Monday, May 16, 2011

Getting Older, Staying Young

Sheri and Doss (right) on the Appalachian Trail
As older women go, my sister is fairly young. She turned 65 last month, and after pondering how to observe her birthday, she invited me and other women friends for a hike along a section of the Appalachian Trail in Connecticut.

We did the hike last weekend, a four-mile trek from Hoyt Road north to Bull’s Bridge. There were nine of us, ranging from 50-something to mid-70s. It was a great day for hiking: overcast and cool, but no rain. The muted sun made the emerging greenery more sumptuous, and we stopped for jack-in-the-pulpits, columbine and lavish displays of ferns.

Some of us faced challenges. My sister, Doss, has two artificial knees and is a breast cancer survivor. Our friend Susan has her own knees, but they don’t serve her well. Still, she gamely hiked to the top of Ten-Mile Hill and down again and discovered that her body did not let her down. Another friend, in her 60s, had never peed in the woods. This trip was her first time.

My big sister Doss has an old soul that stays young by looking for adventure (she’s been to the Ice Hotel in Sweden and followed Charles Darwin’s course in the Galapagos). But she also seeks out other points of view, listens to people’s stories, gives stuff away, finds new friends, and is willing to change her life when it’s necessary.

Not yet at the end of the trail
And whether you’re married to a younger man or not (she’s not), that willingness to reinvent is what draws people to you.

At the end of our hike, we ate lunch on a rock at the edge of the Housatonic River, near a covered bridge where George Washington had ridden. We celebrated with cupcakes. Then we asked a man to take a picture of all of us on the rock.  Prehistoric rock, historic bridge, not-so-old ladies.

When he had captured our smiles and went back to his wife and young children, we could hear his wife say this:  I hope I have that many friends to hike with when I’m that old. Indeed. 

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