Finding balance in the second half of life

Smaller but Deeper

In Fulfillment on August 3, 2020 at 8:05 pm

When I change my footwear after lunch, Bodhi starts bouncing around the kitchen. He knows it’s time for a walk in our woods, and he can hardly wait: he’s entirely optimistic that he will find something new. Today, for example, he found a well-aged leg bone, no doubt from a deer skeleton that’s been there for months and months.

FernsThe air is just cool enough today to call fall to mind, which calls to mind the change of seasons. It’s a false construct, really, this four-season model. When I walk the trail every day, I see the progression is constant, day to day, week to week. In the early spring, the trail is wide and I can see deep into the forest; now parts are claustrophobic: I have to turn sideways if the leaves are wet, or I’ll get soaked. The Bracken ferns that were roll-ended sticks forever in the spring are now waist-high and part of the crowd. The Sensitive ferns have popped up in the sections that are flooded in the fall (and will be again, too soon).

Receding water is part of the transition from spring to summer. This spring was wet enough to have flowing water in a few sections of the trail. Now the entire circuit is dry, although you can tell by the patterns of dirt and moss and leaves where the water will return first in the fall. The boardwalk that’s underwater in May is now twenty feet from the edge of the pond.

We’ve watched the blackberries leaf out and then blossom. We can pick a bowl-full every day now, which feels deserved when we watched and waited for the berries to turn from little green nuts to blushing pink and finally—finally—to black. There are patches all over, some with berries the size of your thumb, others the size of a pea. Every one of them is delicious in a pie or a clafouti or in a bowl topped with sweetened condensed milk, which is my granddaughter’s second favorite way to consume them. Her favorite way is direct from the bush.

There aren’t many flowers at this time of year, after the progression of April through June, but maybe I haven’t been paying attention (or have been scouting only for berries). I’ll look more closely tomorrow. What’s multiplying is the number of seeds that find a way to attach themselves to any passing dog, pant-leg, or princess dress; some have painful hooks, others are a more subtle kind of velcro.

I’ve walked this trail at least a few times a week for at least a decade. In our current routine, it’s rare for me to miss a day. And somehow, I’m paying more attention. What was a task—walk the dog—has become something entirely different, sometimes a social occasion, sometimes a game, most often a meditation. While my world has become smaller, it’s become deeper.

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