Notes From the Second Half of Life
The weather was warm like this when I moved to the new house. It was the end of June and New York looked like a coloring book, filled in. Green and lush and abundant. Rhododendrons in full bloom and bright pink peonies everywhere, bending outside the lines.
Alive, alive, alive.
I moved to the new house on the heels of finalizing my divorce. The kids, the dogs and I drove across the bridge from my real estate lawyer’s office, in the dead heat of the afternoon. Windows all the way down, radio all the way up.
I was gripping the key in my hand as I drove. This single, metal key on its own. No ring. No fanfare. You walk away from a burning building, across the desert with a juice box and a paper fan. You pray, you cry, you surrender. You sign where they tell you, over and over again. And then a key is suddenly, finally placed in your hand. A key to the biggest, scariest, most exciting thing you’ve ever owned on your own.
You’re cut loose, back into the world, to drive to a new address. You push your key into the lock and: Voila, the door opens. You’re taken in, like an orphan onto a generous lap. You’re shown the other side of despair - which is kindness, it turns out. Kindness and the means to start again.
The first night in the new house we slept on mattresses on the living room floor, like very tired campers at a campsite. We’d left all the furniture behind except for my upright piano, a rocking chair and a table lamp. Everything else would be replaced as we built our lives over again, from scratch.
In the morning I went to the grocery store for some essentials. The kids trailed behind me, negotiating hard, arguing that gummy bears are just as “essential”, actually, as paper towels.
On the way to the register I saw bouquets of fresh mint for sale. They were so fragrant and elegant sitting in their baskets. I lost myself for a moment, just standing there admiring them, forgetting completely the reality of my situation. Which was a plate-less, appliance-less kitchen and an empty, dirty house I had only just begun, in my shell shocked state of mind, to set right.
I picked up a bundle and added it to our cart nonetheless. Sometimes simple, lovely things that make no sense to your current circumstances, but make you feel that tiny pin prick of hope all the same, really are essential.
“Ohhh we can make mocktails!”, my daughter declared, noticing my purchase. And that’s exactly what we did that evening. After a long, hot day of scrubbing surfaces, deep cleaning old cupboards and hosing down window screens in the front yard, we cut open the bag of ice we'd picked up at the gas station, scooped some up into our plastic cups, poured lemonade and soda water and then added a fancy sprig of mint as the finishing touch.
As we walked out into the backyard, I stopped to take in the mass of tall weeds and wildflowers growing alongside our patio. I nearly dropped my drink lol-ing when I realized that the weeds were not weeds at all. They were stalk after stalk of fresh mint leaves. The same exact variety I’d just bought at the grocery store.
Life has always talked to me through metaphor. And that night at the new house was no exception. We make precious and scarce what is actually all around us. It’s always just a matter of opening the door and looking.
But even though the thing I had paid for was freely available to me, the original sprig in my plastic cup still held value. The same way anything which contains the power to make us feel something deeply holds value.
From the very beginning of the second half of my life, I have prioritized simple beauty. I have rarely gone a week without fresh flowers on my kitchen table. Even during the pandemic. I don’t like to compromise on this practice. Because simple, quiet, elegant beauty commands something from us. It ensures that we won’t move too fast this time and miss it. It beseeches us to slow down. To savor. It reminds us of how fleeting all of this is. How worthy our lives are, of our full attention.
Thank you for reading and wishing you a powerful start to the week ahead, with plenty of beauty sprinkled all around.
Till next time!