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Climb more mountains and swim more rivers...
A couple of weeks ago I promised you tree climbing… but let’s go back a few years first.
About seven years ago as I approached my sixtieth birthday, I happened to mention in passing to a friend that I had never been to a music festival. I love the idea of a festival, but I have never been a great fan of camping and certainly the older I get the more I like to have easy access to clean toilets and a few home comforts. I can cope with not washing properly for a few days, even with a bit of rain and mud but I do like a clean loo and a comfy bed. At the time it got me thinking about other things that I might like to do that I had never tried before and so began my ‘sixty by sixty’ project. It was never my intention for it to be a bucket list. I feel a bit uncomfortable with the idea of a list of things to tick off before I die as it feels a little like collecting trophies for the sake of it. For me it was always a project about trying new things and opening my mind to new experiences, maybe learning something new and meeting new people along the way. Sixty new things before the end of my sixtieth year, some of them maybe long held ambitions, others possibly things I hadn’t thought of before, but I no longer wanted to say ‘I’ll do that one day’. It was about saying yes to life because let’s face it… life is short and none of us know what is in store for our future.
My sixty by sixty actually took longer than the end of my sixtieth year but it was my game, my rules and it was never about ticking things off a list as quickly as possible. I visited new places such as The Angel of the North, Hadrian’s Wall and Lindisfarne; I had some adventures like indoor skydiving, climbing over the O2 arena in London and one of my favourites – riding very fast on the back of a dear friend’s motorbike; I saw a TV show being recorded resulting with the back of my head appearing on national television and I ate a lot of new food in new places. When I look back there was an awful lot of food, in particular cake! It made life feel fun and challenging and it helped get me through some difficult family times by reminding me life can be an adventure if we embrace it.
When I did my sixtieth thing in December 2018, which was seeing the Christmas Lights at Kew Gardens, it felt sad that I had finished because I felt there had been a gradual shift in my approach to life and I didn’t want that to stop. So, I ambitiously proclaimed I would now embark on 100 x 100… one hundred brand new things, places, experiences and skills (not just another forty) by the time I reach 100 years old, which let’s face it may or may not happen but I believe in aiming high and being optimistic.
Things were thwarted slightly by a worldwide pandemic but even then, I taught myself new skills including building myself a website, as well as teaching myself how to make and edit online videos resulting in online courses. I also took on an allotment and found an unexpected happy place. I have continued over the past couple of years and I learned how to carve a wooden spoon and spent a day discovering all about bee keeping; I took part in an escape room experience and earlier this year I went up in a glider for the first time ever.
So, you’ll understand that when my friend asked a couple of weeks ago if I fancied tree climbing there wasn’t even a moment of hesitation. I didn’t stop to ask if I would be able to do it, or even why I might want to do it, I just said yes. We booked our slot and this week, suitably attired we headed off to our local National Trust Property. There was a moment of realisation when we clocked it was half term and this was probably scheduled as a children’s holiday activity. We weren’t wrong! We turned up to a magnificent oak tree to find we were the only two there without an accompanying parent or guardian, but we were not to be deterred. The instructors were brilliant and didn’t bat an eyelid at the two senior ladies standing along side the half dozen 12 year olds. We were kitted out, briefed on how to operate the ropes and off we went.
Yes… that’s me!
I won’t lie, it was hard work requiring a certain amount of leg and upper body strength as well as a degree of coordination, but it was so much FUN! Just to be so high up in the canopy of such a beautiful old tree felt amazing with views for miles around. I don’t imagine every new thing I try will be quite so exhilarating, which is just as well given how much I ached the following morning but given the chance I would happily do it all over again.
View from the canopy
I’m aware that such dare devil activities might not be for everyone, but challenges or new experiences don’t only have to be of the adventurous nature. Several of mine have also involved sewing or knitting for charity, writing a letter or baking a cake for someone who might otherwise go without, all of which can be done from the comfort of home. The thing that matters is that it is something new, a personal challenge to aim for or look forward to. I’d love to hear about any new challenges you have set for yourself. And me? I don’t what will be next, but I’ve still not been to that music festival so who knows what next year might bring.
And in the spirit of being open to new things and living life to the full, I will leave you with some words that continue to inspire me, from Nadine Stair, aged 85
If I Had My Life to Live Over
I'd dare to make more mistakes next time.
I'd relax. I would limber up.
I would be sillier than I have been this trip.
I would take fewer things seriously.
I would take more chances.
I would take more trips.
I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers.
I would eat more ice cream and less beans.
I would perhaps have more actual troubles but I'd
have fewer imaginary ones.
You see, I'm one of those people who live sensibly
and sanely hour after hour, day after day.
Oh, I've had my moments and if I had it to do over
again, I'd have more of them. In fact,
I'd try to have nothing else. Just moments.
One after another, instead of living so many
years ahead of each day.
I've been one of those people who never go anywhere
without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat
and a parachute.
If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot
earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall.
If I had it to do again, I would travel lighter next time.
I would go to more dances.
I would ride more merry-go-rounds.
I would pick more daisies.
By Nadine Stair (age 85)
from Condensed Chicken Soup for the Soul.
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