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Turning 70


I’m sitting on lichen covered rock on the edge of a small gulf island off the coast of Vancouver Island. There’s a stiff breeze coming off the water. It’s early and chilly. This will be the longest day of the year. The cool reminds me that summer solstice marks the great turning back toward winter. Reminds me that light and dark are indivisible

After 9:39 this morning we will be heading inexorably in the direction of breath fog and boots. Geese in formation heading south. Grey days and rain.

But first will come the hot days of July and August – golden grasses; festivals; the harvest.

Today is my seventieth birthday.

Behind me, just back up from the rock ledge, the low murmur of morning greetings, a semicircle of small tents, the smell of the first coffee of the day. I’m here with five wise, accomplished and rambunctious aging women. We’ve been friends a long time, some, before babies. Our kids are close to thirty now. We camp together at least a couple of times a summer, reveling in each other’s company. Our conversations are revealing and immensely satisfying; our meals, feasts. We read and paint and walk alone or in twos and threes; roar with laughter and sometimes weep. This trip we are missing a few – one to a broken wrist, another to her art show, another to a progressive illness.

This seventieth birthday feels like a Big Deal, a demanding transformation. More than a slide – whups – there I went, late middle to old.

I’ve read that as men age they naturally turn inward, connect with their yin energies, the emotional empathetic aspect of their natures. Women on the other hand, this particular narrative goes, turn outward, leave home to pursue careers or tackle new adventures in the larger world.

Maybe this inner imperative I feel to grow, to be bigger, to step forward – be seen, step up, speak up, own who I am and share what I know – is part of a developmental thrust. The old woman, the crone emerging, is shaking off ancient fears, like a dog shakes free of water after a swim. I’ll burn. They won’t like me. I’ll be ostracized. Off they fly.

And so here I sit in the pause, the limbo, the unfamiliar. Late blooming.

Transitioning. Transforming.

Today is my birth day.