60, stuff starts happening,” said my neighbor.

I’ve often lobbied (unsuccessfully) for humans to be born with a little book that details the health pitfalls and challenges ahead of them. Silly as that sounds, we are born with that. Science is slowly gaining access to the litany of likely health problems waiting for everyone.

I’ve taken a DNA test and it’s pretty much told me stuff I already knew though in many cases I didn’t know there was an actual gene defining it. Here are a couple of things I found very amusing/interesting. One is apparently I am genetically predisposed to consume more caffeine than most people and I am more likely to run very fast in short bursts. The results of the test have been accurate so far but, in some cases, pretty meaningless as, with most traits, I’m “average.” Average based on WHAT??? I have no idea. Most people in the world through all time or most people who’ve taken the test? πŸ˜€ It doesn’t matter.

We can see a lot of the content of our personal “little books” by observing the older members of our family. In my family, a lot of things happened, but among those who were not self-destructive, were very long, productive lives.

I’m totally down with that, if that’s what’s in my little book, and if that ISN’T written in my little book, it doesn’t change anything. The thing is, I want the road ahead — even with its single, definitive marker — to be an adventure-filled interval of discovery as my whole life has been. The challenge now is to discover what constitutes adventure at this point in my life? What do I want to discover?

27 thoughts on “BIG Questions

  1. I think setting goals for yourself and fulfilling dreams is important at any age. There is a woman in Regina who is 100 and she just learned to garden this year! We are never too old to try new things. Her hopes are that she’ll be here next year to improve her gardening and maybe plant new things. I hope I continue to have her spunk! If I’m here, I might as well keep living!

  2. My brother moved to MD’s Eastern Shore years ago when it was rural. Grocery stores and Malls were not on his doorstep. He commented to me a few years back that people moved there for the nature and rural aspect but then complained that the conveniences weren’t there. And, now? It’s changing because they needed their conveniences. Funny how people are. Hopefully you can find somewhere new and enchanting (in its own way) for your birthday.

    • Thank you. πŸ™‚

      People have moved out here (which is really a kind of no man’s land) last year because they could work remotely and property is cheap. WAS cheap. The effect of this on people who already live here is definitely mixed.

  3. All my insurance markers showed my end at 68. I took early retirement and pension for 10-year Certain.
    I’m here at 80… for certain. Our marriage is coming to #58. That’s way more than “average.” I’m worried about the Social Security going broke in 2034. Really? 🀭

  4. When I passed the milestone you’re about to pass, I was curious how I’d react. It was a big “meh,” which surprised me. The DNA stuff is interesting. Through it, I discovered two full brothers and a half-sister. We had no clue about each other. Wow doesn’t really cover it, but it’s the best I can do at the moment. This latter stage of my life has become quite interesting.

    • I hope I react with “Meh.” I think discovering a whole family like that must be amazing. I just had a weird experience about time. I was about to start a linoleum cut — something I haven’t done since the 80s. I have all the materials. I went at it in my studio only to discover the blades were dull and rusty. The linoleum dried out and impenetrable. It’s like Ulysses in Tennyson’s poem! πŸ˜€ Just a big old metaphor.

  5. The warmest winters I ever spent were my eight summers in Yellowstone. My dad was Park Service.
    Worst blizzard I was ever in was driving from Billings to Livingston. Only when we got to Livingston did we find out the interstate was closed. That explains why we did not see any other cars!

    • I’m laughing! I spent a summer night (August) in a cabin by Old Faithful Lodge in the 80s. In the night it snowed. In the morning, though the sun was up, it was dark in the cabin and the cabin seemed to be roaring. The bison had found it and were leaning against it for warmth, blocking the windows and doors. No way to get out until the bison moved on. It was hilarious. It must have been amazing having a dad in the Park Service and living in Yellowstone.

        • Part of my family was there in 1959 when the earthquake hit. My aunt thought it was a bear and sent my uncle out of the tent to bang on some pans… I was in Billings (a little kid) in a bed that was rolling back and forth across the room. πŸ˜€

          • Whoa! That is nuts.
            There are so many small earthquakes there that we rarely noticed them. We reached a point of rarely straightening the pictures on the wall.

  6. Martha, I really loved this thoughtful piece. The pictures of apples are just beautiful. I turned 70 4 years ago, and this birthday decided, that as 70 is the new 60, the Beatles song was now appropriate: “Will you still feed me, will you still need me, now I’m 74!”
    Returning is interesting. It is not just places from the past, but post covid, my own city has changed and/or I have, so that places seem very different.
    I am sure you will find more delight as you explore away.
    all the best from a fan

    • I started doing watercolor pencil renditions of these beautiful apples. It’s pretty meditative to draw that way and as I worked I realized what adventure I want. I’ve taken a couple of small, halting steps in that direction.

      I know I’ve changed since Covid and everything around me — even if it appears the same isn’t really. Probably me? There’s that relativist theory that reality is in the eye of the beholder. I can’t twist my. head around that, but I see a bit of credence in it right now.

      Thank you for your lovely response.

  7. Picking apples, or just being in an orchard is refreshing. I love the smell of apples on the trees! As for your trip/not trip for the birthday, I’m not so sure it will be as enjoyable as you anticipated… Turning 60 was a “no big deal” b’day. I am guessing that from here on out the importance of birthdays decreases in proportion to the increase in years.

    • I don’t know the governing philosophy around the importance of birthdays. My 60th was a big deal because I made it one. I wanted a party and besides that one of the loveliest spontaneous things that could have happened happened that day. ❀ But after the past year and looking ahead at what might be diminished mobility, I think I have to carpe the diem. πŸ™‚

  8. That milestone was a β€œmeh” for me. I think the pandemic and the loss of the life I was taking for granted has been much harder on me, aged me more as I wonder whether the world will ever be the same. Between Trump, COVID, SOTUS and climate change I’ve decided I’d better get used to not being used to things. I just want to stay physically mobile and mentally nimble!

    • The pandemic and your immense loss are concrete. Turning 70 isn’t. It’s symbolic. I think what’s behind this is being the sole survivor of my family by a long shot. That and the feeling of being trapped here in the Back of Beyond because of the pandemic. There’s also the fact that I’ve had two hip replacements already and there’s arthritis everywhere in my body, spine, shoulders, knees. Mobility is critical and I was an athlete. All this says to me is “Get going while the getting’s good” I guess. It’s objectively pretty silly and self-indulgent, but I still feel it, so I’m going to have to carpe the diem. I just haven’t figured out how or what. You’re so right. We now must get used to not being used to anything. ❀

      • I just try to live as much as I can like a dog. For today. Sniffing good sniffs both real and metaphorical. I don’t always succeed, the curse of being human with all that entails. I wish you freedom from pain; it seems like you’ve already had more than your share πŸ’š

        • Thank you. Pain is exactly my concern. Right now everything is great. Knowledge can be a strange kind of jail (or the dread emanating from knowledge, the fall from innocence thing) and “do it anyway” is where I am right now. I also try to live like a dog. They are very wise mentors and friends. ❀

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