Yesterday was my 68th birthday. There is no doubt I’ve lived a very privileged life, though some might call it lucky or blessed. While I grew up mainly wearing secondhand clothes, I never went hungry and was loved by an amazing mother, father, three older sisters and a younger brother. We always had a roof over our head. School was easy because there was an expectation I’d succeed, and I was fortunate my real teachers were the woods among the trees and the edge of the lake and creek in any kind of weather.
Life was not without problems and battles—my father and I spent many long, stupidly painful years on opposite sides of the political fence—and I struggled with finding my way after dropping out of college. But my problems and battles were pretty tame by comparison to most my fellow humans must deal with. Religion, a long and deep family tradition, ended up not being my cup of tea though I’m grateful it provided a strong framework of values that still supports me.
Liz and I started our own life and that led to this amazing family and with support from her and many friends I am now sixty-eight and, despite the election results, feeling stronger than ever about this miracle called life. From the intensity of Red Oak leaves in November sunshine to the immediately recognizable pattern of Maidenhair Fern, the world has provided sustenance to me at every turn.
I don’t know how long I have left—longevity is in my family and I see many older than I who continue to inspire.”I’m not dead yet,” having managed to survive for all sixty-eight years the insanity of M.A.D.—mutually assured destruction at the push of a button connected to 6000 nuclear warheads— and cigarettes, two “heart incidents,” and various other near misses. I spent too much of my time not taking care of myself as well as I could have.
I am pleased to have managed to build and create more than I ever dreamed possible, even as I sometimes wonder what will be left of it all in another sixty-eight years. Seeing an 150-year old stone wall on a recent walk was a good reminder of how quickly human life can change course, how all that work and sweat end up an anachronism, a pile of stone in a field now grown to pulp wood.
But today I know I am alive and well and ready to continue standing for what has always been important to me—the things my mother taught me, the things I learned from sharing with my family, and all the remarkable beauty that Mother Nature surrounds me with. Today I am 68. I’d love to sit on that old stone wall with our newly elected president for an hour in the sun and talk about what is really important to me, my family and the planet.