Portrait of the Artist as a Not-Quite-So-Young Man

The surprising thing about turning 50--which I don't officially do until 12:07 p.m. EST, but who's getting technical?--is how similar being 50 is to being most other ages I've been. I'll grant you, there are a few physical differences, some of which I'm being reminded of even as we speak, thanks to a vigorous session on the rowing machine Wednesday, but it's hard to see the line between 49 and 50 as any more starkly drawn than that between 39 and 40.

What does draw a line in one's life? Events, mainly. Getting married. Having a kid. Publishing a book. Seeing a new bird. Standing atop a new mountain. Hearing a new piece of music. I saw a fantastic art exhibit at the Renwick Gallery a few weekends ago. It was called "40 Under 40," and it featured the work of a variety of terrific artists below that age, one of whom, Shawn Smith, obligingly let me interview him for ALONG THOSE LINES. I'm going to remember that exhibit for the rest of my life; I will have a great deal of difficulty remembering how old I was when I saw it. But ironically, thanks to the Smithsonian's arbitrary line-drawing, I'm not going to have much trouble remembering how old the artists were.

So: today I turn 50, and that's really very cool, considering how long individual members of our species have historically lasted. But when it comes down to it, I suspect this birthday won't stick in my mind as a big marker. There are things in life that will--standing atop Rainbow Point in a snowy Bryce Canyon with my dad... posing for a photo with Kelly on the Isle of Skye ferry so that we could help a lone young traveler persuade his parents that he wasn't traveling Europe by himself... watching my brother sit with the newborn Ian in his lap, totally pole-axed by the concept of a nephew... watching Dixon riffing on Gene Wilder after a jellyfish sting and trying not to smile too obviously... hearing Mom singing "American Lullaby"... climbing drunkenly onto the train in Manchester for the long ride home...

There's a lot that goes into fifty years, to be sure. But it's the content of the glass, not the capacity, that seems more important to me when I raise it in appreciation.

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Happy birthday, everybody.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on March 1, 2013 9:43 AM.

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