The Celts called the harvest the end of the year, and every Autumn feels like that to me. More than Julian/Gregorian New Years eve with its light-candles-in-the-dark, Fall seems a time to reflect on the preceding months; to let the shadows linger and the darkness wash across the countryside. This year the bees are hiding and the rain has returned at last I think back to a year ago and a lot of the stuff I have left out of this blog rather intentionally. In general my opinion of whining and navel-gazing is pretty low, but despite that there is a lesson in all this that bears going down that road. Just as far as I must but no more, so bear with me.
This fine Fall lands me in Astoria Oregon. One of my favorite coastal towns it is both artsy and gritty. Tourism and trade are deeply entwined in this towns past and to this days cute stores and rubber-boot-clad workers are equally evident, bars both trendy and gritty line the streets where sailors have come ashore after long voyages for just shy of two centuries. heading out to the hills on bicycle after work I puff and chug my way along the aging duffer on a bicycle; I too have become a northwest cliché along with the tourists and fisher-people. Cycling is slow work, if you are me, which allows reflection. The sun slips between holes in clouds and long light comes off the water of the James River dancing on the trees. Deer startle while eating apples in abandoned orchards and hop up the hills and away. The only sound the steady ship of my slightly-maladjusted derailleur.
A year ago somehow old age had found me and was making up for lost time; exhaustion, aches and pains were constant companions. The Doctor kept drawing blood and testing vague issues without conclusion and all I seemed to want to do was sleep. Arthritis, knee issues and the like. My daughter was not-yet six and I found myself letting go of being at her college graduation and shooting for her High School walk. The idea of missing my daughter’s adulthood hurt, but it was not as though as I could rail against anything; my life has been full and varied and most of the damage of my existence has been self-inflicted. With no particular crisis to fight or rail against it had more of a clock-winding-down feel by Samhain that settled toward resignation. “This is it” was the thought, “Enjoy what you have got.”
Now before you all (all dozen of you) get weepy, I will tell you that often in life there are simple answers to seemingly insurmountable problems. The answer to all my ills was pretty simple; I needed to listen to my wife. She kept telling me the issue, saying talk to your doctor about it and I resisted; out of stubbornness, a desire to not be my mother, I don’t know. Somewhere in a work morning, stumbling around unable to see or feel, moving by force of will more than any healthy biological process it dawned on me that if pride is a poor reason to live, it is an even worse excuse for dying.
Appointment set, condition determined, treatment proscribed, all in a matter of weeks. And just as surely as the unwinding had gone the rewinding started; sleep cured all the ills that plagued me. knees recovered, arthritis subsided, blood normal. Day one was better, now day one-hundred-ninety-odd I pedaled my way through 25 miles of coastal hills at a speed I would have never imagined possible a year ago. Out along the coast the ocean peaked through the trees as farms, fields and livestock grazed on dry fall grass. The stiff onshore breeze pushed me and I pushed back panting and sweating up hill after hill. Gliding back to town at dusk to the lights reflecting off the water, ships gliding by up the River to Portland in seem silent at a distance.
I have avoided all of this because it feels as though I am admitting weakness and obsessing over health issues (“disease-a-logging” I call it); both habits that irk me in others. A person may however, engage in any number of bad things for a good cause, and my cause is this: men do not be stubborn, advocate for your own health and most of all, if you want a long and happy existence:
Listen to your wife.
It isn’t nagging, you really just weren’t paying attention last time she said it. Find new and interesting ways to be stubborn and irrational, ones that won’t kill you.