I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Happy birthday to me

I took this picture of myself to document what I looked like last week, when I was just a young thing of seventy. Today I turn 71, and I begin my seventy-second year of life on the planet. That seems almost incredible to me, since it seems like just yesterday that I entered my eighth decade of life, turning seventy. What magic is involved in making the earth's revolution around the sun hurry up like that?

Every stage of my life except the final one has already occurred. Now I will spend the final few years enjoying every last little bit of it, and I'll even lick the bowl, if God gives me the chance. Even though the end of life can be challenging, it can also be very satisfying, if my peers are any indication. Those people with whom I hike every week are right around my age. A few of them are youngsters in their early to mid-sixties, but most are my age or a few years older, and since we spend so much time together in various weather situations, I get to learn how they deal with the vagaries of growing older. Most of them work hard at staying fit, eating right, and maintaining a healthy weight. These are some of the key ingredients, I think.

When I saw that Robert Redford movie last week, I couldn't help but notice how much he has aged since his pretty-boy days. He's still a good-looking man, at 77, and being able to make that film and perform his own stunts was pretty amazing. He is still slender and obviously fit, and I know from experience that doesn't happen by itself. Even though he can afford it, he obviously has not had any "work" done (plastic surgery) that shows itself in those older celebrities who go that route (think Dolly Parton and Cher, for example). Judi Dench is 78, with a birthday next week; Vanessa Redgrave turns 77 in January, and neither of these magnificent women has chosen to go under the knife.

It makes me wonder if I would, if I could afford it. The thing is, we don't actually get any younger when we do this, and any kind of surgery tends to be physically demanding. I remember my mother standing in front of a mirror and tightening her jaw line, studying the effect. Now, on occasion, I do the same. Sometimes when I'm dressing in the morning and lean over to put on my clothes, the loose skin on my arms catches my eye: when did that happen? It's such a slow process, but one day you notice that your skin looks like your grandmother's did. In the coffee shop the other day, little Leo was sitting next to me and was stroking my arm below the elbow. "Your skin is so soft!" he exclaimed, obviously enjoying the feeling. I smiled and realized there was no way to explain to him why. He is one of my grandchild surrogates, along with those I enjoy in my blogging friends' pictures and stories. Leo knows I will play with him when he arrives at the coffee shop, and his dad enjoys the respite from the constant child care. Dad drinks his espresso and reads the paper while we play. Leo invited me to his birthday party this month when he turns five.

And today? What will I do with my own special day? No birthday party, that's for sure. I'll probably spend the majority of it with my partner, puttering around the apartment. The weather is supposed to deteriorate during the day, giving us lots of rain and wind, making any outdoor activity much less appealing. I might head to the gym for a bit of time on the treadmill. Even though it's not much fun, listening to a podcast on my iPhone makes the time pass quickly, and by the time I'm finished I'm really glad I did it. I've worked my way up to a 13% incline and burn a lot more calories, walking at a brisk pace. I also look out the window, since I can see the activity on the street, and I watch the abundant gulls and crows as they wheel through the sky. Bellingham Bay is visible as well. It's a nice view, even if in my walking I'm not going anywhere at all. Once I break a sweat and my heart rate has increased, I am glad to be there. By the time I've showered and head home, I feel great.

Yes, happy birthday to me! As I mentioned on my other blog, 71 is a prime number. Therefore, I am entering my prime, don't you think? One thing I know for sure: it's good to be alive, even with all the wrinkles, aches and pains that accompany the aging process. I hope that whatever you find to do with your week, it will be a good one, until we meet again, right here next week. Oh, one thing you can do for me, to help me celebrate my birthday: do something nice for yourself that you wouldn't otherwise have done. I will consider it to be my birthday present.


Mersad said...

Happy birthday! All the best from me!

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday, DJan. What a beautiful, happy post. Many more to come, I am sure.

Sandi said...

Happy Birthday DJan! I love your comment about 71 being a prime number. What a great way to look at it!

I am enriched with the gift that you are to me. You are a treasured part of my life, and I'm grateful to blogland for bringing you to me.

I have no doubts that you will enjoy this day and the coming year, with enthusiasm and energy!

Big birthday hugs to you!

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I rolled out of bed this morning thinking "DJan's birthday is very near." I didn't remember the exact date but here we are! I love your post and the happy way you are enjoying this phase of life. Happy, happy birthday. And yes, I will do something nice for myself.

