My mom died this past July. She was 86 years old (would have been 87 a bit later this month), and had chain-smoked most of her life from adolescence on, so her passing was not so much a surprise to us as was the fact that she had managed to live as long as she did. Fergus took this photo of me paddleboarding on the little lake near my mother’s retirement community while we were ‘back home’ in Michigan with my 4 sisters, awaiting the inevitable and filling the long summer days out on that water whenever possible.
When I first saw this shot, I thought of Dylan Thomas’ famous poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.” And I thought about how uncharacteristic it would have been for mom to “rage rage” against anything at all, least of all the dying of the light. It was not in her nature to fight or strive. Though I loved her, I have lived most of my own existence in purposeful opposition to my mother’s. We may ask ourselves what makes us seek adventure and want to push ourselves to try new things, learn new skills, grow to new proportions. In my case, a big part of the answer is that my mother never sought to do any of those things, and that fact has bothered me my entire life. I have never understood it.
The world’s big and I want to have good look at it before it gets dark.
When I read those words by John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, I thought, “Ah yes. That’s how I feel exactly.” The world is vast and amazing and there’s only so much time. I want to see and do as much as I can, and then some, before the dying of the light.