Today is the 12th May 2015. My birthday. I am 53-years old and happy with that and would not have it otherwise.
This morning we woke early, walked to the shore and looked east over the lagoon beyond the reef and the seemingly boundless Pacific Ocean towards the rising sun. Behind us the island of Rarotonga rose in jagged, verdant pinnacles. This is a very good place to be for a middle-aged man – it is a pretty good place for anybody to be!
My birthdays don’t figure too highly on the calendar any more They swing around with remarkable regularity and, so it seems, increasing speed. The clock ticks ever onward and I realise that I am well into the second half of my three score years and ten. And that in itself is a good enough reason for celebration. I am a survivor! For 53-years I have weathered the procession of events that have dotted the timeline of my existence thus far. Illnesses have been few and far between but all have come and gone. No bones have been broken although various impacts on land and at sea have left their marks and I am not quite as ‘flexible’ as I used to be. Love too has hurt but not broken me. Fine foods, drinks and exotic substances have not overwhelmed me, perhaps temporarily at times, but not in permanence.
There have been a fair few moments when the scythe swung far too close. But never . . . . . that close! Brushing past with an icy caress as though to say “Nearly got you, take care, I’m never far away”. That carefree youthful flirtation with life and death seems a very distant memory now, the drumbeat has changed and I dance to a more cautious tune. Having survived so long perhaps one realises that one has used up a fair few ‘get out of jail’ cards.
I have been delighted recently to receive news from my Godson, a gorgeous suntanned hunk of healthiness who is in Indonesia surfing. That is in some small part my fault as, together with his father, I introduced him to the sport in the cooler waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The news from tropical Bali and Lombok is of a surfer’s dream, of glassy waves rising clean out of the depths to break in unbridled perfection, propelling the surfer across the face. I am so happy to read this as I too have ridden those magical waves and know the feeling so intensely as though it has been etched into my bones. I also read it with a sweet ache of regret and envy as I know that my days of surfing at that level are now well behind me. But who was it said, “It is better to have surfed, than to have never surfed at all”. Dylan, Zappa, Ashby?
But heck, I don’t want to make my birthday post a maudlin thing. Yesterday, for the first time Grace and I took to the water in a small sailboat. The owner, Ken, gave us a quick lesson in the lagoon and then without so much as a by-your-leave left us to it. After an initial piece of nautical lunacy we got the gist of it and soon the breeze was streaming across the sails and our broadly grinning smiles. It was perfect. One of a huge number of perfect moments I have enjoyed with this woman who shares my life and one I’d put pretty high in the charts. The water was as clear and as turquoise as water can be. The island rising in spiky green peaks behind us on one side and to the other the deep Pacific depths. Grace’s hand was on the tiller fine-tuning the angle of the boat so that the wind slid across the sheets as efficiently as she has managed the flow of events in my life for the last 12-years. This ‘Big Shake-up Trip’ of ours is going very well and we are fully in the swing of it now, meeting everything as it comes up with open arms and minds.
So, although I find that I am very much at peace with myself today there is just the faintest feeling of nostalgia for the glorious golden days of my youth. What person who enjoys life could possibly think that one is enough?