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Posts Tagged ‘getting older’

For six decades, my feet have touched the earth. This did not seem a consequential thing before, but I have learned otherwise.

I grew up on the shores of San Pablo Bay. While, behind me, the dark oases of live oaks studded the rolling golden hills, I walked unshod down the shingled shore, the smooth curves of wave-worn pebbles pressing upward into the flesh of my bare feet. I would gather kelp vines to use as bullwhips, challenge fiddler crabs to duels, and with a poked finger annoy the anemones until they spat. My bare toes gripped the ragged rim of a tidepool’s edge, and my arches provided stability as I balanced on weather-beaten logs. To my bare feet, the cool water and the hot stones were as natural as the salt air and the scent of baking seaweed were to my lungs.

Then, with shoelaces tied together and draped over my neck, I kept my shoes dry as I crossed the tidal marsh that lay between shore and home,. Navigating past clumps of reeds, gently pushing aside the serrated blades of pampas grass, I let my feet breach the brackish water, sink into the yellow mud, continue down through muck the color of rust, until they hit the underlayment of fetid black peat, the foul and oily rot squishing upward between my toes. Here, shoes were worthless, destined (if used) to be left behind in a muddy grave or, worse, to survive for a few brief and redolent hours on the front stoop before my mother gave up and threw their ruined stink into the trash.

When school let out for summer, my friends and I tossed our tattered Keds aside and headed up into the sun-bleached hills behind our homes. We followed creekbeds and ridgelines, slid on the fragrant mat beneath the eucalyptus trees, and winced as spiny oak leaves pierced our callused feet. Come late August, with back-to-school sales shouting from every newspaper and TV ad, I’d be given new shoes, along with my mother’s admonition to take care of them this time because she wouldn’t be buying me any replacements.

To be safe, I rarely wore them outside of school.

In the time between those days and now, I maintained my contact with the earth, barefooting my way through the years. Working in my gardens, shaded by their canopy of spruce and fir and maple, I felt with each step the sun-warmed grass, the cushioned mat of russet needles, the crunch of pinecones, the coolth of upturned soil, and always I reveled in the chthonic energy that flowed upward from earth to sole to crown. My feet are still callused, though now mostly from walking on pavement than traipsing across youthful hills, but lately, age has begun to make its effects known.

An injured ligament across the left arch and instep has required support beyond what my bare feet can provide, for which I resorted to an ankle brace and bindings. The foot has improved, albeit with glacial speed, to the point where the tight grip of the bindings is not always required, but sadly, the foot is not yet able to go it alone, and so a shoe (with arch support) is needed.

The practice of walking shod was melted out of my DNA by the sun of many summers and so, even though it lessens the pain, wearing shoes around the house feels alien and unnatural. I feel as if I’m just passing through my own home, on my way to somewhere else, some place where bare feet are a faux pas.

My heart holds tight the hope that this is a temporary condition and not the first step down some inexorable decline, and that by the solstice I will once again be able to feel the ground beneath my feet, but there is no guarantee. Meanwhile, I will practice patience; but do not be surprised if, now and again, I leave my shoes on the bottom step and walk out to spend a few minutes standing barefoot beneath the garden’s green-leafed roof.

k

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My father was a distinctly midcentury man.

He was a man of tract homes and manual transmissions, cigarettes and pipe tobacco, straw hats and huaraches, sand dunes and surf fishing, Frank Sinatra and Mel Tormé, pancakes with his kids on Saturday morning and roasted meats with his dad at the table on Sunday nights.  He was a dry martini/red wine with ice kind of guy: uncomplicated, elemental, rustic, reserved.

And yet, in his final decade, I found him nearly indecipherable. (more…)

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It came in the mail today, and it might as well have come with an honorary AARP membership because now, without doubt, I am officially an old white guy.

I opened the package, and immediately started to doink around with it before reading the instructions (oh come on; you do that, too). I scrounged up six AAA batteries to put into its belly, turned it on, and then (finally) looked at the user’s leaflet that came with it.

When I brought it out into the living room, my wife cocked her head and asked, “What is that?”

I told her, and she laughed. She laughed because she knew, too. I am officially an old white guy. There’s no denying it, now.

(more…)

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I’ve never been one for milestone birthdays, but this one is different. It feels like a milestone, and so a few days ago I decided to just go with it.

What I didn’t expect, though, was that this “go with it” approach has engendered a fair bit of introspection. I know. Shocker, right? Still, it doesn’t feel wrong to take a long look back in order to see the long view forward.

In a few short weeks, I’ll be sixty years old. Not bad for a kid who never thought he’d live past the age of twenty-six. I’m in good health, take no prescription meds, and sure, I’ve got a dodgy knee and could benefit from losing some of that IPA-paunch I’ve developed, but overall, I’m not in danger of punching my ticket any time soon.

So, I’m on the cusp of what feels like a new chapter. What have my previous chapters been? (more…)

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This weekend past, two friends celebrated birthdays. They’re both a good bit younger than I am, but that didn’t bother me. After all, a lot of people are younger than I.

This weekend past was the 25th anniversary of the day the Berlin Wall came down. Yes, a quarter century since the end of the Cold War. But that didn’t bother me, either. It was a good day, full of joy, and easily remembered.

What did bother me was that, this weekend past, Rickie Lee Jones was also celebrating a birthday.

Her 60th birthday.

Wh–wha?

Sorry. Rickie Lee Jones is not 60 years old. Nope. Can’t happen. Can’t be true.

Rickie Lee Jones is twenty-five years old, always has been. Always will be. I refuse to concede the notion that she ages along with the rest of us, even if it means that I am now more than twice her age.

It’s not that I’m an avid RLJ fan. Yes, I do have most everything she’s recorded, but that’s it. I listen, I like, but I don’t “follow” or read up on her projects, her life. Nor do I have a mad crush on her or anything; I don’t, and never have. In fact, it is precisely because these things are not true that she remains unchanged in my mind. Were I to follow her career more closely, I would have been exposed to photos and interviews in which it was apparent that, yes, she’s no longer twenty-five years old.

But I don’t.

And so, RLJ is forever that smoke-filled-saloon-chanteuse, that beret-wearing finger-snapping retro-beatnik I first heard back in the ’70s. Rickie, the queen of slide-singing and the vocal fry, is the sound of my youth reverberating across the decades. Other voices from my past have aged along with me, but not RLJ. Her music continues to make me smile, make me cry; it fills my lungs with youthful air and lifts aged weights from my shoulders. I cannot have her music on in the background, for her voice always creeps forward, steals my attention, and holds me rapt as she sings her bittersweet tales.

So, happy birthday, Ms. Jones. Happy 35th 25th birthday.

k

Kanji character Raku: happiness, music, joy.

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