Ahead of me on the journey by a decade, friend, mentor and often guide Marchiene Rienstra told me the other day about an insight that came to her on one of her morning walks in Sedona. May this poem honor her insight, a way of passing it forward.
Life after Forty
That year I turned forty you turned sixteen, beginning
to show the curves of a womanly body, turning heads
whenever you walked by. You still do –
even after this blur of years has raced past both of us.
Now you are stepping into forty.
When I turned forty they told me I’d reached life’s peak,
reminded me to look back down the mountain, see
how far I’d come, what I’d done and didn’t do. Paths
I didn’t take – and why. I’d see wrong turns, dead ends and the path
that led me to the peak. Then, turning, start down the mountain’s
other side, heading home. All I’d learned would guide me.
I know better now at sixty-four.
There is no traveling down the mountain, the summit
is still ahead, the incline steeper not gentler.
The mountain greater than I imagined.
I may not still be near when you arrive at sixty-four,
so let me tell you now – a walking stick or someone close
to lean on can help keep your balance. You need to stop,
rest more often, the last leg to the summit will be rigorous.
You’ll find too, glancing back, what once loomed large
feels smaller, less important now. On some days
clouds still gather. But you’ll break through – see clear
blue again, feel the warm sun easing old aches.
Pay attention to eagles as you go. It’s not too late
to learn from them – they reach the summit soaring.
— for Nicole