"let your boat of life be light, packed with only
what you need - a homely home and simple pleasures, someone to love and someone to love you,
enough to eat and enough to wear
and a little more than enough to drink:
for thirst is a dangerous thing"

Friday, 14 March 2014

no great loss, perhaps

Sometimes a traffic jam, a wrong turn and a change of plan can lead to unexpected pleasures and another life lesson.

A walk with Annie on the Green Belt in Constantia instead of Kirstenbosch on a clear, fresh March morning left us both with a good feeling about growing older.

Perhaps a Thursday morning is the day that the older (very old), retired men of Cape Town have off.  

The first man we spotted was some way up ahead and we commented on his slow and deliberate pace.  Can you see him?
We overtook him, said a friendly "hello" and commented on the lovely morning.  Then we left him for dust (or thought we did).  We walked a bit further, climbed some steps before we reached the road where we could admire the view and take some pictures.  As we turned around after our short stop, the deliberate, slow and friendly walker overtook us.  He told us (without slowing down) that he was continuing up the mountain.  My mind boggled because my legs were feeling it, how did he catch up to us so quickly and how was he going to climb the mountain? Then I remembered the story of the tortoise and the hare.  He told us that had left home early, Annie, in her motherly way, checked that he had enough water and he carried on, with his backpack, smart long pants and floppy hat, in his now distinctive, slow and deliberate way.  I am sure he had a wonderful day and made it to his destination (and safely back).  This is probably what he does every Thursday morning and has done every Thursday since he retired 22 years ago.

We made our way back.

On the same bridge we met a whole brigade of older men (OK, actually only four). 

All had proper walking sticks, backpacks and the required floppy hat. They were a sprightly bunch and managed a bit of flirting as they passed us by. The one chap stopped, told us that they had just had an "apple break" and that they had left home at 6.30. He was planning on bringing his wife for a walk when the flowers were blooming. "It is so beautiful then". Annie agreed and gave him a quick botany lesson, he thanked her and continued on at speed trying to catch up with his mates.

This time they left us for dust and ventured off the pathway and into the fields (maybe to have another "apple break").  I could imagine them, finishing their walk at around 11 that morning and heading to the Alphen Hotel for a few "toots".

Bantering with these old guys had me thinking of my grandad, the stories he used to tell and how in my twenties, I did not make enough time to spend with him and to really listen to him. Now I can listen to and make conversation with unknown, old men for ages and I really enjoy it and it makes me feel a bit sad.

How wonderful to be in your eighties and still be able to take mountain walks? How wonderful to still have friends to do it with?

I have family and friends facing health issues at the moment, I have friends who are having to adapt to retirement and relocation.  Michael is also at a crossroads and having to make and adapt to changes and all of these "next stages" in your life seem to bring new stresses.  I feel these stresses for them.

Then, early one fresh March Thursday morning, you see four old friends rambling through the Green Belt and it makes you realise that if you have friends, a certain level of fitness and an appreciation for the beauty that surrounds you, life is pretty awesome, no matter what your age (the carrot of the "toots" at 11 at the Alphen gave me a new spring in my step.  I have never been one for an "apple break"). 

“but one loses, as one grows older, something of the lightness of one's dreams; 
one begins to take life up in both hands, 
and to care more for the fruit than the flower, 
and that is no great loss 

W.B. Yeats, The Celtic Twilight: Faerie and Folklore

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