I revisit this one picture to say first that this couple was beautiful and in love and really nice people and to elaborate that Joan told this currently living in different states couple that if they wanted to have kids, that not being anything they shared with us, it was time for them relationship-wise to "get going and knit this thing up." You can get away with that kind of honesty at a certain age and we're there. And she's right.
As women of a certain age we sit squarely in the middle of all that's going on in the lives of the people around us. Now maybe you don't agree, which is OK, but maybe you should come sit by me. Sandwiched still between our parents, our kids and their friends and our own friends, we have our fingers in every relationship pie. "Argh! Everybody out! I'm sick of you!" No? Just me? It's just that I realized this weekend that it's delightful being with young people now that I'm not young. I'm at the point where I'm looking forward to Opera in the Park. Middle age is good. License to chat up almost anybody, prod for personal information without seeming weird or seeming weird but still eliciting desired information, speak our minds, apologize blithely after speaking our minds too much, live without embarrassment and hopefully become more secure, more empowered and more forgiving with who we are than our younger selves were. We'll need all the strength we can muster going into the next decade I figure, so I'm enjoying the social power pole position while I have it. According to my mom, women at her age become invisible...and that's just not going to work for me.
And although my kids would be grossed out to know that I even looked, I must say we enjoyed the company of a couple adorable young men on this trip--in that sun kissed, REI, summer hipster, majoring in English and want to move to Costa Rica to paddle and teach after graduation sort of way--the kind of boys I never ran across in my youth or if I did I was too stupid to look. Mellow, fun, adorable, athletic and fit, chatty, facilitative, caring, nice to kids, nice to old folks, gentle and respectful of nature. But I'm no cougar. I like Coach Chip and his gray hair. But I can certainly appreciate beauty and look on behalf of daughters and their friends. Dutiful parent that I am, I'm a giver. I tried to sell both college aged guides to Olivia over the phone---she was flatly uninterested. "I don't like those kinds of guys, Mom."
Well, if she had any sense she would.... if only for one lovely summer.
Maybe it was the paddling. Even our old kayak guide, maybe our age, was a friendly, gentle and ruggedly blonde Paul Bunyan who loaded the kayaks on the top of the trailer barefoot and one-armed, as effortlessly as sticking empty shoeboxes in the top of a closet. Kinda turned a middle aged broad on and it wasn't just me. Hey, we take it where we can get it. A teacher by trade now a tutor at will, he's an explorer who works as needed to bankroll his paddling for days at a time around the Apostle Islands. He had a personality that warmed up with the day and a corny sense of humor that came out as the trip progressed and the group showed no signs of insurrection or idiocy, something that guides on Lake Superior don't appreciate when trying to keep people safe from their own ignorance on the lake. The wind can come up and swamp your kayak before you know it.
And it's always good times to listen to the Libertarian views of someone who lives off the grid for most of the year. "Don't get me started on health care," he said. He once lived in Madison back in the eighties but after a failed community organizing effort to prevent Monona Terrace from being built on Lake Monona I think he quite rightly saw the writing on the wall for the future of Madison's lakes--the big small city had become a small big city and with that came a lessening commitment to the city's natural water resources and a growing commitment to development. So he packed his canoe in finality and very literally paddled north to Lake Superior by river and lake to start a new chapter in his life. An inspirational story, to live with quiet conviction, seeking simplicity and personal freedom.
Unfortunately, I still have to run to Target for tiny teenage sports bras and hair accessories. My freedom will have to wait.