The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by
reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength
labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
-- Psalm 90:10
Hmmmm. That does not sound good at all. Not if one finds himself turning three score and six today. But how can this be, when I feel so young at heart? I have no plans to fly off any time soon. That said, this getting older is for the birds. I don’t like it yet I know there is nothing I can do about it. Consider Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682), writing in Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial, (1658): "The long habit of living indisposeth us for dying." And yet dying is something we will all do at some yet undertermined point in time. "If we begin to die when we live, and long life be but a prolongation of death, our life is a sad composition; we live with death, and die not in a moment." We all do it. Some more graceful than others, perhaps, but when you get right down to it, we shall all eventually shed this vale of tears. But I’ll be honest with you. I’m not ready. I’m not near ready. And I can only hope it will be a very long time before I hear the beck and call from the far side of the Stygian shore, before I find myself "circling the drain," that rather macabre slang referring to an unfortunate soul that clings to life while future prospects seem dim at best.
So what got me on this grim subject besides the fact that today I am another year older? And each years seems to pass by faster the previous one? This morning I finished reading A Really Big Lunch: The Roving Gourmand on Food and Life, the just published book of essays by Jim Harrison, the late poet, novelist and essayist, who passed away a year ago on March 26, at the age of 78. I have been a devoted reader of Harrison for over forty years – a fellow Midwesterner whose often skewed and oblique views on life, writing, and yes, even food and drink, have fueled my own hopes and desires for what I wanted to accomplish in my own lifetime. He was a gourmand extra ordinaire and a connoisseur of fine wines who also taught me that, as a writer, one must "mix your essential gluttony and writing carefully." I have learned how true this is. "Despite your complaints you have lots of time to do so," Harrison confesses. "Good food is so much more important than the mediocre writing that pervades the earth" ("Real Old Food" published in the Canadian journal Brick, in 2015). I strive for something above and beyond the mediocre, but I understand that writing is not everything. One must enjoy that which satisfies the body as well as the mind. Jim did not mince words and did not suffer fools. He and I are simpatico on that score.
Yet the thought that no more words will be unleashed from his pen (he refused to use a typewriter or a computer) saddens me deeply. I never met Harrison, yet my life and my own writing (and the search for good food and drink) have orbited his efforts since the early 1970s, when I first became aware of his unique perspective on human foibles and our interaction with the natural world as a palliative for what ails us. His death has left me be bereft and still I am both saddened and raised up as I read these latter day reflections knowing Harrison was running with the dark horse of night (Marlowe) and his time on earth was coming to its inevitable end.
Now well into my seventh decade (and proud of it . . . hey, I earned it, right?) I still believe I have several good years in these old bones (decades, had I my druthers). No, I don’t feel like I am circling the drain yet, nor do I hear any loud cries to come hither from beyond the River Styx. There is the old adage that you are only as old as you feel, and for the most part I feel just fine. I no longer float like a butterfly or sting like a bee, and maybe I never did. And there are the aches and pains I have to get used to along with the occasional "senior moment" when I forget a name or where I put something. But I can live with this occasional nemesis as long as I am able to accomplish what I set out to do with the advent of each new day . . . or in this case . . . the beginning of another year.
Three score and six?? Why not? I say "Bring it on!"
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From the Hermitage Artist Retreat
4 weeks ago