Chilly doesn’t begin to describe the crystal sharp frigidity … the cold knife blade line of the eastern horizon this January morning. I think of walking to my car shortly, and the ice on our walkway. The word treacherous comes to mind.
That’s not a word I’d have used to describe ice a decade ago. As I age, I find that landscapes I used to traverse thoughtlessly now appear more hazard-strewn. Choices factor in possible consequences in ways that they never used to … and I am aware of my vulnerability in new and growing ways. My relationship with the world is always evolving, I guess – but there are points where the change seems to suddenly cross a line – enter a new phase. I think this is one o those points.
Maybe it’s more obvious in winter. Gentler seasons don’t present the same challenges, so our changes are less obvious. What I find fascinating are the perceptual changes that seem to take place as one ages. These seem quite separate from (although linked to) the physical changes.
It’s a perceptual change that calls the ice treacherous – nothing about the ice is actually different after 50 years. And it’s a perceptual change that sees the hill we live on as steeper than it used to be. The hill hasn’t changed. But my very real experience of it has changed.
It’s kind of mind-boggling, if you pause and think about it. Everything really looks and feels different – but everything is really the same. (If this happened fast – rather than over the course of decades – it would be an hallucinogenic experience!)
Unhappily, I’m out of blogging time here and need to go teeter across the treacherous ice. I’ll end with an apt piece from today’s Writer’s Almanac – by the late, great Grace Paley … and add the important note that I do not wear (or possess) pointy shoes! 😉
by Grace Paley
Old men and women walk by my window
they’re frightened it’s icy wintertime
they take small steps they’re looking
at their feet they’re glad to be
going they hate
sometimes the women wear heels why
do they do this the old women’s
heads are bent they see their shoes
which are often pointy these shoes
were made for crossed legs in the
sometimes the old men
walk a dog the dog moves too fast
the man stands still the dog stands
still the smells come to the dog
floating from the square earth of the
plane tree from the tires of cars
at rest all this interesting life
and adventure comes to the waiting dog
the man doesn’t know this the street
is too icy old women in pointy shoes
and high heels pass him their necks
in fur collars bent their eyes watch
their small slippery feet