These are the gentle years, beyond the rages of youth and the desperation of middle age, seasons of summer warmth, and skies so intensely blue that it hurts the eyes to gaze upon them. Only God and the artist Magritte could paint such skies and implant such peace on a softening day in July.
I was sitting on a bench in our garden, a half-acre spread that my wife has transformed into Eden, when it occurred to me how much I had changed over the years, and how we all change as time damps the fires of our anger and the ferocity that fuels our bravado.
Slideshow: 10 Beautiful Gardens in America
It was my 84th birthday, see, and I was watching two deer, a doe and her fawn, munching apples that had fallen from one of many fruit trees in our yard. We live in an area of the Santa Monica Mountains called Topanga, in a village-like setting that welcomes a presence of the fauna that claimed this land long before we arrived: deer, raccoons, possums, foxes, coyotes and maybe even a mountain lion or two.
I was remembering how at some point I would have driven the deer out with rocks and sticks and loud curses, denying them any of the fruit that lay on the ground. But I wasn’t raging against them on this day, absorbing instead the quiet tones of their nature as they lifted their heads occasionally to observe me for a moment through large, brown eyes and then continue their feast.
They too must have been aware of the gentle season that lay over the land, and realized instinctively that I had become an old man at age 84 without rage or weaponry, willing to tolerate other lives that intersected with my own.
I left the yard when the deer sauntered off, and as I entered the house I passed our antique piano in the hall. In a shoe box on top, curled up and sound asleep, lay our cat Ernie. He had been chased from that box a hundred times after breaking collectibles that surrounded it. But this time I didn’t chase him off. I moved the collectibles.
The deer will return to our garden and the cat to his box, and I will allow both because the gentle season is upon us and some things just don’t matter as much anymore.
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