Sunday, November 18, 2012

A day in the life of.....

When I was younger I'd see older people and wonder what goals they had... what their reasons for living were. I noted that they already had made money, succeeded in a career, raised a family, and had seen the world. I wondered how they dealt with life without these purposes for living? Were they just passing time, waiting to die?  Now I am one of those "seniors" and have to ask myself such existential questions. What do I do with my time while I age steadily toward the mortal cliff. First of all, I do my best to not think about it much and prefer to live with the delusion that aging is a slow and imperceptible process that happens to other people. I also embrace the idea that it can be defied by productive intellectual, artistic, and physical activity. Of course achieving longevity is a crap shoot. There are plenty of out-of-shape stupid people who live to be a hundred and others who eat and think right who succumb to weird unpredictable demises.  In any case, on most days, to fill my TIME, I consider defying the odds by looking for sources of pleasurable exercise. This I find by hiking, which I do to keep parts of me limber. Rather than laboriously trudging on some whining metallic and rubber-odored machine in a gym, I prefer pacing in a picturesque setting accompanied by the sound of the wind and birds.

The pictures I share today were snapped from a hike I took on Wednesday at Smith Rock State Park near Redmond Oregon. Instead of tackling the renowned Misery Ridge Trail, I decided I would venture up to the north side and catch the vista from the less traveled Burma Road. The path first meanders on relatively flat ground through marsh and scattered pine forest along the Crooked River for about a mile and a half. Then suddenly, without any apparent reason, it turns steeply uphill into a series of doglegs to a false summit. At that point, at least a thousand feet above, the remainder of the trail becomes visible leading to a large claw-like rock formation which serves the hearty as a final destination.

I stood for a while and considered whether I should push myself onward. I was alone, and it was well into the afternoon. A number of "what ifs" crossed my mind. I listened to a series of inner voices urging encouragement or expressing discouragement, counseling prudence, or daring bravado. Finally, I plodded forward, stopping often to catch my breath, to drink some water, and to chastise my aching joints.

Later on, as I descended and neared the parking lot, some larger-sized, lithe animal bounded across the trail some distance in front of me. I caught just a glimpse of it. I believe it was a coyote. I smiled and thought momentarily of our crossing paths. I was heading home for dinner proud and happy and it, most likely, had similar objectives. It had been a day; one more allotted day for both of us.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Falling into Place?

I arrived home from Southeast Asia two weeks ago and, after experiencing normal jet lag, have acclimated quite well. I have busied myself editing and organizing the trip photos and have placed them online for anyone to see them.  Let me know, and I'll send you the links.

Several people have asked if I plan to continue posting additional photos and reflections of my last adventure. I am not sure if I can move back into the past. As I expected, I am starting to experience amnesia. Memories become murky. All I know "clearly" is where I am now. I have visions of time in faraway places but, those moments and the intensity of their meaning feel like they are attached to grains of scattered dust which have blown outward into space never to be experienced close-up again.

The Fall season had advanced while I was gone. Colorful leaves now abounded on the trees and on the ground. This drew me to pad along the trails in parks, camera in hand, to snap pictures. I wanted to feel some continuity with whom I was on the trip, a person who kept a keen eye for lovely or unusual scenes. Yesterday at Drake Park, I saw children throwing piles of leaves into the air. The yellow, brown, and red flecks fluttered skyward for a moment and then, like a flock of lazy birds looking to land, glided slowly downward ending on the ground in a heap. What formed was a kaleidoscopic quilt covering the grass. The scene had meaning to me which was deep and sentimental and my urge was to lie down on this brilliant blanket and look up at the clouds in the sky.  Was I feeling the emotions of an older man moved by the nostalgia of his childhood or was it simply a youthful desire to seize the joy which comes along when a special experience awaits?  Regardless of the answer, I dropped down on my back into a crispy pile of attractive jetsom and then rolled about like a crazy dog massaging his fur. Leaves scrunched beneath me, pieces attached to my clothes, and some worked their way through my shirt, pants and shoes onto my skin. What a visceral experience! Then, suddenly torn from the moment of ecstasy and, as if directed from some paternal force from above, my field of sight shifted. Across the street I spied a stopped police car. I rued a thought. Why does it feel immoral or illegal for the old to act young? Anyway, now daunted, I brushed myself off and skulked back to my car.

My days are spent seeking joyous moments through this changing season. Snow is in the air. I took my skis to be waxed. Soon I will be going downhill. Let's not think that I may be going that way already.