It has been rainy and cold all day. Snowflakes are in the forecast to start falling about 5 p.m. which is now. People are focused and serious, their energy does not seem to welcome the idea of slick roads for their evening commute.
I am on the other side of town, heading home, waiting for the traffic light to turn green, and suddenly I am seized by this realization: Step forward into the new, and at the same time, turn sixty and face what is most likely the last third of your life.
Yeah, right. No problem. But this feels terrifyingly odd. Incongruent. I am being asked to bloom now with that aging thing right up against me like a cliff. Or what I perceive as a cliff. I am being asked to bloom, yet again, as I enter crone years. I thought by now we would be bloomin’ done with challenges and, instead, coasting on the ride home.
As I write this, I am remembering when I was about ten, riding a difficult-to-pedal, tandem bike with my sister and family on Mackinaw Island. My dad took it upon himself to announce, “It’s all downhill after the next hill,” after what seemed like an endless crush of hills that had left us disheartened.
We had inadvertently started our ride on the "wrong” side of the Island, the side that was uphill. Once we realized this, there really was no turning back. A hill would inevitably be involved at some point, might as well get it out of the way and meet the challenge in front of us, we concluded.
We all face transition points in our lives, and hills like the one on Mackinaw to prepare us (training wheels for adulthood), but the cliff before me today feels very different than when I was a kid. Different from when I was eighteen going off to college, or a few years later when I landed my first job and moved away from home. A lot has happened since those mileposts, and part of me is not sure I am up for the next one…
In the midst of my idling at the light, suddenly, someone is pointing a flashlight at my face like in a game of Kick-the-Can! You’re it, they seem to say.
It’s the sun. The SUN! Blazing in over the horizon and beaming in my window over my left shoulder. The clouds have parted and pale blue sky has slipped out from nowhere.
This sudden light defies the gray day, the certainty of the evening forecast, and the imminent sunset. But that does not stop me from yelling in joy at the traffic light. The sun is out, Oh my God!
Folks probably thought I was stressing and wanted the light to turn green. Oh, that crone, I can hear them yelling back. (Though crone is starting to sound pretty good to me, at least when I say it, kind of like crown.)
For my entire ride home, the sun kept beaming in, even as it dropped further and further behind the mountainside. See what I can do even late in the game, and you thought I was gone.
And I want to grab hold of this: The sun can shine any time before it sets! And though the sun does eventually set at one horizon, it rises again at another.
How are you being asked to bloom yet again?
Note: The self-portrait (above) was taken at my dad’s home last summer. In the background, and woven in the dark and light of my reflection are: My mom’s framed works — still life paintings of plants and things, the living room, and the backyard trees and hills.