It seemed significant to me that the millennium happened in my fifties. Maybe some people don't consider their fifties their mid-life, but I do. Unless they drink and smoke themselves to an early grave - which some of the finest of them did - people from my gene pool manage to live at least a hundred years, minds and bodies intact. I plan to be just like those long-lived relatives.

So, my fifties is truly the middle of my life. And the millennium is a time for me to cross a century.

How best to do that?

It seemed a big decision. I had faced the first half of my life with such eager anticipation; I really wanted to face the last half of my life with just as much joy. A healthy dose of arthritis was already warning me that going into the second half of my life might not be as comfortable as the first. But then, entering that first hadn't been so easy either. Born during my mother's sixth month of pregnancy in a little town where there were no incubators, I'd had to fight for life from the start. I guess there's always been a stubborn streak in me.

I had to admit, some things were wearing out, shutting down. I was past the age of bearing children or wearing mini skirts.

I would need a place to be that could ease the pain, physical and emotional, of aging, of letting some things go. To let go with grace is not an easy thing. At least it's not easy for me. I've always been what some have diplomatically called tenacious.

Though I wondered about it, of course, I continued to play out my life as I always did: working hard, teaching, writing, consulting and playing hard, going to movies with my daughter, going on long walks with my dogs, having wonderful dinners with my friends and every day, if I could, spending some time in my garden. And every weekend, if I could, spending a good chunk of time in my garden.

Gardening. It is a thing I've always done. It is a thing I've imagined would carry me in its loving arms into old age. It's a thing that soothes the soul when you're anguished, that feeds the imagination when you're stuck.

Gardens grow, change, develop, mature, are reborn. Gardens, forever young. Gardens, lasting for generations. Gardens, a part of your past, your present, your future.

Gardens, the promise of what was, what is, what will be. Like the little bird of paradise the answer landed on my shoulder when I wasn't looking. The answer had been there all along. I had been doing it all along.

Working in my garden. I guess I was, am, will always be, a gardener.

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