It happens to me every year at this time. I get to be older by one. Soon I’ll have reached my Federico Fellini number, 8 ½, in terms of decades. There are times when it all feels surreal and I welcome the bizarre and berserk, but for the most part my feet remain on the ground, at the ready for buoyancy.
More and more do numbers mean less and less. Calendars are the supreme fiction. There were times in my thirties when I was in my sixties. My delayed adolescence happened mostly in my late forties and seems still to be happening. Maturation is devoutly to be ignored… unless it gets me a discount at the dry cleaner.
There was a time when Peggy was 21 and I was 9. It was 1942. The war was underway and there were few men around. I would have been of no use to her. Over the better part of a century I have become older than her (she). And then younger again. And then the same. And then who cares?
I could swear the vernal equinox use to be my birthday. But in recent years the calendar has proclaimed it to be the 20th. So I arrived the day after. Close enough to claim credit, since no one is around to fact-check, for the sun’s movement across the equator from the southern to northern hemisphere. Astrologically speaking, a language in which I have no fluency, I have lived my life on the cusp. Part ram (Aries), part fish (Pisces). I’ll settle for amphibian, half in, half out of water, and take my chances. Maybe the cusp has granted me a view from the bridge with an occasional glimpse into the beyond… or is it the abyss?
I consider myself a lucky guy. If life is a nearly indecipherable epic poem in which I met Peggy in mid-stanza, in the turn of the sonnet or in a prolonged heroic couplet. Her irrepressible spirit lifts me. Her unfathomable soul feeds mine.
We muse each other without trespassing on each other's inner world. Every mishegoss is mulch. Out of an unspoken knowing our intimacy grows. There is a mystery at the core I wish never to know.
Shakespeare has Jaques say in As You Like It, Every day we ripe and ripe and every day we rot and rot. It may well be true anatomically. Who knows what plots are being hatched by my entrails as well as my skin, hair, eyes and ears. All my body parts are original, nothing made in Hong Kong but all out of warranty. I’m aware of some rotting in the nerve center. In fact there is an occasional ripening in terms of what I seem to be hearing and seeing for the first time, an appreciation of what has been there all along.
In many ways I’m late to the party. It took me all these years to appreciate patterns in dead leaves, pods outside our window. New is getting lost inside a Coltrane solo and then being found. New is learning to cook crusted salmon. It is a smattering of Greek drama, learning the language of ballet, even the grace of umpires in anticipation on a baseball diamond. Though my eyesight may be failing and hearing is somewhat diminished, there is still what e.e. cummings felt in the leaping greenly spirit of trees / gay, great happening illimitably earth. / Now the ears of my ears are awake and the eyes of my eyes are opened.