the Big Eight Oh!

January 26

Something gets lost in birthday celebrations between 8-80.  Anticipation can turn to dread.  Excitement can fade. Parties can seem self-indulgent and contrived.

My husband turns 80 tomorrow.  To say that he’s not happy about it is an understatement. If our family had permitted it, he would ignore the changing of the decade. But we all concluded easily that he must celebrate and that we must unite behind the celebration.

He put me off more easily than he could our daughters.  I soon gave up the challenge of getting him to yes.  Our daughters seemed not to have too hard of a time getting him to agree to something “small.” Thankfully, they took over the planning and he cooperated.  He likes to make them happy.

I’ve had a small journey of my own wrapping my head around the reality of my husband becoming 80.  Despite all the euphemisms and nonsense such as  The Golden years, You’re only as old as you think you are  and Just like fine wine, you grow better with the years.

I’m hoping this experience will be good preparation for me when I round the corner myself in a few short years. I will want to celebrate. Maybe if I start dieting now, I’ll be able to wear a size 8 dress and everyone will remark, You don’t LOOK 80! Continue reading “the Big Eight Oh!”

The T Club Flashback

Flashback!  The year, 1960.or ’61.  The sound, jazz. The feel, beatnik wanna be.  The setting, a dingy nightclub under railroad tracks in run down industrial city.

It was the T Club.  I had one or two friends who I could easily convince to come along with me.  In order to get there, I had to get my Mother’s car.  That required some white lies, which I could easily justify to myself.   If I had told Mom the truth, she’d never would say yes. She probably would think I’d lost my mind.

It was a summer thing.  About once a week.  Head up a very long and dark flight of stairs to the closed-door at the top of the stairs.  Enter the dark and smoky T Club.  Take a seat at a small table near the stage.  Order cocktail(s). No id’s required. Smoke ciggies. Feel very devil-may-care.  Look around to see if my current crush might be there.  Rarely, but one could hope.  Zone out to the sound of jazz.  Look cool.  Feel cool. We didn’t call ourselves beatniks, but we were under the influence for sure. Continue reading “The T Club Flashback”

Going Home!?

It was was dark outside.  All I could see were small clusters of lights as our plane came in to land, but I knew the unseen rural New England landscape well. In years past this landing meant I was coming home from college or in later years for a  visit with my ageing parents, my young children by my side.  Feelings now, as then, were a mixture of anticipation and melancholy.  The melancholy was from the recognition that time was closing in on the remaining time left between me and my parents. Those disturbing feelings are a visitor that accompanies advancing age, deepening recognition that the clock is ticking and adding a bittersweet quality to events that were once never given much thought.

cheesy dec

The empty airport concourse signalled immediately that no one would be there any longer for my homecoming. It had been decades ago, but happy images of my mother and father waiting for me remained alive, however impossible. The Christmas decorations on display looked a little cheesier to me than they had in my youth. Mounds of dirty snow were the only remainders of last week’s early snowstorm.  The cold air seemed colder than I’d remembered.  The winter coat I’d brought with me in defense of the cold warmed me, but felt heavy and oppressive.

I’d come to visit a dear relative who is being treated for a grave illness.  I was relieved to finally visit, but apprehensive too. Continue reading “Going Home!?”

Between Heaven and Earth

After recovering from three somewhat harrowing days driving a rental car on the road in Japan, we learned , despite the high points of the trip, not to do it again.  I also relearned that there is a very small margin of error between life and death on a snake like one lane curving  road where a head -on collision could catapult you from one world to the next and was possible at any time.

At Koyasan, while walking through the cryptomeria pathway lined with tombs of the dead, I learned again to value the time I have left, before I rest for eternity with the millions who have passed before us.

 

 

 

 

On the far too narrow one lane road leading us out of Koyasan, I learned that beauty can exist in unlikely circumstances. The road really should have been just a pathway along the small river, but it actually was chosen by Google maps as our way to get down the steep mountain.  It even had a route #!

Despite the knowledge that each curve or one wrong turn of the wheel could presage our final moments, I could not get over the thrill of being in this beautiful area.  The intense beauty overcame my fear. The foliage lining the river’s path was at its peak of fall color.  The river itself, about 25 feet beneath the road, was populated by beautiful boulders and rocks, the river, crystal clear, running a path between them. It invited me to linger, but my husband had a sense of urgency to get us to a wider and undoubtedly safer road. Some bikers rushed past us, but other than that, we’d meet one or two other motorists about every 20minutes, which is to say, we were mostly alone in this splendid landscape on this treacherous road.

the river below.

 

Then, suddenly this journey into an alternate universe was over.  We welcomed the first houses that appeared and celebrated escaping alive.  Maybe I’m being overly melodramatic, but I don’t think so!  Soon, the junk big box architecture that is too prevalent outside of most cities took over our visual field.  We’ve lost so much of the natural world.

The sacred place of Koyasan was meant to celebrate nature, as is Shintoism. I am grateful we got to participate in the celebration, somber as it could be at times.

Life is precarious and glorious.

Knowing Love

Today, visiting my umpteenth Kyoto temple ( this time, Shoren-in )I thought how each time I reconnect with the places, things and people I love here, it’s like meeting an old friend after a long absence.  You can’t explain its satisfaction and happiness, but you sure know it and feel it.

The delicate maple leaves in the temple gardens  are certainly familiar as is the smile on a loved one’s face or the twinkle in their eye. The junction of wall and roofing always pleases too, not to mention the koi in the ponds, the stones, the quiet, the moss, the flowers, the mysteries hidden in the darkened sanctuaries.  How wonderful to be reunited!

 

People often ask me, how many times have you come here?  I truly don’t know, I stopped counting years ago.  It’s irrelevant anyway.  There’s always a First Time feeling to each visit.  I revere the integration of Nature in daily life.  The physical buildings of temples, generally hundreds of years old, are such a part of each temple landscape, looking as if they might have emerged from the earth itself. The carefully constructed gardens are often sublime.  It’s easy to feel a part of them as they have become a part of me.  As loved ones influence and mark our lives, so does this place for me.