“What are you looking forward to this year?”
That’s a darn good question, actually.
I remember when my family and I moved much closer to my parents, after a period of some eight years’ distance from them, and how horrified I was at my mother’s insular outlook. For instance, even though she loved to read, she didn’t have a library card. She rarely drove more than twenty miles from home, and that always by main roads; she had no idea of alternate routes, and was so impressed that I did. She was utterly amazed that I could find my way with relative ease around the nearest “big city” (Portsmouth), which isn’t actually much bigger than anyplace nearby.
Fast-forward 25 years. I’m now in the place where she was, mid-sixties, and I see my own world shrinking. I haven’t been to downtown Portsmouth in many years. I have a library card, but rarely use it, preferring to buy my books. We go to bed at an hour when, decades earlier, we’d just be leaving for a night on the town. Sad but true: You do slow down as you get older, and it doesn’t matter how fit you keep yourself: My husband, who runs eight miles a day (except in howling blizzards, like today), is just as whacked-out as I am at 9:00 p.m.
Other people my age look forward to travel, to having the leisure to investigate “places with strange-sounding names,” as the old song went, and I wouldn’t mind doing that myself, except for one minor matter: I hate to fly. The TSA hasn’t helped my opinion of flying at all, nor has my husband, who has flown a great deal more than I have (business trips), and also hates flying. As I’ve said more than once, check back with me if Russia ever gets around to putting in that rail line across the Bering Sea.
Nor am I particularly interested in seeing anyplace in particular in the USA, although if I could persuade my husband to visit the Pacific NorthWest, I’d be interested to see that — also San Francisco, where the relics of St. John of San Francisco reside, and the Hermitage of the Holy Cross in Wayne, WV, where one of my very favorite former priests lives (former only because he was elevated to Bishop some years ago, thus depriving a lot of people of just over-the-top spiritual counsel).
I would look forward to the Summer School of Liturgical Music a whole lot more if every visit there, of late, hadn’t resulted in my breaking bones or putting muscles out of whack or other completely off-the-wall health-related issues that don’t affect anybody younger than I am.
So, rather than titling this post “Looking Forward,” I called it “Looking Around” — forward, backward, up, down, and all around. Because now that I’m well on the way to downright Old, what I look forward to most is living quietly and observing the world around me:
How the winter sunrise so closely resembles the winter sky in Surikov’s painting, Boyarina Morozova.
How birds build their nests and find food.
How the Common downtown will look tomorrow, now that we finally have a decent snowfall.
And always, I look forward to worship at my little church, St. Xenia of St. Petersburg in Methuen, Massachusetts, and a lot of very wonderful people — it truly is a taste of heaven on earth. Not a bad thing to look forward to at all.