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Charlene waited patiently in line to pay for her cart full of this week’s groceries. She was looking forward to cooking the jumbo prawns for her own birthday meal—she was turning sixty-seven today. The number sounded so foreign and felt inappropriate. She tried to push away the resentment she felt, realizing she was responding to the number in the negative light society had illuminated it, which she worked hard to dispel. She looked around at the colorful demographics in the store and wondered how others felt wearing their age. “Does anyone ever really feel that their age truthfully represents them?” she asked herself as she examined the forty-something cashier, the twenty-something bagger and the thirty-something mother waiting behind her.
She looked down at the racks around her supporting bins of impulse purchase items and stacks of magazines donning faces of young high-profile individuals she did not recognize. The generation gap between her and the market for which they were targeted was palpable and she shrugged. She shifted her view to the glamor magazines proudly displaying trendy concepts of Photoshopped beauty and watched the faces of the other people gazing upon their slick covers with mixed emotions of awe and envy.
She defiantly threw a gardening magazine and roll of mints into her cart and proceeded to check out.
That early evening Charlene and her husband Max finished her lovingly prepared birthday dinner. It was a few hours yet until dark, so Max stood up from the table and held out his hand to Charlene. “Let me take you on a relaxing drive to watch the sunset.” “Hmm, sunset sounds like a morbid aging metaphor,” joked Charlene who rose with a smile gently accepting her husband’s hand.
They took a scenic drive to the top of Sherman Crest highway where they parked at a secluded lookout point. They exited the car and together stood looking over the vast valley floor. The wind gently blew across their foreheads and stroked their hair.
Charlene listened to the cries of the hawks and smiled at the descending sun now shining golden light upon their faces and pushing curious shadows towards their direction. She examined the cliff rock opposite her receding into the dusk and noticed its striations. “You have many years on you too,” she thought. She scanned the horizon and smiled at the beauty of the ages. Trees, more than one hundred years old stood magnificently, cliff faces wore their exposed sediment layers like striped badges of honor, boulders that took centuries to liberate themselves now peered at her from the bottom of the valley walls. Young life here valued the foundation of existence these Ancients provided them and everything coexisted with equal importance. The result was an energetic orchestral fanfare of rare majesty and it elevated her. Charlene felt gratitude for this gift on her birthday and she squeezed Max while quietly regarding the landscape with appreciation.
She felt cherished here. She felt vital again. She raised her hand to touch the wrinkles on her face and now felt prideful of their existence. Like the striations on a cliff or the rings of a tree, these were proof that she possessed value too, gained from the full life she lived and so they must, according to nature, be just as majestic.