What makes one beautiful at any age? I’ll tell you it isn’t creams or serums or injectables or clothes or jewelry or even good genes.
Meet one of my best friends, a bit incognito . . .
Still a beauty at 65, she’s ten years older than I, plus four days, this friend-gift of mine. She’s beautiful because she’s loving, forgiving, and thoroughly real. No pretense with her! She may be slowing just a bit physically but she’s still growing stronger spiritually. People like her are downright contagious!
We met ten years ago when my husband and I moved to the country with our kids, intent on building a horse farm. She drove her green pickup from her farm to ours, which is at least 35 acres around here. She tells me with a laugh that she wanted to meet our horses first and us second. I think she’s slightly serious.
Indeed, my dear friend is a horse nut, having grown up on a local farm, riding her horse all over town, often without a saddle. Me?
I grew up in an Ohio subdivision, lived for years in downtown Chicago, traveled a good portion of the world, and ventured into horses later in life—age 44 to be exact. With lots of lessons and quite a few books, I’ve become pretty proficient at keeping and riding our four horses in arenas and on trails.
So here we are, in our older years, experiencing this great gift of friendship. We share our real. We know our weaknesses and make them known. We laugh about them which helps keep us from taking ourselves too seriously. We appreciate our strengths and love to learn from each other.
When times are tough, we listen closely and pray for each other, recognizing that listening with care is usually better than advising unless advice is sought.
And we serve each other. Like when we care for each other’s horses when one is away, picking stall manure, and emptying heavy wheelbarrows. You know you’ve found a great friend when you’re each willing to deal with each other’s crap and help turn it into something productive, even life-enhancing, and then share the fruit (and veggies) grown.
So we decided to share a favorite place yesterday that we’ve never shared together. We got out of Dodge, so to speak. Our destination? Door County, the thumb of Wisconsin jutting out, separating waters of Lake Michigan to the east and Green Bay to the west, just a few hours north of us.
She has been coming to Door County for eons, it seems. Same with me. Except she usually comes in the summer or fall. I usually come in the winter. She comes with her sisters and mother. I come with my husband and sometimes another couple. She and her sisters stay in Egg Harbor. My husband and I stay in Fish Creek. She and her sisters shop up and down the peninsula. My husband and I cross-country ski or hike in the park. She’s used to seeing Door County buzzing with tourists. I’m used to seeing Door County quiet with locals. She finds all businesses open. I find most businesses closed.
So this trip, Jane Wayne (the nickname my husband “John Wayne” gave her. I’m Annie Oakley.) gets to experience Door County my way and I’m delighted to watch the wonder of her discovering new in the old. And this is what keeps you young and beautiful—always discovering new in the old and sensing the wonder that comes with every discovery. It’s like watching someone you love open a present they thought they were getting only to discover it’s entirely different and especially marvelous.
In all her trips to Door County, “Jane” had never hiked through Peninsula State Park, never seen the cedar’s roots anchored on the sandstone bluffs, trunks leaning near-horizontal, stretching over the water. She hadn’t seen the islands or the cattails or the curve of the all the inlets.
So we walked the road circling the park and meandered off on some bay-hugging trails. We stopped at a bench to read the inscription.
“Oh my lands! I know this couple!”
She thought I was kidding.
“I mean it! I know this couple! They are the parents of John who does the fireworks show on our beach every Fourth of July.”
We sat on another bench looking out over still frozen waters.
We talked about different life stages—seasons—our many life phases.
We’re both not ready to quit squeezing as much out of life as we can, not wanting to waste a bit of the gift we’ve been given, not wanting to stop growing.
But so many choices! How to decide?
We walked some more, ooo-ing and ahh-ing all the glory we saw like moss on logs and mallards on melting ice and the pileated woodpecker who flew overhead. We talked about her horse schemes and my writing dreams.
We agreed that life is grand if you don’t weaken—my grandma’s motto.
There’s joy and hope and eagerness for tomorrow, no matter your age, if you maintain a generally positive, grateful attitude.
And these aging bodies? We intend to keep them in good shape so we can keep riding horses for twenty more years and keep taking hikes through this sort of wonder.
But there’s also this realization I blurted . . .
“It sucks that our bodies are decaying while we’re still living!”
We laughed loud, squealing like country pigs.
And then we wondered aloud why people are called old farts after one of us—not saying which one—let one loose just because we were in the woods and there was no one else around and we’re really good friends. So why are people of age called old farts?
Hemorrhoids, she said.
Old sphincters, I said.
We laughed hard again. I mean, it’s just our bodies! Can’t we talk about them, listen to all the various noises they make, laugh about them? Laughter is good for the soul—the gut—and I’ll bet even the skin!
Bottom line—I’m 55. She’s 65. We’re loosening up a lot, in a lot of different ways, and it feels great!
We’ll turn another number in July and August, she and I, respectively, a couple of still-quacking ducks. We’ll celebrate each other and our aging, sometimes aching bodies still housing these young and vibrant souls. We vow not to let our zest for life wane. We vow to keep our bodies as fit as possible so we can still do as much as possible. She plans on hoisting herself into her horse’s saddle for 20 more years. Me too! And we’ll ride off into the sunset of life, Jane Wayne and Annie Oakley, still eager for some new experience, some fresh perspective, some silly reason to laugh, where ever our trails might take us, all the rest of our lives.