wisdom

A single flower

Lantana camara
The universe is a single flower.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

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Fearless Youth

We had been sitting there watching the waves for a while. The swell was enormous, way too big to be surfing Willow Creek in my opinion, which was why we were in the van drinking coffee. Each set of waves seemed bigger than the next, and watching the waves unleash their fury on the shore helped us realize how large and powerful the ocean really was, and how tenuous our position on the land. The van shook in the parking lot.

We saw a group of twenty-somethings drive up and get ready to paddle out without looking at the surf for more than a minute, and we got to watch their attempt at taming the angry ocean. They made it out to the lineup okay, and actually caught a couple, but then one of the giant ten wave close-out sets came through, and it basically swept them all down the coast and into the sketchy rocks on the shoreline. One guy’s leash broke and his surfboard (what looked like a brand new Al Merrick –the expensive sports car of surfboards) was battered painfully on the mossy stones. They all made it back to shore safe but shaken, and hobbled back to their car through the cobbles at the water’s edge, carrying their surfboards along with whatever was left of their pride. They then loaded up their stuff and drove back to wherever they had come from, defeated but still alive. One can only hope the experience taught them something.

Then these two old timers rolled up in an classic ragtop sedan. They saw a wave come through and immediately decided to suit up and paddle out without watching it for more than a couple minutes. But by the time they got down to the waterline to launch in the frothing sea, they had witnessed one of those enormous close out sets come through, and wisely decided against paddling out. I thought for sure we would be observing a repeat of the previous beat down, but these wise old carps knew enough to stay out of the water.

So was it wisdom or fear, and are those really the same thing? Maybe it just takes us many trips around the sun to figure out what we should be afraid of. Despite the physical weathering of the body, apparently there are some advantages to aging after all.

And, of course, let us not mention the rushed, nearsighted, and brazen shortcomings of youth.

Willow Creek, Big Sur – old photo, old car, old timer suiting up (by flora-file)

Willow Creek from Highway 1 (by flora-file)

Willow Creek Picnic Ground (by Frank Kehren)


Written for the DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Golden Years

Downhill

He looked younger than his accumulated years. Exercise, diet, meditation, the power of positive thinking all conspired to keep the debilitating rigors of age at bay. He never willingly offered his age, but when people found out exactly how many trips around the sun he had taken they displayed a variable consortium of reactions. Some thought he was lying, but who adds years to the total? Some thought he’d had some tucking and tightening done, while others posited theories that he was perhaps an alien or some sort of immortal. Some swallowed it grudgingly, but with a slight aftertaste of disbelief. Men twenty years younger looked like they could be his older brother, his uncle, possibly even his father. Was it because they had lived their lives at an accelerated pace, or because he had refused to move forward?

Many assumed he had lived a sheltered life. Did he avoid sunlight, hide in the closet, shelter himself from the slings and arrows of entropy? Did the food he ate have any flavor, or was it some sort of slop made excessivley healthy by removing all palatability? Did he spend his days and nights somehow hidden from all the factors of the universe seeking to beat old age into his ageless hide? What was his secret?

When it finally came out that his sixtieth birthday was approaching, nobody could believe it. He received cards documenting his incredulous age, and lambasting the fact that he was over the hill. His long slow, descent into senior citizenship had begun. He had reached the age where he would forget his age. Some even joked that he was so old he wasn’t just over the hill, he was over the mountain. He laughed these off. He knew from his adventures through life that the thought of being “over the hill” was ridiculous.

He had actively sought out adventure, and knew from his experiences skydiving, roller-coasting, bobsledding, snowboarding, bicycling, surfing, bungee jumping, and all the other thrill seeking moments he had shared with himself, that the rush of gravitational acceleration was not some sort of impediment or obstacle to be avoided. He relished the fact that he was over the hill, because let’s face it.

The downhill was the fun part.

the need for speed

the need for speed