For all those years, I wasn’t aware of all those years accumulating
somewhere behind me. Oh, I knew I was a year, and a year,
and another year older. Acknowledged in passing, or even celebrated. But each extra year disappeared into a past, more like a contrail than a weight. And I never turned back to get a glimpse of what was following me. Why would I? Too much sadness and disappointment. Too many seasons of scorching fire. Of being lost in a woods where even the trees wouldn’t speak to me.
And now when I have learned to feel joy, to see the beauty in moments as small as cells: a minute leaf dried to membrane, a square inch of bark fluid with tiny rivers, a speck of rust as deep as a well. Each of these—and so much more—lifting me, creating a life full of pleasure. Moment after moment after moment.
This sudden shift, when for the first time, each year grabs hold, tugging at me, not with disappointments, even of the trivial sort, but a bum hip, a gnarled toe, a worry line stretching from nose to forehead. And for the first time, I see that as I travel forward, the space between where I am and where I am headed diminishes. I may or may not be “almost there,” an announcement that would have thrilled me as a kid on my way to Manhattan to visit my grandparents, or to the Jersey Shore for summer vacation.
Aging is not a loss, exactly, but a diminishing of the years I was once able to ignore. Another irony, to be sure. Not like a rope slipping through my hands, and more like a foreshortening, with two rows of trees humming to me sweetly, the two ends in the distance moving toward one another at an unknown speed. And as I travel along these rows I concentrate more and more intensely on just what the trees are telling me.