By Molly Murfee
There is a time when we go walking, and we notice it has changed.
All of the sudden hillsides are striped with purple and gold asters, white umbrellas of yarrow. Eventually, the elegant nod of the purple vase gentian hugging close to the ground. The shrill, hot hum of grasshoppers in the yellowing grass.
It is a release, if even slight, of all the efforting that began in late June’s Summer Solstice to the middle of summer’s frenzied pace until this moment. Go! Go! Go! Do it now! Do it fast! The panic that occurs when it all starts to turn, and we’re ravenous for the green and the living after months buried underneath layers of white snow.
There is no more frantic quest every time the door opens to scour the meadows for the absolute most superlative blooms in our high-country backyard. They have already displayed their best. Most of them are past their prime, with a smattering of secret late blossoming pockets just to remind you – one last time – but which smell more of longing than promise. We’ve done it. And now we turn to fruit. Long stems wear matte jewels of seed pods shaped like exotic lanterns.
There is a settling in late summer. The sun’s tilt is just slightly over center to the golden side. I’m closing – just a few – of my windows at night. We can walk a little slower now. There are less people chasing us. There’s a little side saddle to our saunter.
At first, there is resistance. I’m not ready for asters. Not ready for the sunflower’s rays to droop like wet hair around its head, growing into seed. I need more color saturation. I didn’t. Get. Quite. Enough. I cling to the shocking pink tip of the fireweed as if driftwood in a storm. I hear an Elk bugle in the wetlands and pause mid-stride with my foot and heart still in the air - hoping it was the neighbor’s cattle. Smell that unmistakable earthy sweetness of leaves decaying, and shining yet vaporous memories.
The golden feeling starts to grow. Round. Plump. Like sweet strawberries warmed in the sun.
I turned 50 in May, passing through a portal that before I had only a vague hint of its existence. I spent the peak of summer, busy as the hummingbirds, revealing my winter’s child – the branding and the blog, the website and syndication packets. I was out there trying to bloom with the best of them. A culmination of years’ worth of planning and plotting, of hidden dreams and goals scrawled only to myself in the dark days of January.
Several years ago, the dawning of 50 began to occur to me. There is something to it. Something to pay attention to. And most of it, like the impending winter you smell on fall’s breeze, has to do with death.
There is no refuting it – at 50 you are in the exact middle of your life if you even live to be 100. It calls into question, “What have I accomplished?” And more to the point – what do I have left to do. Those “some day” things. The things you really want in your heart of hearts, but are always a distant vision just over the horizon.
I wanted the rest of my life to feel like and contain exactly what I envisioned, and to hold nothing I did not. How long would it take really to publish my book(s) and have them financially return to me? How long would it really take to carve out the inspired writer’s life I can taste, with nothing for me to do than fill pages with words and frolic in the hills?
Awhile, I figured, on all of it. I crawled out from under the blanket, dusted off my jeans, took a deep breath, and got to it.
What I didn’t know in the beginning, and what I’ve learned since in the process, is that when approached with intention, rather than fear, 50 is not a crisis, but an opportunity.
I began evaluating – what was making me unhappy, what needed to be released. I picked up on a subversive pattern of dilly-dallying. Accumulating by-lines with magazines I didn’t actually care about to strengthen my publications resume. Editing and copywriting and finding lots of other jobs to support my bill paying needs until my “real” writing could finally get off the ground.
I had subsequently bolstered myself with too much sensical work, too much rent-paying responsibilities that weren’t allowing any writing time at all. I needed to get rid of some, shift around others, get some of this weight off my back. Clear the path.
In its place I built the foundational steps to get me to my vision. I crafted a constant personal deadline, forcing me to write every week. A place to practice. Earth Muffin Memos was born.
“It feels egotistical,” I admitted to a friend, “Thinking I have something good enough to say out loud on paper that people should pay attention to.”
“A better word for it,” she replied, “Is confidence.”
I gained a pertinent impatience with my dilly-dallying and around-goal-dancing, waiting for that perfect moment to do that perfect thing. It takes a lot of consistent energy to be bold, like a firehose turned on full blast - to write the first chapter, to start the project, to speak up, and to keep doing it. It can feel exposed and raw. Exhilarating and exhausting.
Tick. Tick. Life is short. It is no longer on the horizon – it is now. Now we are good enough, smart enough, wise enough. We’ve gathered enough sunshine and rain, enough nutrients and grounding. It is time to put forth the ripe fruit of unharvested dreams, the culmination of all that has occurred and matured, and offer our unique bounty to the world.
Doing anything less than the ideal becomes intolerable.