I’ve just turned sixty, and I’ve developed an unexpected sensitivity.
I wish I could say that I am now able to detect cosmic messages in twigs fallen on the lawn. Wouldn’t that be fun?
No, although somewhat mystifying, this is a sensitivity to certain phrases about age.
When I say, “I’ve just turned sixty,” to someone who is, maybe, sixty-seven or eighty-two, I’m aware of how ridiculously young sixty sounds. It’s a bit like being an initiate to a club that meets in a mythical garden.
In the other ear, when someone thirty-six or fifty-five sheepishly refers to herself as a late bloomer, I sense a pulsation between us. Call it what you will. Call it angst. Call it unsettled. Call it compelled.
There is something calling. Some dream. Some potential. Maybe greatness. Who knows?
Take it from a kindred “latester.” In pursuit of authenticity, I writhed like an unpoled beanstalk through adulthood.
Ten years after I left college, for a homesteader’s life in Northern Minnesota, one of my former professors convinced me to earn the final credit for my diploma. The only thing I ever propagated from it was entry to grad school.
Oh, I know! I’ll become an art therapist.
At thirty-seven I finished the master’s degree. Still, I didn’t cultivate a field, let alone a sensible career.
I woke up one morning and wanted to garden. I was forty-seven and starting a gardening business. Despite success, true ambition was blasted in the bud.
I wrote a book and never even looked for a publisher. I didn’t manage to have children. I didn’t buy my first home until I was fifty-seven. Without a windfall, I will never pay off the mortgage.
Then, I turned sixty.
I’ve just entered the final third of my life. The leaves are quickly falling from the calendar. I had expected to feel depressed, defeated, a sense of desperate urgency. Instead, I’m delighted.
Like a plant informed by day length and soil conditions, all the signals confirm: This is my time. This is my true shape, and these are my true colors. I was born to have creases in my face and hair the shades of ashy bark. I’ve been waiting my whole life for the person now in the mirror. So has the world.
Some years ago, I planted a clutch of Lilium speciosum alba. Since her first appearance, she has become the most anticipated bloom of every season. Her buds swell in September. Such a pure and fragrant pleasure, the later she opens, the better. And although she may flower for weeks, well into October, she is always complete before a freeze. Such is her wisdom.
All this time, she was saying to me, “Just wait. You’ll see.”
Now, I’ve turned sixty, I’ve developed an unexpected sensitivity. I hear her.
Cheryl Conklin provides mentoring, spiritual guidance, healing, and training for those who seek personal empowerment and authenticity. She is also a writer, public speaker, educator, and professional landscape gardener. Into her work, Cheryl brings a BA in English/Creative Writing from Macalester College, a Master of Science degree in Counseling from UW-Superior, training in PeerSpirit’s Circle Way, experience as a successful business owner, and more than forty years exploration and practice in the expressive arts.