A so-called big birthday is looming and, as it approaches, I can’t help but notice augurs of change. I’m not superstitious, honestly, but some days it feels like the gods are dropping hints about aging — or, at least, like there is a clock ticking rather too loudly over my head.
Take the yoga class I’ve been part of for some 11 years at the home of friends: It is coming to an end, as our priorities begin to realign and our small group breaks up. Meanwhile, the interminable winter broke the rhythm of a regular, healthy walk that I’ve taken for years now with a buddy — and somehow we just haven’t been able to get back to it, now that the weather’s turned. I’ve done yoga long enough to be able do it on my own; and I certainly know how to lace up my walking shoes and head outdoors without company. But, well, it isn’t easy to teach an old dog new tricks.
Right around the time I will be celebrating my big birthday, a different kind of change will occur. The East Hampton Historical Society is going to take apart the old Edwards family barn behind my house, move all the old beams and boards across Main Street to the Mulford Farm, and reconstruct and restore it. We’re all pleased and grateful that the barn will be preserved and available for public use, but the lane I have lived on for decades is certainly never going to be the same. The illusion that we live in a rural place becomes harder and harder to maintain.
Change isn’t easy even when it has been chosen. Some might think that accepting change would come easier as we move along life’s trajectory, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
I was taken somewhat aback when a longtime friend whom I hadn’t seen in a more than a year, dropped by the office to ask for help recently. The effects of age notwithstanding, she is a beautiful woman, but I couldn’t help noticing how different she looks these days than she does in my mind’s eye. Proust explained my thoughts on seeing her after such a long time better than I could: “Time, which changes people, does not alter the image we have retained of them.” (Proust himself didn’t get close to the age I will be on that big birthday, so you might say he was prematurely wise.)
Ah, well. Instead of dwelling on the numbers, or obsessively observing the passage of personal time, my plan is to enjoy the distraction of the summer holidays as the season rolls along. First will come Memorial Day, with its traditional, simple parade on Main Street, and then Fourth of July, with fireworks and a picnic on the beach — both timeless rituals that we all love. Thank heavens some things never change.