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Doc on the dirt road outside the Seaman's Club, Rio Haina,
Dominican Republic, October 1997


On Getting Older

He loved to watch the sun set over their orchard. The last rays colored the clouds a brilliant red giving the specter of the heavens on fire while to the east the bright blue of the sky faded to darkness and the first stars begun to herald the start of night. This was his favorite time of day because as the day summed up all its parts and faded into darkness, he too would let his mind run through the parts of this waning day, this waning life, and he felt a strange contentment.

He looked over at his wife and companion of many years, sitting nearby in her nearly identical chair and who too was watching their orchard, and sometimes tears would come to his eyes and he would get up, for no reason, and walk over and kiss her, because he loved her more than anything in his life. She would smile as he again sat down and let his mind wander over this day, this week, this month, this lifetime.

He was so proud of their orchard which the two of them, in their youth and enthusiasm and naiveté, had planted years ago. It was not a large orchard but the few trees mostly were well rooted to the earth and their trunks were strong and their branches reached to the sky, strong, healthy and full of life. When the trees were young, he remembered the care the two of them gave to them, for as the trees grew their roots, and their trunks were thin and fragile and their branches just beginning to reach, they required constant watering and feeding and occasionally trimming. And they nurtured them and loved them and over the years watched them take hold until they reached their maturity of today. And they took such pride in the first leaves, and the first blossoms and they had joy as the branches grew and started to reach outward.

Yes, he had much to be thankful for. His wife seemed happy, their existence was comfortable, their abode was well built and secure and their wonderful orchard was now mature and strong and able to flourish with just the rains from the skies and the heat of the sun's rays. They from time to time would add fertilizer out of love and the desire to see the orchard grow even stronger, and this would add to their contentment. And they reveled in the fruits of their orchard for not only were these the fruits of procreation, whose own seeds would grow future orchards, but they were the fruits of wisdom and humor and compassion for other living things and knowledge and high spiritedness and ambition which, in their own ways, would help nurture future orchards.

But amongst this plenitude he had a strange melancholy. For when he looked at their orchard he couldn't help think of his youth and the joy he took in planting the seeds which led to this orchard. He remembers the pure physical pleasure he took in planting his seeds. How, in his various travels, he would spot a distant field whose grasses would shimmer in the wind like the hairs on a young maiden's breast. And he would want to plant his seeds in that field. He relished the enjoyment of making his journey up the pathway to the distant field. Sometimes he would have to climb steep walls or ford deep and wide streams to attain his goal, but he was young and easily able to scale the walls and cross the streams. And once in the field of his desires, he would luxuriate in the feel of the grasses as they caressed his body, as they gently undulated in the warm breezes. And each field had its own smell and sensation to the touch. Each was unique in what it had to offer to his senses. And when it was time to plant his seed, he would rend the earth with his strong tool and his enjoyment would come from the feel of his strong, supple muscles as they easily stretched and pulled and guided his tool into the rich, warm, moist earth and the sweat which covered his own body would mix with that of the open earth and when finally he planted his seed he would experience an euphoria and become overcome with sensation and joy and unadulterated pleasure.

As his youth passed into adulthood he met the woman who would become his wife and companion and lover and he stayed home and between the two of them they started their own orchard. They together rent the earth and when he planted his seeds, they took and eventually matured into the strong, well formed trees which now they both take such pleasure in watching. But over the years as his muscles became less supple and stretching and pulling each day became more difficult he still yearned for the wanderlust of his youth, for in his mind's eye he still had the reach and fancy of a young man even though his body no longer was strong and his tool had dulled. Now as he traveled he still in the distance saw the fields of young, undulating grasses and he yearned to again let the warm breezes and caressing field hairs engulf his body. But now he had his own orchard to enjoy with his own wife and companion and the dream of rending the distant earth faded. From time to time however, when he came across a beautiful field and the wall was low and the stream was shallow he would walk across to the middle of the field, lie down among the swaying grasses and simply let the breezes overcome him, for the smell of the earth had not changed and while his ability to enjoy all the sensations had dulled he still was able to recapture some of the excitement and pleasure of his youth.

So as he sits with his wife and watches their orchard as the daylight fades into night he still knows that there are some distant fields as well as other sensations, many of lesser pleasures, which remain for him to enjoy. He is optimistic about the evening and the coming days and wants nothing more than to walk hand and hand with his wife and companion through their orchard and to whatever the new day brings and from time to time, as they both pass a distant field of swaying, warm, sweet smelling grasses, his eyes shine bright for a moment as he lingers momentarily on past pleasures, for the past was good but the future beams bright and he still is in love.

October 16, 1997

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