Why is it that when I was younger, pining for the day when I was older, time shuffled along, mulish and obstinate, but now, about to turn sixty-five and feeling like there’s still so much I want to do, create, see, touch, hear and give, the days gallop by like the jet stream touching down in the valley on a windy March day, and my list of projects blows helter skelter like tumbleweeds?
And why is that wisdom comes late in life, when the body begins to break down, when sometimes the hands lose their grip and the eyes refuse to focus, and the heartbeat loses its place and drums madly to catch up? Why can’t I have my thirty-five-year-old body, buffed and slim and bouncy, AND my sixty-five-year-old mind, which might actually have learned a thing or two along the way?
But no, apparently that’s not how it works.
Then again, what do I know? I’ve only been here sixty-five years, and I’m still learning. As Henry and I often quip (insert Yiddish accent here), “What we don’t know is a lot.”
I think about the prisoners in my distance classes, how time must feel to them, how some of them came to prison young and are growing old within its cold walls, how they learn to use the ponderous progress of time to their advantage so that what they write is layered, mulled over, probing and pared down. How ironic to have Great Wisdom arrive intact in a prison cell, but to live in an environment where the list of creative projects and desires is daily redacted.
I think about the students in Adult Education who are struggling to get their GEDs, unlearn bad street habits, manage their kids and iffy finances and broke-down cars and parole officers, who never bothered to learn their times tables or the classic structure of a five-paragraph essay but who know at a glance who’s telling the truth and who is full of bullshit. They know that years can go by wasting time, and that life’s wisdom can be frittered away as if it grew year-long, drought-tolerant, thriving even in a desiccating wind.
I think about the horses in the field: Esperanza right at the balance point of gaining wisdom and sensibility while still young enough to enjoy a supple, strong body, and Lucky on the far end of the fulcrum, dented and scarred, limping and quidding his hay, but wise beyond his years, his spirit a steady flame in this eyes.
I think about Henry and our marriage of thirty-three years, how some of it has flown by and some of it has stumbled, how much time we have put into nurturing it, maintaining it, even rescuing it, and how the marriage itself has become an expression of time, and the gathering of wisdom. We met each other when our bodies were still strong and bouncy enough to survive the stupid mistakes we made; now we are witnessing, and reveling in, the story of how time, and a little wisdom, makes it mark on our bodies and souls.
And last, I think about the stones waiting for my chisel, or, if not mine, some sculptor’s hand who comes after me, someone who will see and feel how unimaginable time has compressed itself into marble crystals, their dense, accrued wisdom patiently, silently, waiting.