AT SIXTY

“I smell something like baked raspberry tarts and it’s making me crazy.”

(Me, for weeks now … )

It’s only at night, mind you, and it doesn’t matter where I am, but it is distinct (and really lovely) as I’m drifting off. More than once I’ve gotten up out of bed and gone looking through shadows in the dark for this puzzling scent. On a recent retreat it came to me as I was falling asleep and now the mystery has deepened. 

It could be worse. I could be smelling old socks or sour chicken or wet dog. But I smell raspberry. I don’t wear scent intentionally. My soap is unscented, I don’t wear cologne and I have no need for hairspray. But there is that one indulgence: Aveda Cherry Almond shampoo. Could that be the culprit? 

Nah.

I’ll be 60 on Sunday. SIXTY. When in the world did that happen? Here I am fussing over mysterious scents while the days have been slowly marching towards this milestone: 21,900 days, 525,600 hours alive on this planet.

So, what does 60 look like ? 

Well, this morning after realizing my favorite XM radio station blended with “classic pop” it means that I know almost every word to every song. Oh, I can do without Wildfire and The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, but I am all in when it comes to Journey, Little River Band, Supertramp, Rickie Lee Jones, Blondie and Heart. In this way, 60 looks a lot like the seventies. 

But of course, it’s more than that. I don’t dress for others or eat for others anymore. Honestly, if you know me at 60, you know me. I don’t have much re-invention left in the think tank. The habits I have are of the “take it or leave it” variety and have mostly served me well. I don’t see very good or hear very good anymore. I’m not dangerous in that regard, but I’m diminished. I see it as a softening, like fine leather. I’m beginning to understand that I can (and should) say what I think because there is no value in the opposite. People need truth more than they need protection from it. 

60 means I give a book a fair amount of time to reel me in and if it doesn’t, I choose something else. Life is too short and the library too big. If I love pizza and hate fish, you know what will be on my plate. I don’t need the extra cup of coffee or the square of decadent dark chocolate, but I will give myself a YES if the urge is overwhelming. I always give in to cravings. Well, maybe not every time, but surely often enough to keep the spirit strong. 

60 looks like an earlier bedtime and an earlier rising in the morning. I used to stay up late, afraid I’d miss something. Now I rise early for the same reason. I have developed a different relationship to light. I embrace the soft kind of light that puts you in a trance, not the bright kind of light of interrogation. I have fallen truly, madly, deeply in love with civil twilight. I love to watch days and seasons emerge and there is nothing like bearing witness under an early morning sky. 

I marvel at the subtle changes happening in my body. Age is revealing. I don’t think it’s all bad, although sometimes I find it surprising in a shocking kind of way. At 59, I started getting pedicures and having polish put on my toes. 60 is about having the revelation that to most people you encounter in the world, you are largely invisible. I laugh a little about how much I used to worry about what others thought of me. My 97 year old grandfather used to say it like this: 

I love everybody. If they don’t love me, I don’t care. I’ll find someone who does.
-Howard Baldwin

Simple, wise logic. It is important to listen to our elders, even as we become the elders. Maybe being 60 is about beginning to consider my own legacy. How do I want to be remembered ? I don’t want to point to any accomplishment that got me a pin or a document on the wall. I want to be remembered for how kind I am and how much I value every connection. I don’t hit that bar every day, but it’s always in the back of my mind. 

60 is about wanting the best for people and abandoning that weird competiveness that we grew up believing was like armor for our egos. If you succeed, it doesn’t mean I don’t. There’s room on this little pillow at the top of the mountain for all of us and I want to see you thrive. I want to lift you up, not challenge you. 

I don’t have the stamina I once had but I still manage around 20 miles of walking a week. I sit for meditation when I can and I try to write every day. I have a couple projects in the hopper, one with pen and the other with lens, both of which I hope will keep me engaged with life this year. 

Rather than wanting more, I suddenly find myself wanting less. 60 is about tightening up and thriving within a circle of others who share my values and my loves. I know it’s just a number but the beginning of a new decade feels pregnant with possibility. I will happily enjoy the gestation. 

Happy (almost) Birthday to me. 

I’m off to take my walk. Who will I see today ?

Thank you for sharing another trip around the sun with me. I do so love you all. 

16 Comments on “AT SIXTY

  1. Happy (almost) Birthday Bonnie!! To smell raspberry tarts – how lovely 🙂 keep on enjoying! Because we all benefit from whatever it is you’re doing 💜

    • Thank you, Navreet ! That raspberry tart thing is just so odd (but surprisingly comforting too). May we all conjure whatever makes us happy. Thanks so much for reading 💜 I feel a good decade coming on !

  2. Happy almost Birthday Bonnie! I just so love reading your blogs, posts and whatnot. Have a great day on your actual birthday and everyday forward! Hope you win at scrabble against your parents…that would be a nice gift!!!

    • Thanks Kathy ! I’m so glad you’re here. Can you believe how fast we got here ? Yep, I’ll take a Scrabble win. Icing on the cake !

  3. This is fabulous Bonnie Rae. You’re not only a great observer of the outdoors but also going deep within to comb out the tangles and move into aging gracefully. Thank you for your wisdom, your observations, and your light touch, making the most of life at every turn. I’ll be sending this to friends. Happy happy birthday. From my perspective at 66 it only gets better.

    • Thanks so much, Nancy. I think it might have taken me all this time for the outer parts and the inner parts to merge, but after years of collision I’m liking it ! I’m ready for the next decade and I’ll happily share my progress. So glad you’re here.

  4. Ahh, what a wonderful musing, Bonnie! You are wise, not beyond your age but in accordance with it. I loved reading this and wish everybody would, especially clueless young people who don’t trust anybody under 30, 40, 50? I have to keep raising this number.

    I must report that on Sunday my parents celebrate too, their 52nd wedding anniversary, which is how old I’ll turn next year, but already I can see that “I marvel at the subtle changes happening in my body.” is NOT how I would describe old age. 😀

    You are doing it so well, living, writing about it, showing it to us. Let it continue!

    Oh, and I’m pretty sure you are smelling the tarts that you will treat yourself on your birthday. 😉 Cin cin!

    • Thanks, Manja ! I hope you’re right about the tarts. As for the rest, I appreciate the kind words and I’m so glad you’re here for the ride. Bring on 60 … I’m ready !

  5. Just so much yes in this (as I approach 70!), I wouldn’t know where begin. All of it. Except for one: I NEED that dark chocolate square—three actually, they are small in the Trader Joe’s bar. These photos: stellar, including the selfie. And the raspberry tart: fascinating. It’s the ears for me, rather than scent. I hear bird twitter, pretty much all the time. At first I thought, how lovely! Then I realized there could not possibly be bird twitter all hours of the day and night, and I could not possibly hear it from inside the closed house, and without my (new) hearing aids in. Tinnitus, I’m thinking. I could do worse than birds twitter. Welcome, aging.

    Thank you for you. Happy birthday!

    • Thanks so much, Gretchen. 

      I think it sounds like we’re both rather fortunate. You with the birds, me with raspberry tarts. I mean, if things need to somehow diminish, I’m happy to slip into change through this happy hallway. Cheers to new decades, my friend. I think we’re both gonna rock it !

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