Monday, August 30, 2010

Youth


It just seemed like I turned 40, now 50 is here. What happened to the time? It's like those mornings when you wake to the first nip of Fall in the air. I love Fall, the air ripe and sharp with the smell of burnished sun on dying leaves, while the faint wisp of chimney smoke from that first fire is melancholy. I listen longingly for the sound of a train from beyond the cornfields, and look up for the comfort of a vapor trail in the cold sky, letting me know I'm not alone. Autumn is almost upon us, and with it the end of another year.

As I open the door to let Barkley out, the warm air rushes out, set loose in a sudden gush and I think about how quickly time gets away from us. Shadows stir, the season shifts and before you know it, another year is behind you. The summer is past, with days on the run, and still evenings aloft, and all too soon you're herded inside walls, the routine of chilled mornings and dark nights, cold absolution for the time you spent out in the sun in months past. The days themselves were unchanged, but what you were able to do in them was, with mornings and nights passing in the immaculate intervals of quick daylight and long nights in front of the fire wishing for the cold to pass and Spring to arrive. Yet, when Spring does start, you think again of how quickly another season flew away, and of the last months you ask yourself - did you really accomplish anything to warrant the passing of precious time?


I remember one cold night in front of the fire pondering over Joseph Conrad's story "Youth", an old man's story of his perilous experiences as a young seaman on a storm-wracked coal liner. Having always been a headstrong girl, taking on one dangerous job after another, I empathized with what he said. "I remember my youth and the feeling that I will never come back anymore, the feeling that I could last forever, outlast the sea, the earth, and all men".

How easy as a child, a teen, even into your 20's to think you are invincible. Certainly some of my adventures would indicate that I too subscribed to this vision. But with adulthood, not only comes responsibility, but loss. Suddenly, for myriads of reasons, aging, illness, war; the people around you, as reliable as the sunrise, leave. Someone I knew casually through work was ill, and terminally. All of us had been trying to visit and as I passed through the door after our last time together, she said. . "when will you be back?". I said, brightly, "soon" and the moment it was out I knew that I'd never see her again, and that we both knew it. We simply refused to give voice to it, as to do so, would be to admit our own mortality.


If I had the chance to be 20 again I wouldn't. Time and memory is what has made me who I am. Events in my life, even the ones I'd rather not repeat, all served to awaken within me a stranger who was strong enough to survive it, to grow, becoming someone forged new, honed sharper and stronger. I've moved past the deception of Conrad's youth, to a place where my soul is still, my heart is full and when I leap from a runway with the wind in my hair, I know I will not live forever on this earth and it doesn't bother me, it just makes me treasure what I have.

I got up early this morning and after opening up the curtains to the outside, I went in and looked in the mirror in the morning light - closely. Start with the body. OK, it's not 20 any more, there's those extra pounds that set up base camp somewhere low and safe and never hiked out, my knees can't climb K2, and there's quite a few small scars - that time I fell off a ladder refueling a tanker, the tiny hairline one where I fell off my bike on a hill, the almost invisible one on my knee where I had a mid air with a hurdle in high school track. Yet what is there serves me well, taking me where I want and need to go, seeking and finding my life.


Now I look at my face. Thanks to good Scot/Irish/Norwegian genes and sunscreen there's not much in the way of lines around the corners of my eyes, but those there when I smile simply map the laughter, including the best laughs, the one you share with those you hold dear. The few little wrinkles? Earned them. Every damn one of them. Finally I look at my eyes. Still green, edged with blue. The eyes can be serious. Like others who do what I do, I've seen a lot. Blood, senseless violence, and careless tragedy. I have learned the hard way that there is danger and dangerous souls in the world and I'm not one to shy away from it. My reaction to attack is to defend, not give in. It's not a cognitive thing, but a visceral reaction. Hit unawares, I have ducked, turned, and struck back, ending up tired, and emotionally bruised and wondering how I got there.


But I do it, for to me there is hope in it, there is order.


No it's not youth, but it's a vast intangible strength we call "soul" that's going to persevere for a long time to come. I wouldn't trade that; exchange the sense of who I have become, the self that is secure in its structure, the self that is loved, for any chance to be a firm, pert 20 year old again. So, content, I will start my day as a singing bird erupts into sweet song in my back yard. What I know now; now that I am considered "old" by my daughters generation, is not how to be dead, which I know too well how to do from all I have witnessed, but how to be alive. Living and breathing, growing and loving, as the trees in my garden and the liquid tranquility of a rushing river or a mere small red-winged songbird, who truly believes that in this moment, he's eternal, and for an instant, may very well be.

When I was a teen and looking at my parents I thought 50 was ancient, now I realize that to survive to middle age is to be slowly born.

I wouldn't trade this moment in time for anything.


- Love, Brigid

26 comments:

  1. 50? you? Who you kiddin' you're still a sweet 16 and ya know it. I'm gonna hit that 49 just before march. I always figured you to be a year or two younger than I.

    Certainly better maintained! I feel like my dear 05 new Beetle would if someone had been driving it over washboards for the last 18 months.

    Happy birthday! if such is impending. My senior moment does seem to recall a recent mention of a birth day in the immediate past...

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  2. Beautiful. Maybe you're what they had in mind when they coined the phrase "Fabulous 50's".

