THE NEW 60?

On a recent milestone birthday I called  75 “the new 60.” That may have been a slight exaggeration. But it was how I felt, or desperately wanted to feel.

Some think me young—especially those older than I. On hearing my age, people in their eighties and nineties look at me with amused forbearance, calling me “just a kid.” Is it because I relate well to tots and teens?  I still make up my eyes as I did at 16 when sex-kitten Brigitte Bardot rocked the silver screen with her bouncy breasts, white lipstick and smoldering gaze (although my breasts bounce differently, now). Am quick to dance to a hot tune. Laugh loudly. Walk short dogs up tall hills.

I embrace intellect, fresh ideas. Write books. And, with a nonchalant grin or occasional grimace, heft a 40-pound Western saddle onto the back of my 16-hand horse, Brad, and ride him several days a week.

Youngers consider me old. My skin sags and wrinkles where once it was taut. My muscles, weaker now and slower to recover from stress as they did—even at 60—are quick to slack from underuse. Arthritis gnaws my fingers, knees and hips. It makes me slow to rise, and more mindful doing everyday tasks. Such physical changes feed my genetic tendency toward fleeting depression. I can’t do some things I once took for granted—what differently abled  people never could do, or do with difficulty.Let’s not even talk about my mind, as known names and memories sometimes dodder.

And yet. Folks in their sixties or younger say they hope they’ll be blessed with spunk like mine when they’re old, that they’ll enjoy a “get on with it” attitude. Ouch! There’s a compliment with teeth. OK. Whatever. I’ll take it. It’s what I admired about Marjorie Lewis, a 100-year-old friend. Certainly age depression and mourning the loss of abilities and loved ones, shadowed Marjorie. And yet…

At 75, face it: I am indeed aged. I was born before World War II ended. Years of experience might gild this truth. A wish to keep going  allows me to cling to illusion. But numbers don’t lie. So why do I skip or amble along in apparent denial, swept up helplessly but mostly happily in benign, unfurling time?

Call it faith. Inborn will. And a commitment to being meaner than whatever is chasing me, as my book heroine Pepper Kane would say, “down the tunnels of decrepitude.” Chasing me toward an ending—though I see death as a transition to a another dimension neither understandable nor sought. I grin, read, sip coffee. Watch the TV morning show. Tussle with dogs. Endure the sad fact of our aging and eventual demise. Look for signs and answers. Lunch with friends, attend church, deeply inhale fresh air and silence. And welcome blessings and endure curses as I find them.

Our subconscious, our spirits, see this, and know. They come to know graceful ageing is an act of will, or of NO will. Ultimately we are asked to love, forgive, accept what is, and feel what is. Look at plain truths, even if discomfiting. Just not for too long, nor too publicly. That does no one any good.

“Just do it,” I remind myself sternly or gently. I ask, “What’s next on my calendar?” I stay engaged.

As long as I have life, I must live it and try to love it. Warts and all. Nothing lasts forever in the same form. But one’s individual energy, wisdom and style endure in footprints and soul prints left on the Earth and other beings.

Breathe. Love. Cry. But most of all, smile. In my experience, even those precious aware souls who seem to have lost all, can still convey a smile, if only in their eyes. Show acceptance. Hope. Love.

And that, to me, is the ultimate triumph of mind over matter. Even when mind no longer matters.

Writing Rogue!

Writing Rogue!

Whew! “Ghost Ranch,” my third Pepper Kane Mystery, has burst from the starting gate and is gathering steam on the backstretch with not one, but TWO giveaways on Amazon.com (one Kindle, one for Paperback). To enter the Kindle giveaway, click https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/98715a51ef93057f.  To enter the Paperback contest click https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/dab5b0b86f77a20d. Or visit Amazon.com and search under “book giveaways.”

If you already have a copy of this fast, provocative novel featuring my spirited amateur sleuth, horsewoman and ex-reporter, enter anyway. If you win, give your prize to a friend or a favorite charity. May I suggest a cause that fights bullying or prejudice—strong themes in this book? Perhaps one that supports American Indian youth. Such as Seattle Clearsky Native Youth Council. These books are suitable for ages 15 and up.

