Are Maturity and Seniority the same thing?

My 67th birthday has come and gone but not without some great company, food and wine. While I do not feel significantly different now than when I was 66 or 65 or 64, one does notice that there are differences. The markers that really surprised me have little to do with my mental, emotional  or physical health but much to do with what is around me-the people, the land, the home, the community. It is these arenas that I am most surprised by the passage of time. Mostly it has to do with trees. Many of my trees that I have cared for , that my kids and neighbors have played on, that have offered shade and starkness are showing their age. Some have gone beyond the pruning phases to the felling phase. Somehow it surprises me that I am outliving some trees.
My house which I love and which carries endless memories of Christmases, birthdays, family gatherings, interesting and controversial guests, loving relationships, big and small dogs and other pets and even memorial services is showing its age which should not be surprising yet its aging has surprised me. I had three lovely and each very different birthday  celebrations and in each there were young and old, family and friends, levity and observation. Each was very special and a joy to one who loves birthdays. My students at school shared in the events as many, in their own ways, gave me good wishes.
I want to close with a poem that was read at one gathering that captures…well you will see. (And I hope I am not violating anything using this poem.)


The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,
as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.
Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,
sthe address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.
It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.
No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Billy Collins


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