(How did I get so old so fast? One day you're nursing a hangover and the next you're in a nursing home.) ~ Me all the time
Over the final few months of the past decade and the first few weeks of 2020, - which incidentally, marks the start of the second half of a century for me - I've been reflecting on time.
Manbear and I recently bought a half acre of our own on which to plant the dream seeds of our future. We are comfy and cozy in a little home on a southern Gulf Island, happily huddled during a Wet Coast winter on a little piece of personal paradise. He loves me, and I love him. It’s that simple and that perfect. My life is small but full. And I have a fabulous support system which allows me to venture deep into the 4s's - some serious soul searching.
I’ve been making changes that can’t be seen.
Going back to school at the age of 49 has been rewarding and degrading, challenging and elevating, a pleasure and an obligation. I highly recommend it.
Delving into a health care system career has been like getting smacked in the face with the meaning of ‘quality of life’. Getting old is inevitable, but that doesn't make it easy. There’s nothing like giving care to older people, at the end of their lives, to really force you to consider your own mortality. To seriously rank what's important. For me, its:
Not necessarily in that order....
I’m going to be turning 50 in a few months. It’s surreal. All the cliches are true. You always feel younger than you are, and the decades become blurred. Imagine driving down the highway until you exceed the speed of light and suddenly 30 years go by like a flash, faster than a summer fling with your first love. And then here you are. Phased out and irrelevant to the masses. It’s a trip, suddenly realizing that you are out of touch, flipping through the Urban Dictionary to get the current lingo...
The people I’m giving care to, for the most part, only have a vague idea at best of what the Internet is, let alone what slang “the kids these days” are using. Getting old means becoming irrelevant. It’s sad, and it’s true. But what’s sadder is that you won’t know it’s happening until its too late. We all coulda been a contender. But most of us won’t be.
What I’ve gleaned from this experience is that what is truly important is the simple things. Family, for instance, chosen or by birth, is one of the real treasures in life. That connection, the comfort in being understood and loved, flaws and all, is worth more than gold. More than immortality. More than self.
Recently, on a cool, crisp October night, my parents, Manbear and I stumbled through the dark into an old orchard with candles, a vintage typewriter, wine and happy hearts. Our artist brains all a-lit, we set out to create an image that could capture the vibe of Night Forest Press. We got down on the ground and up on the tips of our toes. We moved light to set moods. It felt right and we went with it. This shot is one of the delights from that night. The howls of laughter and full bellies made it a special collaboration. (Official credit to the DarlingBairdWoods Clan!)
And so here I am, content in my small life, still having little adventures, still contributing in my own way to art and culture, still asking questions. But now I know that my life and my connections are the most important art I’ll ever make.
By Joelle Baird