Pushing 40

A Snow Storm Moves in over Lake McDonald at Sunrise

Today I am thirty six years old. It’s a little strange to take this number in. When I was child I remember a sign my mother had up in her kitchen. It read, “Life begins at 40” and at the time 40 seemed like an impossible age to reach. It doesn’t seem so unreachable these days. In fact, it seems much nearer than I ever would have believed possible. But here I am. I have completed 36 years and just like that I am pushing 40. How exactly did this happen? I feel like I’m in one of those “I knew I shoulda taken that left turn at Alburquerque” moments.

Actually, mostly today, I’m just happy to be alive. Birthdays are inevitably a “taking stock” day. A day to look back, and tally up the pros and cons of life. And I’m one of the lucky ones because when I look back at all the places I have lived, all the people I have loved, and all the tremendous blessings of my life the day adds up to one of unparalleled gratitude. I am so thankful for the life I have been given. I am thankful for my family and my friends and my church and all the places I have called home. I am thankful for my job. My grandmother always said “Work is a blessing.” That is doubly true when fortunate enough to make a career of something you love. I am thankful for the coming spring and thankful for the last of snow (we got a few more inches on Saturday night and of course, I got snowed on this morning. Sigh) I am thankful for the life I am building here in Montana. And I am thankful that I am still able to see a world of possibilities ahead of me. Good things are yet to come. I am certain of it.

People have been asking me how I will celebrate the day. For me, celebrating almost always involves photographic documentation. When I have been fortunate enough to live in close proximity to a national park I like to make my birthday a day for sunrise expeditions. This started in Arizona with the Grand Canyon. I continued it in Maryland with Great Falls. And now that I live here, today was my second trek of the year up into Glacier National Park. I didn’t really have  sun rising shot. Too many clouds obscured the skies and even the tops of the mountains. But fortunately for me, there is more worth looking at than just mountains.

Drift Wood Frame

I woke up a little after 3 a.m. and got ready then headed up to Lake McDonald Lodge. That’s only 9 or 10 miles into the park, but at this time of year that’s as far in as the roads are plowed. The park roads won’t be completely snow-free until the end of June, maybe early July. When I got to the park I was a bit disappointed about the clouds, but I then had to remind myself, the photos are an added bonus, the point of being there is just to be there. To celebrate the day of my birth and to give thanks for my life.

So that is what I did. I wandered around the edge of the lake for as long as I could, enjoying the soft blue cast of the light and the softness of the early morning. And then when I remembered I needed to pay attention to the time, I ran back to my Jeep to get back to Kalispell in time for a 9:30 a.m. assignment. This is an assignment I scheduled (not smart on my part). I made it back in time and I even turned in the photo at the top of the page as a “weather feature” for the Inter Lake.

So Glacier is the first thing I did to celebrate. The second part of making my day special has to do with that which is forbidden. I have a wonderful little deli and chocolate shop here called Gresko’s. They make gluten-free peanut butter cookies with chocolate sauce. I am so not supposed to have these things. But you have to cheat every once in a while. Or at least, that is the excuse I use to  justify my behavior to myself. And so for my birthday, I bought a couple of “Chocolate Bobbies”. YUM.

The last part of celebrating my birthday I am taking care of now — sharing my joy with those I love. Today when I got home from work I had the best surprise for me. Dozens of emails. At first I was thinking something was wrong. Like some spammer had gotten hold of my email or some such nonsense. Nope. Not spam. Facebook. Wonderful, wonderful family and friends from all over took the time to write me a note for my birthday. And I want to say thank you to all those people. You are each a blessing in my life and I am grateful for you. It’s the people we love that make all the difference. That’s the reason I can sit here tonight, taking stock of my life, and thinking…Pushing 40…yeah…I’m ok with that.

Love to you all.

The Parting Shot