Ghost Ranch by Carole Beers

With “Ghost Ranch” on its way and earning great reviews, notably by authors whose work I admire, I’ve turned my attention to my next book. Its working title? “Night Rides,” fourth in the series. I am setting this one in Seattle AND in Oregon’s Rogue Valley. Southern Oregon happens to be where I live now. Where I graduated from high school (Go Cavemen!) when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Hey. I knew T. Rex personally!

Much as I love the Rogue Valley, the Puget Sound region is where I spent 40 years. After earning an editorial journalism degree at University of Washington, and selling stories to romance magazines and horse periodicals, I wrote for The Seattle Times for 32 years. And King County Journal. So I know and love this area. Bosky forests, steep hills, gleaming waters, energized people, and air scented with saltwater and (yes!) coffee. “Essence of horse” is optional.

With the new book I get to “live in” the best of both worlds. Don’t worry, I’ll figure out how to have the main crime committed at the horse show near Seattle, and how to transport the whole mob including the killer to Southern Oregon, Pepper Kane’s stomping grounds.

You readers have been very helpful in giving me the confidence to go ahead with this unique split approach to setting: Comments on my Carole T. Beers, Author page on Facebook included a lot of thumbs up. Using a venue other than Rogue Valley will freshen things, say some. Give the series added pizazz. Besides. The first two books in my series, “Saddle Tramps” and “Over the Edge,” started in the Rogue Valley and traveled to horse shows in California and Texas for their thrilling conclusion!

RUNNING THE BULLS

The Oregon sky arcs grey and wide over Red Horse and me as we leave the barn for a relaxing ride at Saddle Mountain Cattle Company. Cold, wet weather has kept us in the covered arena. We need to expand our horizons. But where to go? Down by the whispering Applegate River, to wade ankle-deep into that flashing water? Across the grasslands to where 80 Black Angus cows hang out below the ranch-house? Or to a field by the trees where three bulls graze?

I point my pony past the long arms of the Rainbird sprinklers. Put the sprinkler line between us and the bulls, who seem unconcerned with our presence. They’re 200 feet away. We’ve ridden near them before. No cows in sight, nothing to ruffle their calm. We start jogging large circles. Then small circles, figure eights, serpentines. Move to lope circles, each way. I like to revisit our horse-show moves, not let the training slide. It makes me feel we could compete again if we chose.

A crow flaps by overhead. A dog yelps somewhere on that forest ridge above the pastures. But not an anxious yelp, a bored, lazy one. Is that an eagle’s scree I hear?

Hoofbeats pound softly on cropped grass. I finger the reins to adjust speed and body angles. I rock and sway gracefully. A wonderful ride! Bliss. Like when a novel-writing session goes well. 

Until it doesn’t. The bull start to stir. Suddenly the largest one, a heavy-shouldered beast, lowers his head, strides toward the middle sized bull and rams his face into that of the other who pushes back. They stand locked forehead to forehead. They circle around joined heads that are capped by bony ridges minus horns. Around and around they go, the smallest bull watching.

The oldest bull pushes his opponent backward again and again, their hind ends tracing a larger circle. Then the smaller bull peels off, walks away. But the big bull follows, increasing his pace while the third bull trails these two.

Slowly the group arcs around. They are headed our way! Unnerved, unsure what that they will do, whether they are targeting me, I turn Red Horse toward the barn and start walking there. Safety is a good quarter-mile away. Don’t want to run; that may excite them more.

But they definitely are coming my way. Still targeting each other, or focused on me? I take no chances. I urge Red Horse into a jog. I look back over my shoulder. Still the black bulls come. I halt and turn to have a good look.  They’re coming even faster!  Who knows their intent? My heart races, my mouth goes dry. We trot forward faster.

We reach the barn doors a few dozen feet ahead of the running bulls. I pile off, lead Red Horse inside, and drag shut the heavy door as the bulls stampede by, headed to the cows by the house in the south.

Big exhale. Tragedy averted. But I’m shaken. It’s probable I wasn’t in danger at all. The bulls may have been focused only on themselves. But, better safe than sorry, yes? Corrective action taken in a timely fashion, ahead of the disaster, saves the day.

