I AM sixty six. I was born on the thirtieth day of the third month of the year nineteen fifty, a set of numbers which I have been very pleased with, but had no influence over. They were just my good luck. I have two sisters who were born seven and eleven years later and our birthdates join and separate our lives, they are another measure of time’s passing. During my time, I have circled the sun sixty six times, and have been present for the dawn of some twenty four thousand days, as I travel through the universe at an unimaginable speed.
I am content. Each day I am reassured when I see I still have my grandfather’s blue eyes, my father’s curly white hair, my mother’s slender hands and her skinny arms and legs. Sight is my most treasured gift, it has allowed me to gaze, daydream, ponder patterns, and to etch into my memory the faces of family and friends dear to me. Sight brings my mind to life, that mysterious awareness of self that has inhabited my body as long as I can recall, and which has never aged despite soaking up memories along the way.
I am becalmed. Blown here by strong and often naive winds, now I am waiting in calm waters for gentle breezes to carry me on. Not knowing what is ahead, but guessing that the future will have fewer memories for me than the past. Pondering my journey, I think of Mark Twain’s Mississippi finding its way to the ocean. Aware that I need adventure and things to look forward to.
I am discerning. There is a careful selection of good friends, a few rich pleasures and familiar comforts, and the company of family dear. My fading need for recognition allows me to find myself, the child buried under life’s conceits. Time is my treasure. It has passages which seem long and empty, where time is luxuriously abundant, and there are occasions when crowds of thoughts beg for time, and I worry about those not spoken and never brought to life.
I am no longer nineteen. Turning nineteen was like a new start. Everything was wonderful, and I stayed that age for another nineteen or more years. The memories that are the legacy of being “nineteen” for half my life are golden, and they are the foundation for the years that have followed. Knowing what should be done rather than what can be done is easier now.
I am not alone. I have the companionship of my wife of four decades, and our three children. These days I see grey and white haired folk out and about all hours of the day, married couples, groups, and loners passing time. I am often reminded that I am a member of this tribe, and I am always surprised. Sometimes I recall dear friends who did not live to see these times, and so am more grateful for the reassuring company of family and friends.
I am ambiguous. I feel like a work of art, evolving over time, sometimes being guided, but mostly guiding itself, and never quite complete. The art of the “still life” lies in its search for perfection. The inclusion and arrangement of only what is wanted, and the exclusion of all things unnecessary. The beauty of the “still life” is the ambiguity that pervades it. The seemingly clear and simple is tantalisingly unfathomable.
I am unfinished. Like Georgio Morandi the Italian modern painter, I have spent my time collecting things of inexplicable interest, things that are familiar and unfamiliar at once. Things that can be studied, pondered, remembered and, after a time, discarded or kept. Things that can be arranged in countless different ways to alter their perception. Often it is the space between the things that matters most. Morandi’s things were manmade objects. My things are ethereal, perhaps best described as lessons remembered, and I need to collect more of them in order to keep discarding the unwanted.
I am miniscule. Sometimes I try to imagine the universe, the beginning of time, the number of grains of sand on the beach, the size of an atom, and the number of fellow humans alive today. Sometimes I gaze into a sunset, up at clouds in the sky, shadows on the ground, and at the veins in a leaf. I hear the voices of friends and imagine the faces of my family. Sometimes I remember when I was with my sisters, pouring our father’s grey ashes into the ocean’s waters. I am fortunate.
October 8, 2016
The mirror reflects, and for those that can see, life is a never ending reflection of being, achievements and associations. When we take the time, our life is our reflection.