Monday, October 23, 2006

Getting Ready to Turn 60

I bought a birthday card for my oldest daughter today. She turns 25 in a couple weeks. Inside the card I wrote "I remember turning 25, sort of." Then it struck me that in a few weeks I will be thirty five years older than her. Thirty five was a much easier age to deal with. I seemed mature yet still youthful.

Now it strikes me that I'm getting ready to turn 60. The big six-oh. I don't know how I'm supposed to feel about that. I think, more than anything, that it makes me realize my own mortality. And, in addition, that I have more years behind me than I have still yet to go. That's a sobering thought.

Recently I read an article about growing old. It seems as though getting old is really a state of mind. If you feel old, you are. If you think you can't keep up, you can't. If you think you're too old to learn (something/anything), you probably are. On the other hand, staying active and involved, being willing to learn new things and staying tuned to the environment keeps you young and vibrant.

The other day we went out to Chester, which is in western Massachusetts, to take a hike. Just outside of Chester is the KAB trail. KAB is the Keystone Arch Bridge trail. In the late 1800's, Whistler (the painter's father who was an engineer) had constructed a series of stone railway bridges built for the trains that were going west into New York and Ohio. The arches were built of stone. Sixty-five to 70 feet in height above the river, the stones were cut by hand and placed together without mortar. Truly magnificant structures, they are standing the test of time.

Our four mile hike took us along a river next to train tracks, through a hardwood forest on a path that led to the arches. On a nice, cool fall day just past the peak of fall colors, we hiked easily along.

At the end of the day I reflected briefly on a life filled with these kinds of hikes. While some were longer than others, a 4 mile hike is a good hike. It occured to me that I pretty much felt the way I always felt after a good long hike in the woods.

I didn't feel like I was getting old. Like the stone arches, I'm weathered but still stand strong. While they don't carry train traffic anymore, the tracks having been re-routed, neither do I carry the heavy burdens of earlier years.

Getting older is a state of mind. However, like the bridges, how you were cut and shaped in your youth is how you'll age. Something to think about.


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