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  3. Your years are filled with all the bounty that creates a loving table B - I love to sit by your side and listen to the wisdom of your experience flow so gracefully through your words. It's a precious start for a Monday morning - thank you :-).

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  4. I have earned every one of the gray hairs which have suddenly sprouted at forelock & temple. Those same Scots-Irish genes have prevented most of the wrinkling I assumed would eventually be my companions - when I thought about it at all. I never planned to get old, but then most of us never do. Now, at 55, I look at the same face I've seen for years, and recognize that life has happened ... and I wouldn't go back, either.

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  5. From one who is now 61yrs old you are a mere youngster a spring chicken.And im with Marty "Fab 50's".

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  6. Hear, hear!

    Beautiful, as always (both you and your writing!)

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  7. Commentator: "How do you feel after winning a fight in UFC, being able to do that even 47 years old?"

    Randy Couture: "47 years _young_ Mike, 47 yrs YOUNG".

    And thanks. Great blog, great images...especially those that are created in the readers mind.

    Thank You. (and a pat for Barkley, too)

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  8. Welcome. Time earned, time worn, time well lived. You just made our club better. Happy Birthday!

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  9. Happy Birthday Brigid!

    You're living proof that age really is just a number. It's what you make of it.

    Also, I thought you were younger.

    Sit back, relax with Barkley & enjoy some of that magic, dark, elixir of youth that hails from Ireland.

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  10. Yesterday I was helping a friend who's in his mid 50's move - yow. It reminds me that I'm also in my 50's. Working with my mom who'll be 80 in a few days, on her book about her Swedish family ancestors - some of whom died quite young, just out-of-the-blue like. Mom is thin as a rail while Dad leans over forward when he walks, like he's balancing...

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  11. Thanks Brigid. I badly needed that today. You're an Angel.

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  12. Beautifully written Brigid,

    I will see 50, come May if I get that far. I too, can do most things I could when I was younger but they hurt more now. I wouldn't want to be young again. I covered a great deal of earth and sea to get where I am today. I appreciate that Conrad quote though as I am now well aware of what lies just over the horizon which is closer than it looks.

    Beside living a great life, you can describe it beautifully.

    regards
    Dan

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  13. Babe you covered a lot of ground, getting older with grace and probably still looking good, at least your hair is still stunningly red, I have no doubt the rest of you is doing as well. God bless your dad, lost my dad 2 weeks ago, I am adopted as well, he was 81, I doubt I will make it that long. You truly have a gift with words, a wordsmith, among other things I am a gunsmith, your talking of fall as the end of the year, here in Texas it is the beginning, after weeks of 100 + degree weather, when the north winds start to come in, and it gets into the 70's or dare 60's I get emotionally erect and want to run through the woods naked. Hunting season has arrived!

    Have a good Bday, your blog is really good, your words are comfort to a weary traveler.

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  14. Brigid,
    I think that stranger remains aldways with us here on earth. Do be attentive . Create an opportunity to have your Dad tell about interesting things from his past. Then record them while the memory is fresh and clear, unchanged. You will be always grateful. No we don't want to trade any of the "This moments" in time.

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  15. Easier to catch???

    Doesn't that depend on who's chasing you?

    :)

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  16. Happy Birthday! Beautiful post, as always.

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  17. I love your outlook on life.

    "Mom beaned him from about 10 yards with a milk bottle." Now in those days I'm guessing that would have been a heavy glass milk bottle. Was she trying to kill him? :-)

    That reminds me of another redhead who gave me a bloody nose when we were ten. That's a story for another time. :-)

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  18. I joined the half century ranks at the beginning of this month, too. Happy belated birthday to you.

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  19. Happy birthday, and thanks for writing such a wonderful post. It captures part of what I feel as I will turn 50 next week. I get such a kick out of it - I may not age gracefully, but I intend to age enthusiastically!

    I enjoy your blog!

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  20. Darn good writing Brigid!

    Arriving screeching into middle age is a wonderful experience- still the desire to be young and dumb with enough scars to know better.

    Speaking of scars... they're tattoos with better stories behind them in my book.

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  21. Just gotta know, Can the turtle swim? Don't worry too much about the whole Chuck Yeager thing, at least you get to fly too. Now if it were Chuck Norris....?

    Got there just a bit before you did, but I agree. I'm not going back. Congrats.

    Argie

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  22. I think that old musical hall comedy line about you're only as old as the woman you feel still has a great ring of truth to it.

    I past the half century mark a few yeas ago and it went by in the blink of an eye. Best darn year of my life!
    Old enough to have good friends and still young enough to make new ones.
    Wise enough to allow others to make their own mistakes, but young enough to be there when they needed a helping hand. Mature enough to keep my own council but experienced enough to offer an solution if asked.

    Boy! I wish I had been this good 30 years ago. It would sure have saved me heaps in all kinds of ways. Money, broken noses, and broken hearts to name but 3.

    Atb
    Baz

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  23. That was interesting to read (accompanied by some good photographs)
    Yes we tend to misjudge our parents.

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  24. I'm with you B.  Coming up on the 1/2 century mark, I find
    myself in reflection more often.  As my good friend Don Henely would say 'the more I know, the less I understand'

    Coulda, shoulda, woulda...

    Pretty sure I've done more good than harm...though only time will tell.

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  25. +1
    Posts like these is what keeps me coming back.

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I started this blog for family that lives far away. Now that they are gone, it continues on to share those memories.

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