Note to self: If you THINK you’re in trouble, you probably are. Or at least headed for it. Therefore — as with a rogue, runaway novel in progress — take immediate action. Do not tarry, or be lulled or distracted by pretty scenes and phrases By past success.

Change course. Set your sights on a reachable, reasonable goal and head there. With dispatch. Go. Ride on, write on!

HUMOR, COME HOME!

Who stole my sense of humor? Why can’t I see “the funny side” as often as I used to do? Is it because the world has lost its sense of humor? I once had one. I remember using it just last week. It’s seen me through tough situations as well as ordinary ones. I really need it back. Actually it’s kind of a trademark — although it occasionally turns around and bites me.

I am fuzzy on when I first became aware there was such a thing as a sense of humor, or that I had one. Like many of you, I saw humor in cute baby animals struggling to do adult things and in young friends making rude noises. LOVED the bumbling antics of Wile E. Coyote in cartoons, or “Howdy Doody” on TV. Laughed like a loon listening to radio comedies such as “The George Burns Show.”  Gorged on the jokes and physical humor of Sid Caesar, Jackie Gleason and Lucille Ball. Well meaning but oddball or clueless characters gone wild. Life lessons delivered in an entertaining way!

In elementary school or as late as junior high, a certain snarkiness about stupid or pretentious people or events snuck past my lips when I believed I’d only thought it. Then I paid attention when an uncle, aunt or other esteemed elder snapped a wisecrack like a bullwhip. Yak yak, KA-POW! Maybe make a crazy copycat gesture or eye-roll for emphasis. They instantly got people’s attention, cleared the air of bullpoop and made their hearers laugh. Lightbulb flash: Who wouldn’t want to gain attention or lighten others’ day? This was power pure and simple. Baby wanted her some.

Most of the folks I admired, my dad included, had keen senses of humor. They could pop a wisecrack with the best. Being pioneer stock raised on ranches, where anything that can go wrong, will, they doubtless used humor as a coping device.

Working with this genetic propensity and armed with lines from Dorothy Parker and Mae West, I copied funny moves and cracks from entertainment icons. Gaining courage and bolstered by my buddies, I graduated to spoken humor and writing. One liners were my forte. Get in, bite hard, get out before drawing fire. Or else learn to duck.

I wrote humor columns for school newspapers. Got in trouble for pranks and reckless comments to the wrong people. But I forged ahead, honing the craft. Finally I found joy penning witty phrases where appropriate (or not!) in my 32 years as columnist and features reporter for The Seattle Times. My headline, “Gentlemen, start your bananas,” earned a Society of Professional Journalists’ award. Topped a tale about a soapbox derby featuring garden produce.

That was a high point of my career, humor-wise. Although describing a famous dance troupe’s “Swan Lake” as “chainsaw ballet” is right up there. The irate calls and letters I got for that one! Truth to tell, some dancers did look more like lumberjacks than lightfooted royalty. Fake trees trembled when the dancers landed. Gratifyingly, others savvy about dance had to agree.

As I age I grow even less tolerant of puffery, transparent subterfuge and other tom-foolery. I often just let ‘er rip, damn the torpedoes and disgruntled looks. I weave humor into my Pepper Kane mysteries, and stories such as “I Ate Thee Ottoman: A Young Dog’s Journey from Shame to Redemption.” Why stop a good thing, an empowering thing?

And yet oddly, I have. At least for the moment. Brood, brood. Here’s a hanky. Cowgirl up, I tell myself. Life circumstances — relationship, money, or minor health issues — seem to have sucked the humor from me. Or at least driven it underground.

I trust it is still intact, somewhere deep inside. Hell-oooo, hell-oooo! Anybody? You can come out now. In fact you MUST come out now. It’s how I cope, part of how I communicate, with offense only to the deserving few. Including myself. It may even be how I heal from The Great Unpleasant, one tentative laugh at a time. Humor come home!

Wasn’t it Norman Cousins who famously said, “Laughter Is the Best Medicine”?