When Ageism Kept Me at Home

There is a certain poignancy that arrives with autumn here in Minnesota. Autumn is on the edge of being an orphan in the flow of seasons here – the one that lies “in between.”

It arrives in between what we have loved and what we now begin to dread.

As we were all reminded this past Monday from shore to shore, autumn arrived in the space when day and night matched their hours. And again this year, we felt startled by the suddenness of it. At least in the North Country we did.

Autumn is beloved in these parts for its crunchy apples and orange fields of pumpkins; its cooler days and even cooler nights; its eventual first frost; its riot of color that streaks across the landscape week by week; its giving up its bounty in harvest.

In Minnesota, we throw ourselves wildly into this oh-so-brief time. Pulses quicken and determination begins to flex its muscles. There is no time to dawdle. There is only this reprieve. This “time before.” This last gasp.

Autumn is a poignant time in Minnesota because every one of us knows that this time is Nature’s apology for what is to come. It is the time of glory before winter. Yes, winter.

There. I’ve said it.

All of that was with me when I drove home last week from a meeting in the Twin Cities. The meeting had drained my spirit, but the day was brilliantly sunny and warm. It was a day to embrace the healing powers of fall. So I decided to go out of my way and take a longer route home. My favorite route. Down Highway 61, paralleling the Mississippi River and surrounded by enormous gray granite bluffs dotted with woods that are still dark green with foliage.

I chose the calming of my clanging spirit, and I was rewarded by grandeur and magnificence and color. And the heart rest that I craved.

In the portion of Highway 61 that I was traveling this day, the river isn’t close enough to the road to see it much. So when I got to Lake City, I stopped to sit by the waters of Lake Pepin, part of the landscape that is the Mighty Mississippi. I sat on a bench, soaking in the sun on a warm, humid afternoon. Water always heals, and it began its work and peace arrived.

I began to feel some regret that I hadn’t done more of this over the summer. “Why the heck haven’t I been doing this???!!!” Why, indeed?

I’d had lofty intentions back in May. A commitment to travel and soak in the feel and the look of southeastern Minnesota. I’d had a laudable start back in May when I did just that.

Then an unusual summer unfolded. Lower temperatures (yay!) were lovely, but even amid those, the daily tropical dew points did their work on me. I hate tropical! So I kept putting off making plans. No plans, no travel.

But the real thing was that I kept telling myself this narrative: “I’m getting too old to take chances on being out in weather like this. Heat stroke and stuff. I’ll wait until next week. There’s got to be a break soon. I’ll get out on the road then.”

Of course, that day never came. And I allowed myself to be duped into thinking that I could take the easy way out: blame old age!! Blame frailty!! Blame all those cautionary tales that say I’d better be careful ’cause who knows what will happen if I take a chance. I’m old, you know…

I know, I’m weak beyond understanding.

Autumn, though, gives me a second chance. That’s what I realized as I sat by the lake in mid-September. It gives me a new lease on my old age. Taking chances? Since when have I been averse to taking chances? Since I let my ageist crone sit in the front seat, that’s when!

Well, honey, you’re being replaced!

A crone I may be in calendar years, but this old gal is revving up her engines!

The leaves are turning and the air is growing more fresh and cool. A light sweater or sweat shirt will suffice for cover.

Time to visit that apple orchard. It’s been years!

Time to go sit or walk by the Mississippi as the woods turn yellow and orange and red.

Time to get my cords ready and my good walking shoes. And my Nordic walking poles!

Time to stay in touch with Arlen about riding the threshing machine for harvest.

Time to embrace this in-between time. Time to relish these poignant days while they are here.

“What do you want your old age to be?”

That is the question.

The answer?

“Everything little thing I can make it.”

And I’m very okay with that.


Photo: By me. The leaves were just turning on that day. My watercolor painting is advancing a bit, so I gave one a try…a leaf, still green, but with splotches of gold here and there. Fall in motion.