To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; Ecclesiastes 3:1-2
On Saturday afternoon, Heathcliff and I headed down the driveway here at Vanaprastha. I carried a canvas bag, leash, garden gloves, and machete. First, the yard then the mail.
Three springs ago, landscapers planted shrubs, flowers, and ground cover on a steep slope at the foot of our property. The slope had been cut into the mountainside to make way for a logging road in years passed. Power lines above nixed any thought of growing trees on the barren hill, though Lord knows they tried. Instead of the electric company’s slash clearance every five years, I’d taken on the mission of keeping the hill attractive and free of trees.
While Heathcliff flew down the ravine on the other side of the road, chasing deer, I scrabbled up the steep slope. I spoke words of encouragement to ferns, mountain laurel, yarrow, daylily, wild rye grass, meadow anemone, and coneflowers.
New growth. Firsts.
In The Wonder Years: 40 Women over 40 on Aging, Faith, Beauty, and Strength, Leslie Leyland Fields organized the anthologized essays according to Firsts, Lasts, and Always. Firsts in the authors’ second half of life included embarking on adventures, learning skills, embracing new professions, missions, and relationships, pulling up roots, caring for older family members, and making peace with their own aging.
Up and down the mountain slope, I plucked oak, maple, sassafras, locust, and tulip poplar seedlings and whacked suckers from tree trunks cut during the power company’s last sweep. Muggy sweat clung to my shirt. I didn’t get all volunteers—I no longer had energy to labor for hours or the need to make the slope look perfect. “Heathcliff, come!” I called, setting garden gloves and machete aside then picking up his leash and the canvas bag for mail. “Let’s go.”
To go, we had to let go. Lasts.
Women in the Wonder Years let go of their child-bearing, grown children, bikini bodies, perfection, jobs, regrets, and loved ones. Fields wrote, “…losses can actually be occasions for greater grace.”
Walking down the mountain with Heathcliff offered God time. We stopped at a stream, running alongside the road, so he could cool himself in the fresh burbling water. On our way back, huffing and panting up the mountain, we took a break to chat with a neighbor. Then we heard the sound of rain falling on leaves. Thunder rolled in the distance.
We hightailed it for home. Always.
The Wisdom of the Wonder Years: enjoy the beauty of God’s creation, spend time outside, find joy wherever you can, talk with neighbors, take care of yourself and one another, and keep moving. “God doesn’t care about age,” one author wrote. “He needs willing workers.”
…each man should live his life with the gifts that God has given him and in the condition in which God has called him. 1 Corinthians 7:17a
Until we are called home.
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