|Sky and blossoms|
For some reason I cannot name, I have been inordinately happy for days now. I wake up with a smile on my face, and I snuggle into bed with a sense of contentment, my body tired but amazingly free of unusual aches (I always have some, but nothing bothersome). I know this period is temporary, but for that matter, isn't everything? I plan to enjoy it for as long as I can.
I've been thinking lately about the arc of one's life, how we all start out as infants and progress through decades of life into old age, if we're lucky. I'm there, I'm old now, and I notice that I think of people I've admired through film and television and how they are dealing with growing older. Yesterday I happened to watch a couple of episodes from the mid-1990s of Star Trek: Voyager, with Kate Mulgrew playing Captain Janeway. I have been a fan of all the Star Trek series, from the original 1960s with Captain Kirk and the half-Vulcan Spock, all the way through the series spinoffs, which started with Patrick Stewart playing Captain John-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Voyager is the only one that had a female captain, and I think Mulgrew did a great job.
What struck me while watching those old episodes yesterday is how much Kate Mulgrew has psysically changed. She began filming Orange Is the New Black a few years ago, a fairly new series in its fifth season. It's an original on Netflix and the season is scheduled to air in early June. (I read that hackers have just released ten of the episodes because Netflix refused to pay a ransom.) In the Voyager series, Mulgrew was slim and athletic, and now, twenty years later, she's gained a good deal of weight and I don't think she works out much any more. Twenty years doesn't seem like that long a time to me, but you know, it really is in the arc of a life.
We usually have a short span of around eighty years of life, so twenty years is a full quarter of that time, and we go from infancy to adulthood in the first quarter, have a career of sorts in the second, then become mature and move into retirement in the third quarter. Now that I'm in that last quarter (from 60 to 80), I realize that I've gained a great deal of perspective that just wasn't available to me in the earlier part of my life. And I wonder how it ever happened that I got this old while I wasn't paying attention. Nevertheless, here I am, and at the present moment I am enjoying every last little bit of it.
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I stopped by the library the other day to pick up a book that I'd put on hold and had arrived in the library. The library often puts up a display of timely books, and I saw one on gardening. Of course right now that's what everybody who gardens is thinking about, as April is almost over and it's time to get those plants into the ground. I picked up one of the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series, this one on gardening. If you're not familiar with these books, they are short inspirational pieces that I find to be a nice bedtime book. Although they tend to be a little more saccharine that my usual fare, it's nice to pick up the book and read a little. Often they bring a tear to my eye and I often admire how easily the writers are able to tell a story in so few words.
Anyway, I was reading it yesterday and was interested in one article about an event that began in 1884 in Tombstone, Arizona. Two young Scottish immigrants married and moved to Tombstone the following year. Needless to say, it was quite a different environment for the young wife, Mary, so her family in Scotland sent her a care package.
In the spring of 1885, a large box arrived from Mary’s family in Scotland. Carefully packed inside the box, Mary found plants, bulbs and cuttings from the beautiful garden that she missed so much – heather, purple columbine, tulips, daffodils, and several rooted cuttings of the White Lady Banksia rose that she had planted as a child. As a token of the friendship so important to the young bride, Mary gave Amelia one of the cuttings. The two friends planted it near the woodshed in the back patio of the boarding house. Amazingly, the Scottish rose tree flourished in the Arizona desert.Of course I went online to find out the story of that rose tree, which is now considered to be the world's largest. Who would have thought that a tea rose from Scotland would flourish in the Arizona desert? Well, it did, and the story of the tree is here, if you want to learn more about it. The above quote is from that website. Tombstone not only has the world's largest rose tree, but it also holds a rose festival every year to celebrate roses in general and that tree in particular. It now covered around 8,000 square feet and is supported by a series of beams to create a shady area underneath the now-enormous trunk. Take a look:
Fortunately for the rose tree, it's not limited to the short life span of humans, so it's impossible to know just where it is in the arc of its life. But who would have believed that it would grow so large in such an inhospitable climate? And it all started from a small cutting sent across the ocean to a homesick young wife more than a hundred years ago.
During my long life, I have had periods where I was intensely religious, and others where I was rather indifferent to religion. Since I moved to the Pacific Northwest nine years ago, I have found my religion in the outdoors, going once a week on a hike into the woods in the winter months and in the High Country during summer when the snow has receded. The magnificent Old Growth trees that I am privileged to admire are scattered throughout the area. Some of them are close to a thousand years old, and if there were not such a thing as a timber industry, they would grow much older. Everywhere I go, I see the remnants of huge trees that were harvested long ago, and the forest has grown around them. Some of them have become "nurse logs" that nurture young trees and gradually sink back into the soil. It is impossible not to feel sadness for the loss of those magnificent old giants.
The arc of a life well lived, though, is pretty much what all of us aspire to. Death and decay come to all living things, some in a short time, and some in the span of centuries. It is what it is, and I find myself incredibly grateful for the arc of my own life. It has been filled with thrills and chills, as well as loss and love, but as it continues in my later years, I have a garden to plant today, friends to visit at the coffee shop, and the luxury of a laptop and the ability to create a post out of thin air, with only my mind, heart and soul to guide me.
However it is that I came to enjoy this Sunday morning activity, somehow it's been years now and I'm still creating. My partner lies sleeping next to me, the tea is inevitably gone, and the day beckons. Whatever you find to fill the arc of your life with, I hope today is a high point, or that a spark of enjoyment comes to you somewhere during these hours. Until we meet again next week, I hope you are well and happy. You never know what tomorrow will bring, but today is the only present we have. Blessings from my little corner of the world.