Three Who Turned Fifty - Part Two

By Cecil Maxfield.

So, this is an interesting situation. I get to interview myself; maybe something we should all do once in a while to see what we have to say to ourselves. As you may recall, we have a B. Boy from Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, and I'm the one who hails from Vermont, replete with the Yankee curmudgeonliness and liberal mind--a heady combination. We'll take the same tack as we did with Steve Pinkham, our first Birthday Boy. 

Q: When and how did you start your outdoor life?

Cecil: Growing up on a dairy farm in Vermont, it seems like there was never a time when I wasn't outdoors. We had enormous woods behind the barn, where we built cabins, camped out, and played during all seasons of the year. A  river was near by and that provided everything from a swimming hole to a place to find crayfish for a pet raccoon to a place to launch a boat for one of the islands in the river, where we occasionally camped in summer. It seemed like there were unending miles of hills and valleys to roam  around home, and I am sure that those years spent exploring tuned me in to another level of connection with Nature. 

Q: Were there any mentors or heroes you recall who turned you on to the outdoors?

Cecil: I can't really say that there was. All of my friends and I saw the outdoors as our own enormous playground. In an era of less toys than most kids enjoy today, the outdoors and our own imaginations provided endless opportunities for creative times in the outdoors. I will say that my great-grandfather provided some sort of subconscious modeling for me, in his way with the outdoors. I remember going in to his living room in his little house in central Vermont and seeing a branch with a defunct wasp's nest attached to the wall, and in the fall of the year, he would bring whole branches of maples, with their red leaves, in to his living room to, for the fleeting joy the color gave him. As far as someone turning me on to the joys I experience today in the mountains, that honor has to go to a long-lost friend, who offered to take me hiking with her and her brother. Our first trip? Up Mount Washington in September on a typical day in the mountains: we started out in sunshine and ended up going the last mile to the summit in freezing rain and wind so strong it blew my 100-pound friend over. I was hooked! 

Q: What are your 3 favorite outdoor activities? 

Cecil: Hiking, Bicycling, and Kayaking is coming in at a distant third.

Q: Do you have a favorite memory of any one event?

Cecil: I'll ignore the part about "one event", and give you the litany of high points, as I recall them right now. Ascending a 16,000 peak in Nepal (huff, huff), camping on the beach in Jacmel, Haiti, camping in Haleakala Crater on Maui, getting pitched off a raft in whitewater not once, but twice, actually making the 300+ miles between Boston and New York on my bicycle during AIDS Ride 2, and untold hours of great times with a growing cadre of buds with whom I hang in New Hampshire's White Mountains. And I  could go on.....

Q: Fifty's no small milestone in a lifetime. Have you noticed any changes in body or mind, as you've gained those years?

Cecil: I'm as shocked as anyone at achieving this milestone called Fifty. That's partly due to the fact that I don't feel like I'm aging as I imagine one thinks one would on approaching fifty. Aside from knees which continue to be a source of pain when hiking (they've never been otherwise,  really), I feel like I can still keep up with the crowd. I'm a bit more careful about my back and how I treat that, but even the pains there are testament to the good times I've had up to this point. As far as my mind, I'd just have to say that I've deepened in my appreciation for this world we live in, and what a miracle it is, what a gift to live in a strong body in which I can get out and enjoy it. There's  an unending source of wonderment out there and I never tire of looking for whatever is next.

Q: Do you ever see yourself stopping doing these outdoor activities?

Cecil: No way. The day I can't get out and enjoy the outdoors is the day I should hang up my hiking boots, and consider my days over. My idea of a good ending is one in which I cash in my chips while I'm outdoors, doing what I love (Guy Waterman knew this, I think). 

Q: What would you say is the biggest benefit you've gained over the years you've spent participating in outdoor activities? 

Cecil: On a deeply personal level, there's just a sense of connection with the natural world, a sense that I am a part of it all, and that fuels my fire to keep on living in a world which seems pretty screwed up to me. On a more surface note, I've probably had some of the best times of my life  with friends doing outdoorsy stuff--great adventures, wonderful conversation, and gut-busting laughter to heal the soul. The fact that those sorts of things occur during outdoor adventures is testament to the restorative power of the natural world, I think. 

Q: Do you have any advice that you'd care to pass on, from the vantage point of your advancing years? 

Cecil: Nothing earth-shattering. I certainly can't make someone have the experience that I've had and get all the benefit of it that I have gotten. I guess I'd just say that if you're fortunate enough to find some connection with outdoorsy stuff, stick with it, because there's a boatload  of stuff to do, see, and learn. If you don't find that connection, at least be conscious of your impact on the planet; it's a nice spot, I think we should keep on living here for a long time.

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