An audio version of this post aired on CBC Radio’s weekend program, NXNW, on December 4, 2021. You can listen to it here.
Having waded out past the shoreline of seventy, I’m recognizing how the tides of desire and purpose yield to the gravitational pull of time and capacity.
What does purpose look and feel like, when you’re so close to the horizon of your life that you can reach out and caress it with your fingertips?
It isn’t urgency that calls me, nor the mirages of legacy, but rather a deep, abiding love for our beautiful, confused, suffering, playful, complex, exquisite world. That, and a desire to celebrate the miracles that unfold around me each day; to be part of the miracle — a gift of love to the world that I love.
So much love for bare-branched trees and flocks of geese flying south for the winter. For roaring winds and the murmur of rain. For the country of my birth, which imprinted its wild, tropical soul on mine; and the country whose serene beauty has sheltered me all of my adult life, and that will, when the time comes, usher me home.
Love and mortality. These days, both make their presence felt — gently, fiercely, exuberantly — with every breath. Sometimes they linger in the next room; other times they fill me with a radiance that leaves me breathless; vibrating with wonder, drenched in gratitude.
Surprisingly, I find no trace of fear here, though there are plenty of times when I wander around oblivious to the miracle of breath, to the grace that softens the world to a fine mist. Spirit has held my hand through the long journey from birth to now; it accompanies me — still — into this new terrain.
These days, love grows simultaneously more diffuse and more concentrated; distilled to its essence, powerful as the sun, gentle as moonlight.
The hierarchies of love that formed such distinct strata when I was younger have sifted and blended together like grains of sand. I can no longer distinguish between my love for my sons and my love for the pine needles that drift and swirl on eddying currents of air, then waft to the ground to become mulch and nourishment for the seeds that lie dormant there, awaiting spring’s arrival.
It’s an astonishing exploration, this enquiry into the nature of desire and purpose, as the river of my life spreads into the delta that will return it to the sea.
The ecology of desire has always included capacity. Having the means to fulfill desire delineates the field within which desire takes root and blossoms. My capacity for being — for embodying truth, vulnerability, humanity — increases as my physical capacity diminishes. For seventy years this miraculous body has radiated the creative power of my soul. Now, it seeks a gentler light, a more refined relationship with power, desire, purpose and capacity.
How about you? What stage of life are you entering now? How are you feeling, about your relationship with desire and purpose?