Each morning I rise from bed, slowly, as is my habit, and sit quietly on the bed contemplating the day that looms before me. It is summer, and each day a pencil of morning sunlight shines its way across the room, illuminating a different spot on the west wall until one day it is gone and absence announces the change of seasons. Isis and Sammi (my dogs) arise, stretch their legs, and bring me a morning greeting.
I came to the North Country some twelve years ago. The Adirondack dome called me from the smog and congestion of my urban habitat to the cool breezes and whispering branches of its splendor. In years past I hiked the trails that stretch endlessly from peak to peak and through the heavily forested woods and valleys enjoying every minute of the billion year history that surrounded me. My step was firm then and my back easily bore the weight of a heavy pack loaded with everything I needed to exist for a few days.
The peaks are still there, still calling to me. We are both a little worse for wear. Many of the trails have eroded to rock, to stream beds where rain run-off has left stone where there used to be flat sod and still might be if we had followed the moccasin- soled footsteps of the Algonquians and Iroquois who walked these mountains hundreds of years before us.
As I moved through the forests birds sang to me. I watched beavers building a dam across a stream. Deer disappeared into the woods when I moved too quickly. A brown bear stood quietly, watching me hike the trail, knowing I meant him no harm. A porcupine licked my arm as I slept in a lean-to somewhere in these mountains. I was just a temporary intruder sharing their environment.
The air smells clean and fresh. The earth is fertile, nourished with the remains of my Native American ancestors. It is a gourmet feast for the senses.
Such memories daily flood my mind as I rise from bed. I sit quietly for a moment or two and enjoy them before I get going. I am no longer young and everything takes time.
The Adirondacks still beckon to me, visible to the South from my front porch. The trail is coming to an end. Slowly I walk among the trees and wildlife that I love so dearly, no longer the brisk step of my youth. My ashes will be scattered here one day to mingle with the sacred earth.
It is difficult living alone, but it would be more difficult living with strangers. Being alone has never bothered me. There has always been a dog to keep the house from being empty. Life is never simple and we all have a story to tell; perhaps this will encourage someone to tell theirs. Life is not meant to be easy. After years of struggling with job requirements, health problems, bad relationships, a car that won’t start, crowded subways, cold weather and other inconveniences things are simpler now. There is more time to write, to think, to create, and to listen to jazz.
Friends are important. Some have been left behind in my travels and others have left me behind in one way or another. But all remain part of my present. Some I keep in touch with through the use of modern-day technology like email. Facebook, and telephone. Others keep in closer touch and we speak regularly as if we were still living within driving distance. I miss them all as much as I enjoy the company of new friends found here in the North Country. Friends are as important to living as food and shelter.
The day grows older, as do I. Life-giving sun makes its way across the sky sending the shadows scurrying from one side of the environment to the other. My body requires an afternoon nap to give me energy enough to prepare my evening meal. It is important to do for myself even though it is not as easy as it used to be. Friends help when I need them.
I have lived on this earth for eighty-three years this week and I still celebrate the pleasure of living and plan to do so until the light goes out and the door is closed.