Steeplechasing might not be your thing. My guess is, probably not. For Geoffrey Mason it was an integral, thrilling, close-to-essential part of his existence. In Silks by Dick Francis, Geoffrey is a lawyer by profession, but his true passion is putting on the silk uniform of a jockey and racing for life. At one point in the book (spoiler alert) he has a terrible fall during a race and suffers serious injuries which end his steeplechasing career. Mason muses: “Gone, abruptly and unexpectedly, were the days of excitement and adrenaline that I had coveted for so long. My racing days had been what I had lived for.”
For most people there comes a time in life when one must change gears . . . when one can no longer participate in some cherished activity. One of those things for me is alpine mountaineering. I entered the high world of glaciers and cliffs late in life (mid-50s being late for climbers) and found adrenaline-fueled joy and pleasure for twelve years. Summiting all the major peaks in the Cascade Mountain chain – plus many smaller mountains – brought me a sense of accomplishment and well-being. It all came to in inauspicious end with a total shoulder replacement. Without full strength, I could not endanger other members of a rope team traversing glaciers or scaling near-vertical cliffs. So I retired my crampons.
As eminently sad as giving up mountain climbing was, it did not ruin my life or obliterate my zest for living. It simply meant that, as a septuagenarian, parts of my focus needed to change. The long-time dream of writing novels was put into play. Gusto for motoring on two wheels – primarily big touring bikes – became a reality. In short, one chapter in the book of my life was completed and another one, or ones, begun. The day will come when those too will become memories. My motto is: Do What You Can While You Can.
Mandatory adjustments will, in fact, come. It behooves one to acknowledge such, the advance recognition of which will make the inevitable transitions smoother. We can’t beat Father Time, but we can accommodate him in ways that continue to make life well worth living.