Six decades ago, I was born. Like most things I’ve done, it was nothing I intended to do. It was simply a small miracle that happened, made from love and spirit existent before me.
In the sixty years since, I’ve heard many stories about time’s acceleration with aging. I was told I’d travel from zero to sixty faster than a race car. That life is more fleeting than I’d even notice. That our young years are the best ones of our lives. The old adages still echo as if they’re truth, but none of them match my experience.
The apparent speed of time’s passage has sped or slowed according to how deeply I’ve lived each moment. The deeper the beauty, or the deeper the pain—or both at once—the longer the moment lingers. And though the world is often very painful these days, it’s still gorgeous and sacred. Its vivid extremes demand our full presence. So time has presently slowed, as I work to turn challenges into gifts; to say thank you for beauty and trouble, and the ways in which they compel me to grow and care.
Growth and care are as natural as the passage of time. Between growing up and growing old, caring for others takes root. It might be for children or aging parents, lover or animals, a garden, the climate, spirit. Life demands and deserves our care in infinite, individual forms; but our need to care remains as instinctive as our need to breathe. And caring demands our ongoing growth.
As I get older, my caring turns towards home and service. The facets of that are as many as a raw diamond, from caregiving for my mother and the open land, to seeking ways in which my own pains can keep others from suffering the same. The more I age, the less it matters to me where my own path goes, compared to its positive effect on others yet to come. The urgency of service intensifies with age. Humility deepens too.
Yet turning the calendar page from fifty-nine to sixty was about as dramatic as turning it from Thursday to Friday. I’m less concerned about aging now than I was at thirty. I also feel more private, in my caring. My celebration of life deepens quietly, more a prayer than a party.
In that I take inspiration from the silence of autumn’s turning leaves. They call no attention to their brilliance, or to the ways in which they’ll feed the soil after falling. As they too turn towards home and service, it’s a natural letting go.
By the autumn of our lives, our own letting go begins, and our inner and outer worlds inevitably need healing. For me, healing includes letting go of conflict, for healing is not a fight—not within, not with each other, not with the earth. Healing is a path of compassion, and also of shared joy. Words from Terry Tempest Williams remind me:
“Once upon a time, …there was the simple understanding that to sing at dawn and to sing at dusk was to heal the world through joy. The birds still remember what we have forgotten, that the world is meant to be celebrated.”
So I celebrate this morning’s miracles, more vivid than ever in their beautiful and painful extremes. As I do, the moment again slows and expands. I celebrate that too, for it will not take six more decades for me to travel back to zero, in time left. I have no time to waste miracles. I’ll sing of them until dusk and leaves have finished falling.