Turning Sixty

At fifty, my own life has not come
to much and my death sits in
a straight-back chair under a lilac bush
in the garden behind the house,
reading my old letters, waiting.
He is in no hurry to come knock
on the back door. There’s plenty to keep him

interested in the piles of my past
foolishness. Yours, too. On the other hand,
he has no intention of going
elsewhere, just wants to make sure
I notice him, every day, alert
in his straight-back chair.
   — Bill Holm

Next month, God willing, I turn sixty. Whereas in earlier decades, I dreamed of one day becoming someone of significance — of accomplishing some notable feat; of writing something of great worth —I no longer dream these things. Today I want only a low profile. Today my goals are minor; indeed my goals border on near insignificance.


Penstemon in the Sand Hills: Fertile, MN


The world is in a troubled state. Civil unrest and pandemic concerns dominate the news-cycle; fear and anger pulse beneath the surface of most social interactions. Uncertainty tinges decision-making. Crystal balls are in short-order. Tea leaves tell varying tales. Psychics fear lawsuits.


Waterlily: Rydell NWR, Erskine, MN


My situation could be far worse. I could live in a war zone. Bombs could be falling; bullets could be flying; my family could be starving. In comparison, my troubles are few: my uncertainty is more certain than uncertain; my uncertainty is more stable than unstable.

Next month I will turn sixty. My comfortable life is threatened emotionally, physically and mentally by current events. Anger and uncertainty threaten my inner peace throwing me — and my fellowman — off-balance, causing us appear to each other as enemies. Sometimes I feel the blood pulsing behind my temples; I am, in turns, sad and angry, frightened and infuriated. My world could be worse; even so, the state of the world seeps-in and tinges daily life with uncertainty.


Bald Eagle Protesting in Dead Cottonwood


I walked the Agassiz Recreational Trail trail Friday evening waving away mosquitoes, dodging dragonflies. I photographed Showy Lady’s Slippers and harebells, Indian Paintbrush and crown vetch. I took a photograph of myself learning to use my late father’s Canon AE-1 film camera. Walking the trail Friday evening, alone in my purpose, I thought about turning sixty next month. I thought about the uncertainty that is now the rule in my life. And then I let it go — all uncertainty — and continued down the trail.


Holm, Bill. “Playing Hayden for the Angel of Death.” The Chain Letter of the Soul: New and Selected Poems, 163. Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2009.




11 thoughts on “Turning Sixty

  1. Then it must be our turn to mail a cake! Beautiful photos and thoughtful musings. The world is in chaos, but one constant is that we all keep aging. Still, at sixty years young, you’re in much better shape than we are, running a minimum of four miles! We have much to learn. Take care!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. wonderful…enjoy the cooler breeze this fine Sunday…I intend to do likewise

    On Sun, Jun 21, 2020 at 11:07 AM Pennington Co Sect: 24 wrote:

    > penncosect24 posted: “At fifty, my own life has not come to much and my > death sits in a straight-back chair under a lilac bush in the garden behind > the house, reading my old letters, waiting. He is in no hurry to come knock > on the back door. There’s plenty to keep him interest” >


    1. Thank you, Wayne. Took a hike this afternoon and photographed my first wood lilies of the season. The (very) cool breeze kept off the mosquitoes, but did nothing to dissuade the woodticks. These are opportunists always looking for an opportunity. Today was a beautiful Father’s Day in NW MInnesota.


  3. I can only hope to write as well as you at 60. I too know this challenge. I am known by countless people, but to them, I am only a name on a byline and a fleeting one at that. I am both significant and cursed by obscurity. Perhaps there is happiness to be found between these extremes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Dawn! Love your blog — I especially loved your Great Blue Heron rookery shots from the 11 June 2020 post —https://dawnkinster.com/2020/06/11/bird-brained/ . From your writings, I can tell that the other side of sixty is super fine!


  4. A beautiful post Allyson… I especially love the Pink Lady Slippers. I read somewhere and it’s hard to imagine, how slowly they grow without producing their first flower for nearly 16 years. That’s amazing! Such a lovely discovery. Thank you for sharing the wonders of nature!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Kristi! The deep ditches of NW Minnesota are filled with Lady’s Slippers! It truly is an amazing sight. Each season serves up something astonishing! I come from Illinois, but NW Minnesota is certainly where I‘m most at home!!


  5. Your lovely and deeply thought-provoking post brought two memories to mind, Allyson. One was a book I read in my thirties when I was studying gerontology, “Oh, to be 50 again!” (Eda LeShan, 1988). I couldn’t imagine being 50 then, let alone more than two decades beyond that. Now, I’m grateful to be able look back and remember what mattered most during those many years, best captured in a poem that came to mind when reading your reflections about “success.” It’s a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson that my daughter shared with me many years ago, printed on a magnet. It’s been with me through many moves and careers and now graces yet another refrigerator covered with family photos and my granddaughter’s artwork.

    “What is success?
    “To laugh often and much,
    “to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children,
    “to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends,
    “to appreciate beauty,
    “to find the best in others,
    “to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition,
    “to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
    “This is to have succeeded!”
    (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

    Thank you for touching my life with kindness and for sharing the lyrical beauty of your deeply meaningful reflections and your exquisite photographs. I feel truly fortunate that we happened to meet and had an opportunity to share a lovely meal together. 💜

    Liked by 1 person

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