How Priorities Change

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For the past year, I've been worrying less about big things that might be little to me. So much so that I've blurted it out–in public.

When the no-see'ums were plowing my scalp to harvest survival for their posterity, I sought out the strongest bug-off compound I could find in my local drug store. A couple of 20-30-ish guys behind me, wearing 'Why haven't you brought me another beer?' T-shirts, searched the shelves for something less damning, any product without warnings of 'may cause testicular tumors or death.' I revealed rather bluntly, to myself as well as to them, that at 63, I was probably too old to die from insect repellent poisons.

Poison is a big issue, whether on the skin, ingested, or merely out there–in the air. But most poisons, including radiation from X-rays and other sources, are cumulative. One little shot, as the USDA and the FDA constantly insist, 'ain't gonna hurt you much.' It's the long-term exposure to asbestos or lead or aluminum or other heavy metals or GMO corn that kill you.

But I've digressed. I fingered the wound to see how much it still hurt…how sore are the edges of the gash. But the inflamed ridges are not the center of the problem.

The real loss in aging gracefully is not that you aren't going to die from sweeping up a packrat's nest without wearing a face mask, or that you don't wash your hands between filling your bird feeders and having breakfast.

No.

  • The loss is you will not likely become fluent in another language and especially not in both Spanish and ASL.
  • You will not go on an archaeological dig in the Holy Land or even in Puebloan America.
  • You will never write down all the wonderful trips you've taken, things you've seen and what you've experienced with your life mate.
  • You won't remember what you ordered at your favorite restaurant or whether you tried the spinach-kale version of it and liked it.

For me, possibly worst of all, is not remembering the names of the plants in my own yard. As I walk the streets and trails, I cannot help but mouth the names of what I see: Arizona juniper, Palmer's penstemon, blue flax, golden crownbeard, silverleaf nightshade (an invasive I should pull, but they're thorny and I have no gloves today).

I've expressed to people close to me that knowing flora and fauna names is like having friends all along the path. I tell the names to anyone brave enough to walk with me. Saying their names in my mind not only refreshes my memory but is a friendly Hello to these pals of mine, these buds on an journey we don't understand on planet Earth. Do I know why I am here any more than they do?

If I'm fortunate enough to be leading visitors on a path, I tell them everything I know about said plant: healing properties, signs of when the moon is ripe for amazing sex, anything that is real and true or amusing or humbling or funny that makes these plant friends.

This is what I love about my nature-friends. I'm introducing you, hoping you will love them, too.

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