I'm at an age, between 60 and 70, when mortality, which has been walking quietly behind me all my life, has moved a bit closer and occasionally taps me on the shoulder. It's harder to ignore her, what with the crackling knees, aching back, crosshatch of wrinkles that slowly assert themselves. But most mornings, I drive 5 minutes to a small, wild park – just a set of mown paths through a rolling meadow down to a pond, an oak and hickory woods, a marsh. As I amble with my camera beneath the walnut trees, or allow my eyes to slip across the soft grass swaying with wildflowers, I can, for a short time anyway, stop caring about my own demise. With care and luck, the trees will continue on, whispering their leaf talk for 5 months and sleeping for six. The black-eyed Susans and daisies will rise each summer to stare wide-eyed into the sky. The wood duck will glide again and again across the pond with tiny grey puffballs churning along behind her. Some other explorer will come face to face with the hilarious visage of an orange butterfly as it probes for a drink on the topknot of a thistle or spot a jaunty katydid glancing her way before ascending a cattail. And all of that comforts me somehow. I feel mortality over my shoulder there too, of course, but in those moments, I greet her – not warmly but with no rancor. For just a moment, she pauses and then we move on, until she decides to open the door.
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