Anytime there is change, you’re bound to have some unruliness too. Gradual changes can happen peacefully in tiny increments, but if something immediately goes from one thing to another, thing have to be overturned. This is the nature of Spring. The Earth has shifted to the point that the air in the sky is moving to new places. The cold air that had been spending its time a little farther South is mixing with the warm air that’s staking claim to the North. There’s push and pull. We have warm days then cold days. When one leaves and the other takes over, wind picks up. When they both stand their ground, we get something a little more violent.
That’s what I woke up to Monday morning. There was enough lightening outside my bedroom window to make it look like our house was inside a giant warehouse rave. The wind was blowing hard enough that I couldn’t tell if it was rain, hail, both, or rocks being hurled onto our roof. I knew walking to work would not be the most pleasant I’ve had—I put on a rain jacket, me Gore-Tex hiking boots, and hid underneath an umbrella to where I couldn’t even see in front of me (I made it work dry, by the way. Boo-ya!). I knew this was dangerous weather, at least dangerous somewhere, and I knew a good bit of the news work on wkms would be devoted to updating the storm and flash floods that would inevitably result in low country like Murray. Still, I wanted to get to the eighth floor of the building, so I could see the lightning strikes 50 miles away.
My 36th birthday is coming up this Sunday, and, to this point, it’s probably the one that’s made me think the most about aging. I’m not one of those who bemoans every birthday and looks for sympathy for how old I’ve gotten, even though I’m still in the prime of my life. But, this one has set some thoughts off that I’m now on the back end of the 30s, which puts me close to 40, which puts me closer to 50, which puts me closer to 60, so on and so on. I don’t know why this really matters—I’m in better shape than a lot of 20 year olds, and Allyson and I are at a place in our lives where we’re still very much challenging ourselves emotionally and professionally—so there shouldn’t be any mid-life crises on the horizon.
I wonder how much we’d worry about these things if we hadn’t started measuring all of it, getting so specific about every detail. A year is just how long it takes the Earth to go around the Sun, but it is one of the building blocks of how we compare ourselves to others. The average human life span is somewhere in the 70s, but no one knows if that is what he or she will get—could be much longer, could be much shorter. Yet, we cut this number in half, and get worried when we enter the second half to the point that we don’t function normally. And it’s all because of numbers that we’ve made up that we don’t even know for sure will be accurate for us specifically.
Yesterday, I finished work, and joined Allyson, her grandmother Oma, and her brother Andrew for lunch at August Moon Chinese restaurant. It’s an elegantly decorated eatery with your typical buffet: two devoted to Chinese dishes, one salad bar, two devoted to chicken finger type meals, and one devoted to desert. Probably even the Chinese food is not really what you’d eat in China. Over the speakers, they are always playing piano music of soft 80s hits, sometimes piano of television theme songs from the 80s in a very elevator music style. As if these songs needed to be softened down more. When you step back and think about it, it’s pretty strange that each week we come together in building gilded in fake gold and polished wood with faux ancient Japanese art, eating close to a pound of chicken that is sold to us as authentic Chinese when a bowl of rice would be much more accurate. Oh yeah, and then there’s Billy Joel’s “She’s Always a Woman to Me,” on piano. My fortune said that something magical would happen on the next full moon. That will be a week from Wednesday.
We humans do some funny things with our lives, and I’m not saying they’re wrong or anything, but it’s easy to get sort of mixed up with what’s reality and what’s just something that we have invented to make our life more interesting or enjoyable or just easier. But, it’s in these times of violent change that it helps to remind ourselves what’s really real.
On Friday, after I finished work and feasted with Oma, Andrew, and Allyson, I went out to Land Between the Lakes and took a scenic hike in the Devil’s Backbone Natural Area on the Devil’s Backbone Trail (Here’s a link to a blogpost where I talk more about that). While out there walking on some of the high ridges of the area, the wind blew, making the trees creak. I didn’t see another person the entire walk. The wind was blowing strong enough I didn’t even hear another human sound, no cars or planes or boats. It was just me and wilderness. There were times I stopped and sat down to look a little longer at the wildflowers and the trees or to close my eyes and just hear and feel the wind. I found spots where the pine trees were oozing out sap and put it on my fingers so I would smell that fantastic smell the rest of the afternoon. It was an afternoon just feeling myself grow, rather than thinking about it.
All the wind this week has reminded me of the Bay Area, specifically along the Marin Headlands, where there are these huge green hills, covered in grass, because it is all that can grow there in the salty wind that is constantly blasting it. It is loud wind that moves your hair. You can see it played out in the movement of the grass. And, on a sunny day, it’s one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever seen. If you’ve been with this blog for a long time, you know that I love the wind. To me it is this mysterious, powerful movement that comes from some distant place. It reminds me of the world around me, which reminds me of who I am. This wind, this week, made me long to adventure, it made me long to write and pen some of this that’s swirling around inside me. It made me forget about the silly number 36, because in this life there are much more important things to devote our time to than trifles like that.
We can wear ourselves out thinking about the changes that are bound to occur, whether it’s the quick, violent kind or the long gradual, because in the end it’s all based numbers and our best guesses. We don’t know what’s in store for us. I think the best we can do is to bundle up and walk out into the chaos, and wait to be amazed.