to me and my Scorpio readers
Before we begin, please join me in sending healing thoughts to an old high school friend, Steve Bowman. He’s undergoing surgery today for cancer. This post is coincidentally fitting, as it ends with the words of a cancer survivor. Candles lit Coach Steve. Give ‘em hell.
I feel the need to insert all sorts of arrows here to move forward. All roads lead back to home.
Tomorrow is my birthday. Yeah, I know, a Scorpio. Everyone seems to react to that. I'm struggling to understand why. Well, yeah, there is that stinger element.
My birthday month began on the highest of notes. November has felt like a pleasant dream, the kind you wake up from, trying your best to hold on to. (Aren't those rare treats?)
The colors out my windows the last few days have been breathtaking. The skies are cloudy, a fire finally crackling in my fireplace… my heart is full. That is all I could ask for as I begin my 67th year lucky enough to still be riding this globe cycling through the universe.
My book reading last week was more than I could have hoped for (more on this next week.)
With birthdays in mind, I believe we should celebrate life at any age and at every stage. I've learned from some of the best about how to live. I also learned how to die from my friend Ron who I write about in my book Lessons of a Wayward Yogini, chapter titled What’s Really Important.
One of my favorite movie quotes from Under the Tuscan Sun—
Between Austria and Italy, there is a section of the Alps called the Semmering. It is an impossibly steep, very high part of the mountains. They built a train track over these Alps to connect Vienna and Venice. They built these tracks even before there was a train in existence that could make the trip. They built it because they knew some day, the train would come. Unbelievably good things can happen even late in the game.
That quote “unbelievably good things can happen even late in the game” lodged itself in my psyche. These many years later, I'm experiencing those unbelievably good things that can happen even late in the game, which may be why I resonated with the quote so long ago.
My wishes for this coming year?
To continue doing what I’m doing. I'm living my passion, writing three times a week and connecting with my readers, which includes a growing audience; how lucky am I?
Since I'm quoting movie dialogue, here's another one of my fitting favorites from The Perfect Storm, a movie about ships, the ocean, and a storm; it must be the Scorpio in me. The musical soundtrack completes/makes this quote, with George Clooney’s voice.
The fog's just lifting. Throw off your bow line; throw off your stern. You head out to South channel, past Rocky Neck, Ten Pound Island. Past Niles Pond where I skated as a kid. Blow your air-horn and throw a wave to the lighthouse keeper's kid on Thatcher Island. Then the birds show up: blackbacks, herring gulls, big dump ducks. The sun hits ya - head North. Open up to 12 - steamin' now. The guys are busy; you're in charge. Ya know what? You're a goddam swordboat captain! Is there anything better in the world?
As of late, my readers often make me feel like a goddam swordboat captain. I can’t thank you enough.
Lastly, I am sharing a post that my dear friend Lynn's husband, Mel, wrote on his recent birthday. I'd introduce him as just Mel, but because we live quite a distance from each other, I'm only now getting to know him through his posts these many years later, thanks to my friendship with Lynn. And for any of you who have read my book Lessons of a Wayward Yogini, Lynn, so many years ago, was married to Ron (What's Really Important chapter). The woman, not surprisingly, attracts men who contribute and make a difference. Lynn is a gem and a force, and I've been lucky to call her my friend all these years.
Closing with Mel's words. And thanks Mel for letting me share this.
The birthday post: by Mel Ellison.
My birthday today: some thoughts on life and aging.
"The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life."
I've been thinking about Ali's words lately. Why? Because today I turn 76. And now begins the slow crawl to 80! That's just hard for me to believe and, save for a few aches and pains and maybe things not working as well as they once did, I'm not feeling 76 at all. And people say I don't look it either. They're probably jiving me but, hey, I'll take it!
But it's not really a slow crawl to 80 is it? It seems the MORE the years pass by, the FASTER the years pass by. As time goes on it seems to accelerate faster and faster, like an Indy 500 driver pulling out of the pits after a mid-race tire change.
As for Ali and our view of the world at 50 as compared to 20, I can say that at 76 my world view has changed drastically from even 50! Yep, I've changed and geez, I sure hope I've learned something and grown a little over all these years.
But you know what? Deep down, I feel like I'm the same little boy I was at 5 yo. In fact I've come to the conclusion that we are all basically who we are at that early age. The essence of "who we are" is already fully formed by that time, and all that matters then is the maturation process, as well as the circumstances of our lives, environmental factors and all our influences both good and bad. All of that goes into shaping the shifting form of "who we are", which can only be seen right now, in the moment. If all goes well, it's a continuous voyage of self-discovery and self-awareness.
Once in a literature composition class long ago, I was assigned to write a short story and the instructor said something that has stuck with me all these years later. He said, and I'm paraphrasing here, the key to writing a good short story (or any story, whether novel, movie or stage play etc) is to first create well-defined characters. Then you can take those characters, put them in situations and let them react. That, in a nutshell, is how great stories are borne. The characters come first.
And so it is with our life. We are "who we are" almost from the get-go…..then we are exposed to the so-called "real world" and it becomes a matter of: How do we react? Do we have the knowledge and the strength to do the right thing? Can we learn from our mistakes? Can we forgive others for theirs? Those and so many more questions….questions that can only be answered by what we actually do and how we treat each other every single day. That's where the rubber meets the road. The "who we are" is mirrored in our relationships.
What an amazing gift is this gift of life…..brief as it is. So much beauty…and yet the seeming contradiction of so much evil too. The closer I get to the end of this ride….(and I know this is hard to think about when you're young but sooner or later, it WILL end)….the more I just try and relax and simply enjoy the journey. Deep breath, easy does it, and all that. And as the novelist Matt Haig wrote, "You don't need an opinion on everything. Sometimes you can just sit and learn." One of the few advantages of growing older is, if you're lucky, you have the time and the means to do a lot of that.
This has been said in so many ways by so many people but, here's my birthday-cake-take on it: Love generously, forgive easily, speak kindly…..and do all that not only to others, but to yourself as well. And have some fun while you're at it. And hey, don't worry about "wasting time". As Alan Watts said, "What is time FOR but to waste!"
Lynn and I will be heading down to the Mezza Luna in Half Moon Bay soon for a birthday lunch. I look forward to enjoying this day with the most important person in my life, at one of our most favorite restaurants…..just the two of us. The best birthday gift I could ask for.
I hope YOU can enjoy this day too, and if you happen to open a bottle of wine, drink a toast to us all. We've made it. We're still here! That isn't ever guaranteed…..and that's a reason for all of us to celebrate, don't ya think? I do and so…. here's to us! (clink) Salud!
A final note, Mel suffered from throat cancer just a few years prior to writing this. A survivor sharing his wisdom resonates with me, kind of like the Perfect Storm dialogue if we were to change the verbiage.
Ya know what? You're a goddam cancer survivor! Is there anything better in the world?
Well, certainly no cancer would be better, but we are here for the journey, the completion of our days and the celebration of our stories. We can’t write the script, but we sure as hell can celebrate it. Thank you, Mel, for sharing your words of wisdom. Keep writing.