At 81, Joe knew well that his life was precarious. Having meditated for long, he had realised that life is just a cloak to cast away when used up. At the same time, he clearly felt as if within his body. It had been showing some old-age symptoms for some time now, with quirky knees, stiffness in the body, aches and pains that had been graciously absent from most of his life. It wasn't until 75 he started to feel old, with these liver spots on his skin showing up and body pains here and there appearing more steadily.
Eating healthier than ever to compensate the deteriorating trend, life was obviously in a final chapter. In general he felt just fine, through meditation he had found the ability to let pain be pain and thoroughly enjoy life anyhow. The pain was there, but it didn't manage him. He loved his mountain hill life, with walking trails abounding just up the hill. And with cafes and friends in the valley, he still upheld a social life, naturally at a slower pace also as friends had started to die off.
He and Maura moved to this mountain cabin place 16 years ago, when they both retired. Joe's great grandfather had bought some land and built the original cabin back in the 1890's, ensuring that they owned enough land below to clear the tall pine forest expanding everywhere if it could. Keeping a clearing they kept the magical view from the cabin but it also held a space for gracing animals in the otherwise forested mountainside. Nowadays, cattle and sheep had been long replaced by his dogs, currently down to his his one surviving Huskie and since three years ago when his wife died, three cats outliving her.
They had moved into the old cabin there back in 1998, and lived in it while building a new one more in tune with our times. When finished on January 1, 2000, they were thrilled moving into this spacious inner space mirroring the majesty of the outside. Modern panorama windows really let them enjoy the drop dead beautiful mountain and valley views, truly inspiring them both. And now kids and grandkids came to visit even more, being able to stay over in proper guest rooms. The grandkids loved the animals and the outdoors, and the nearby peak of Grace Mountain was just a two hour walk away, something most guests could be coerced into joining. Maura would sometimes stay behind and walk with the group of people not having the guts or physical ability to go all the way, just enjoying the more open space starting some 200 ft higher than their cabin. Joe walked to the peak at least twice a week now, even more so compared to when Mary was alive when they socialised more. He just loved the mellow grassy hills leading up to this medium tall mountain. Other taller peaks were everywhere to see and the top of Grace opened up to further vistas.
Joe was totally devastated when Maura died, they had had a long life together, meeting back in 1952 when they both studied at University of California San Diego. There and then, the US and the world was struggling with recouping from World War II, and there was much grief still felt for all the soldiers dying - also within the families of both of them. Being too young to become a wartime soldier, Joe had just served a year as a private at Naval Base North Island across from downtown San Diego. He had been a military guardsman, an MP, overseeing the traffic of people and vehicles into North Island. He had also served as nighttime guard at hangars when new aircraft were readied for the growing fleet of aircraft carriers. He absolutely loved to see aircraft getting readied for test flight, talking with the pilots whenever he had the chance and strangely enjoying smelling the fumes of parafine as they propelled by, or taxied by with new technology jet engines. Most of the pilots had wartime experiences and would at rare times share both the horror and energetic thrill of being balancing on the edge of death and winning in the face of a vicious enemy. Those who didn't take out the enemy in time in dogfight, were simply not there to talk. It is a hard world, Joe realised.
At other times of guard duty, nothing transpired through the night, and he fought falling asleep. As that was the only fighting he did, the transition to being a student was easy. He was a freshman studying architecture, while Maura was almost finished with her medical doctor education, being four years older.
Hailing from Montana and much isolated form civil life in the Navy, he was for the first time experiencing the joy of civil university life where boys and girls in their early or later 20's met from all over the country to share studies, good and bad professors, partying and an always refreshing cold beer. Many fell in love too, enjoying sexual life perhaps for the first time in otherwise much puritan USA. Joe felt mesmerised by student life, and seeing Maura he was immediately drawn to her radiating joy of life and bursting laughter. She was at first sceptical, as he was still 19 and she close to 24, but he had this boyish playful way around him that also inspired her and drew her to him. After meeting at friends places and the campus cantina over three weeks, she said yes to Joes courting and invites to a relationship. They were falling in love.
I am Sanata.