Sorting Time (On Turning 50)

Suzanne Linford

copyright 1993, all rights reserved
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A woman sits in a sunlit room sorting her life into baskets.

The baskets are handmade; each is uniquely different from the others.

Into one goes the memories of her early childhood, mixed in with the memories of her own children, now grown.

Sometimes she secretly thinks of them as children still,
Careful, because of how shiny and proud they are in their new adulthood.

She wonders where those soft, fluttery little beings went.
She can feel their skin still, and the smell of their fat baby feet.

Into another, goes the memories of her life as a young woman.
Her ignorant courage of the laws of Winter.
All the chance happenings that would work turnings in her life.

She sits in this room with the motes of dust floating on the sunlight and knows
That someplace,
Everything lives as it once did,
And that also, everything changes irrevocably.

She laughs at recalling things she once did and who she once was.
She also weeps, silently, and wishes she could go back and live out some small event she passed carelessly, now with grace and reverence.

The days were once so long.
It was difficult to know how quickly the years would pass.
And now she sees lines from her Mother’s and Grandmother’s faces in her own.

Memories of these women who made her are there too in her baskets.
Only now, here at sorting time, she is their age.
They are peers; and she begins yet another relationship with them.
Death is no barrier to that.

She used to notice the attempts women made to resist their fading: the makeup, the colored hair, the bright scarf, the cheerful tone of accommodation.
In her youthful assurance she dismissed them as "the other" women as remote from her young self as that interesting stone-aged people she read about in her anthropology class.

But not now. Less and less is "other" now.

At 50 she is eligible for membership in the midlife tribe of women.
In the morning light, she looks at a face only slightly familiar, searching for her 35 year old face which she feels from the inside.

There are many mysteries in this sorting room but
Regret is not among them. For those who are initiated well
By life, have no interest in going through youthful initiations again.

The most beautiful basket on the floor is directly in front of her.
As she sorts the bits of her earlier lives, her earlier selves, into the other baskets;
This one begins to fill with something new.

Rich and multi-colored, it is not only who she once was,
But who she is becoming.
The colors have been dyed and over dyed again, distilled from the most unlikely of experiences.

Once, she thought she chose everything.
Now she wonders, how did she even come to see her choices?
Why some? Why not others?
The biggest mystery is discernment itself and grace.

After 50 years of practice, she is ready for her best work.
The alchemy of combining spirit, heart, and soul.
It takes 50 years to become so rich, beyond all self-invention;
And freed by knowing
That all, ultimately, is gift.



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Susie Linford