Travelogue: Western Oregon
Have you ever experienced a place as déjà-vu? As someplace you swear you’ve been at an earlier time?
With a birthday approaching, I’ve been thinking more about aging, and not in the I’m-turning-thirty-ha-ha-I-can’t-believe-it-let’s-go-out kind of birthday. I mean realizing you’re in the just over 50 range that comes with invisibility, so they say.
Other-worldliness, my favorite kind of epiphany, entered the room on a recent trip to Western Oregon. The scene: countryside between towns and small cities, sunshine and fluffy clouds, cool and damp winter days with bouts of rain.
In my wandering, I happened into a store in Eugene called Mountain Rose Herb Mercantile. Within a moment, I had a sense not of déjà-vu, but of myself as an old woman. I saw myself growing plants and concocting tinctures, healing remedies and teas, soaps and lotions, and studying books about the uses of herbs and herbal traditions. Then it was gone. I hung out for a long time, taking it all in, bought some tea and left.
Until my mid-40s, I’d assumed I’d die early not because I was morbid. I just couldn’t see how I could survive because everything felt intense and risky. (Putting myself in harm's way may have been a reason.) Maybe you get it. You reach a wall of disappointment over who you once were, the life you thought you’d live and didn’t. Maybe bitterness sets in, maybe not. Maybe you wrestle with it. You might buy expensive facial creams, change your hair, your diet, your workout, your friends, or drug yourself into forgetting trauma. Maybe quiet acceptance sets in or maybe you say, I don't give a [favorite expletive here]! Grit and not caring about the unimportant are gifts of getting older. One day, you realize you’re wasting precious time and decide not to give sadness one more minute of space. You're lucky, actually, and want to be of use. You bury old bones and sing over new ones to bring your new life into being, which takes time, as Clarissa Pinkola Estés says. One of them might take the form of a simple vision that lights up your eyes.
You might even decide to make a nest for the thing with feathers, again.
Photo: Marjorie Robertson