Last week I turned 60. It seems like a threshold, somehow. No longer middle-aged. No longer in late middle-age. Early old age? The golden years? I prefer to think of the years as quicksilver, because that’s how quickly they’ve passed. I looked away and they were gone. Or not gone but stored, accumulated.
My friend Liz, whom I’ve known almost as long as I’ve known John — she was a long-time colleague of his at Capilano College and a dear friend too; we were introduced a few months after I met John and that was in 1979… — gave me a fossil for my birthday. In June we’d been on a little road trip together, the three of us, and we stopped at Whipsaw Creek near Princeton where Liz had once had a cabin. She remembered gathering fossils there with her daughters (now mothers) and so we hoped to find a few. And yes, we did. I wrote about that here:
On that trip, I said I’d always hoped to find a fish fossil. We talked about the Eosalmo driftwoodensis, the genus of extinct salmon from the Eocene period, found at various sites in B.C., including Princeton. And bless her, she remembered my wish and she gave me this:
It’s not Eosalmo driftwoodensis but a little Knightia, or fossil herring, from Fossil Lake in the Green River Formation; the Formation itself is in Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah and Fossil Lake is in southwest Wyoming. Years ago our family travelled to the part of the world and it’s very beautiful. We visited museums where we saw fossil turtles, fish, plants that looked remarkably like their contemporary counterparts, with incredible detail due in part to the fine-grained nature of the limestone matrix they’re found within. And that year my children were young — 4, 6, and 8. I couldn’t have imagined the adults they’d become, the future lives they’d enter, crossing the threshold from childhood to adulthood with grace. I couldn’t have imagined that one day I’d be turning 60, with a precious granddaughter who will be 6 months old in 4 days. And her father will be 32 in a few weeks.
To everything there is a season, we’re told in Ecclesiastes (3:1). Where is the point from which we measure time? The formation of this tiny fish, 40-50 million years ago, or the fragment of leaf I found at Whipsaw Creek, from 33-56 million years ago, or my birth, or my children’s births, moments when I truly felt something new and unknown was beginning:
And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
— from Hamlet, Act 1