Linda Myers said...

I so get it about the skin on my arms! When did that happen?

I think you look wonderful, fit and trim. I'm hoping to acquire your discipline around food.

Happy Birthday to You!

Cynthia said...

Happy birthday, DJan! I hope you have lots more exciting
adventures in the year ahead.

DDD said...

Happy birthday DJan!!! I hope you have great Health & Hapiness!

Teresa Evangeline said...

Happy Birthday! Yes, in your prime, absolutely!

Jackie said...

You are a treasure and a gift....to all who know you.
Happy birthday young girl!

Gigi said...

Happy, happy birthday my dear friend! Sending hugs and lots of good wishes!

Red said...

Happy birthday DJan. You are fortunate to have good health and enjoy many pleasant activities. When you get to 73 ,it's another prime number so you have another chance at the prime of life.
It takes a lot of effort to stay in shape. the cosmetic stuff doesn't matter.

Sally Wessely said...

What do you mean you look in the mirror and tighten your jaw line. I see no jaw line that needs to be tightened, and remember, I've seen you in person. You look awesome. Those blue eyes give you such a youthful look, and then there is that active, lithe body of yours. I'd never say this to another friend of mine who is your exact age, and slender, and has beautiful blues eyes also, but YOU look five to eight years younger than she does. (And she looks great.) You keep doing what your are doing. I think it is all that fresh air along with the exercise that works miracles.

Linda Reeder said...

I look n the mirror and lift my saggy face, and think about doing something, but I know I never will. And that loose skin? Yes, since losing weight I have lots of flabby, saggy skin. And watching my weight is a constant struggle. And yet, like you, I'm so happy to have the life I have and to be able to keep on living it.
I was struck by your comment about being in the last stage of your life. the truth of that comes as a startling realization to me.
You are providing a wonderful example of how to live that last stage. Happy Birthday..1

Friko said...

Happy Belated Birthday, DJan!

I love the idea of a prime number birthday meaning that one is in ones prime. Brilliant idea, I must use it myself. With the next two being 73 and 79 there is a lot of prime living yet to come.

I would like to say though that not we are not entirely responsible for a healthy old age. Some people suffer illnesses which make all individual efforts null and void.

Unknown said...

Happy birthday. :)

wendyytb said...

Happy Birthday Djan ! Every post from you is a gift!

Penny O'Neill said...

I stop by on occasion, this morning being one such, but, just had to comment here, wishing you a belated happy birthday, and extending my appreciation for this insightful, and delightful, post. I turn 64 on the 5th, and will remember your words here as inspiration. Thank you.

amanda said...

Late to the party, as we've been held up shoveling for a couple of days.. nearly two feet of snow has fallen, and it hasn't stopped yet!
Happy birthday, DJan! I wish you continued health, happiness, adventure, and another marvelous trip around the sun!

Anonymous said...

Bleated Birthday Wishes Jan!!

Rita said...

I'm late, but happy, happy birthday! Happy 72nd year! I admire you so much, lady! :)

troutbirder said...

Happy birthday DJan. This summer was a bummer on all fronts for me including lack of exercise. Next will be back to my hiking, biking, fishing etc. routine with a new puppy and inspired by my heroine who lives far away in Bellingham, Washington.....:)

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...


Dee said...

Dear DJan, happy belated birthday. I hope that everyone who read your posting did something nice for themselves. I plan to brew myself a lovely cup of tea and eat a scone with it. And those scones will be made fresh here in the "Ready bakery"! Scones are a favorite for baking because they are so easily prepared.

This growing older is, as Bette Davis so famously said, "not for the faint-hearted." I did some exercising on my vacation but when I got back I had several days in which I dealt with pain in my foot and so was unable to walk outside and exercise.

But yesterday--in the single digit weather--I did walk about two miles and it felt so good. It is you I have to thank for that because your exercise regime has inspired me--since summer 2011 when I first began to read your blog--to get into shape. Thank you. Peace.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I am late for your birthday! Happy Birthday to you...Happy Birthday to yooouu. Happy Birthday my friend and many more..you are good lookin for 71:)

jen said...

i was reading your latest blog post about Philomena and you had a spoiler in it. I haven't seen the movie yet and I am so disappointed!
I wish you'd be careful

Deb Shucka said...

You are such an inspiration, in so many ways! I hope your day was everything wonderful. Love you!