On Aging…

I’ve finally left age 38 behind, good riddance.  2020 was hardly in the running to be anyone’s favorite year.  Now I’m 39.  A much more pleasing number, but we all know what looms next. 

As I’ve been pondering aging, there have been a few incidences that pull my self-image one way or the other….aside from the obvious mirror, which shows my first grey hair and the deepening furrows between my brows (stop frowning, Molly!). 

Old #1: Milo turned 10 last week. 

In his typical ultra-confidence stance, he’s calling himself a “pre-adult.”  Whatever.  We all know he’s only half way to adulthood, at the most.  But still, he’s a decade old, and no one would term me a “young mother” anymore.

Young #1:  We went to Jellie Park, a Christchurch Council swimming pool, one recent hot day before school started.  So did half the moms and kids in Christchurch. 

I’ve never seen a public swimming place in NZ this busy before.

We all wore our swim suits to the pool to avoid the changing rooms, me in my new pink-lined speedo which recently replaced my old sagging togs.  I staked out a section of grass by spreading out our towels, and went to swim a couple laps while the kids did the hydroslides.  Milo gets cold easily, and I found him back on the towels warming in the sun.  He glanced up at me in surprise as I plunked myself down next to him. “Oh, I thought you were some teenager,” he exclaimed.  Having spent the morning in close observation of body types of all ages, I’ll take that as a compliment. 

Old#2: I recently hiked to Lake Morgan on the west coast, and my quads were sore for a week afterwards.  Either I’m less fit than I used to be, or my body’s recovery time is increasing with old age….or both. 

I went with two friends, Carrie and Julia, who are both experienced trampers.
Mt O’Shanessy is marked on the map at 1462; not that high, objectively, even when considering that we were starting from only 200m above sea level. Carrie looked at trip reports from Remote Huts and DOC, and we estimated that the route would take us 6ish hours on the first day (pink line) and maybe a bit longer on the second day (yellow line).
We forgot that our experience is mostly with relatively “well-formed” tracks, not a luxury that the west coast enjoys much of. In typical rugged west coast style, the rough track went straight up the hill, and we were careful to always be on the lookout for the elusive markers.
Once above the tree line the markers disappeared, but visibility was excellent across the grassy alpine zone. The tops travel wasn’t as effortless as it sometimes is, and we were relieved to catch a glimpse of the hut on our way up Mt O’Shanessy.
We quickly scuttled the plan of getting all the way to Cone Creek the first day, and enjoyed the warm late evening light at Lake Morgan hut while we ate dinner.
Next day we set out at 7:00, made our way up and over into the next catchment (this view is looking backwards to Mt O’Shanessy).
I took a few opportunities to rest my legs while trying to get an up close picture of the sundews. I don’t seem them catching many insects.
This view is looking back up towards the ridge we just crossed. The cairn is marking the start of a cut trail through the bush; Lake Morgan is on the other side of the ridge under the cloud.
Then down, down, DOWN a long steep unstable scree shoot to Cone Creek Hut. I had been looking forward to a friendly loose slide, but instead we got a quad-burning skittery descent through angular schist. 

Fun fact: “greywackle” is the grey sedimentary sandstone I’m familiar with from much of the southern alps.  When it is deeply buried and heated, greywacke is converted to a flaky rock called schist. The western side of the alps has been uplifted more than the east, so the deeper layers that contain schist are revealed there.

We spent the rest of the afternoon trudging out through spectacular forest whose floor was made up of large boulders (up, down, up, down!), along with some kilometers of river travel, finishing around 5:30.

“My legs aren’t too bad,” I stated, optimistically massaging my quads.  “It’s the down that gets me.”  Even as I said it, I remember my grandparents saying the same thing, a fact that as I child I found frankly implausible. 

Young#2:  One day recently I was rounding the corner to meet the kids on their way home from school. 

I reached out to give Naomi a hug and she punched her head into my stomach with some force.

“Hey, careful with your old mazzer!” I protested.  “You’re not old!” Naomi rejoined, exercising her appreciation for precision and love of contradiction at the same time.  

“Thanks, hun.”

Old#3:  Milo was reading his library book when he picked his head up and fired out what seemed like a random question:

“What’s a phonebook?” I paused, speechless for a moment, visions of the ubiquitous sagging yellow and white volumes that used to live in every home next to the….landline….which, come to think of it, have gone extinct in most homes nowadays.

“Back when I was a kid—in the days before the internet, and before we all had cell phones—we used to have a book that you could use to look up people’s phone numbers by their last name.”  Describing it that way, the phone book days seemed very very long ago.

“Could you tear on in half?” he asked, and suddenly I understood the context of the question in relation to the comic book.  “No, not me, they were massive.” 

Young #3:  Actually, I can’t think of one.  I suppose that puts me squarely in the middle of old and young.  Embrace middle-age, baby!

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