Turning Fifty in Petra

I woke up early and stepped outside the tent just as the horizon began turning a deep red. The rest of the camp was still asleep, and I wanted to have the morning to myself for just a few moments.

It was my birthday.

We had come to Petra specifically for this morning. So that I could look out on this ruined civilization and measure the weight of my own age.

Fifty years. Five decades. Half a century.

Enough time to know the man I had become. And to accept myself, unapologetically. A combination of all my experiences, the wonderful and the horrible. Life stories that have been embellished to the point of fantasy, and others that have been nearly forgotten, like fragments of a childhood dream.

Friends well met, now turned to distant strangers. Stars counted. Oceans touched. Lines crossed.

A charmed life of narrow escapes. Watching with quiet fascination as the Jeep flipped around me and bodies went flying. Lost in a cave with a dead flashlight but finding my way out by touch alone. Laughing all the way to the ground as the parachute struggled to open, but knowing that it eventually would.

And all of it filtered through my fast-evolving worldview. The blissful revelation that I was no different than anyone else who had ever lived. Realizing that all of us are a single misstep away from oblivion. And, strangely, finding comfort in that.

There is no finish line. The ride is all there is.

Angela and I walked the length of Petra, from the entrance to the Monastery, fighting the crowds and the heat. Three miles in, three miles out. And I was glad to turn fifty on that well-worn trail.

One week later, a deadly flash flood took our same route. Yet another close call. And here I am, shaking my head at the absurd fortune of it all.

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