Today on the Age is Just a Number blog series, I have Kenneth Bennett, author of the sci-fi thriller, Exodus 2022, expressing his thoughts on life at 54 and his passion for the environment. I especially enjoyed his comments about redefining the meaning of middle-aged.
LIFE AT 54
I’m 54 years old and having a blast. I have an amazing wife, a wonderful son (now in his first year in college) an incredible extended family and passions—writing, environmental activism, swimming, backpacking, cycling, skiing—that keep me fired up and looking forward. I’m blessed to be able to hang out with funny, positive people who inspire me. Three of the guys in my masters swimming group recently swam the Straits of Juan de Fuca, from Port Angeles to Vancouver Island (11 miles, 7 hours, 54 degree water). Their ages: 56, 58, and 60. There’s a 70-year-old dude in my cross fit class who lifts weights like a teenager and has the resting heart rate of a sword fern. People like this have caused me to reconsider what it means to be middle aged (and older) and to reject the cultural stereotypes foisted on all age groups.
Of course, like anyone who’s lived more than a couple decades, I’ve lost people dear to me. Witnessed my share of unhappy events. I’m fully aware that life can turn on a dime, that an accident or illness can sabotage the most carefully arranged plans. I try to take things day by day, and right now, I’m enjoying life more than I ever have. I’m comfortable with who I am and the path I’m on, excited about the future.
Perhaps because I am more aware of my mortality these days, I have more clarity about what really matters and what makes me happy.
One of the things that makes me happy is working on environmental causes. The planet is in dire shape. We’re losing species and habitat at an alarming rate. The U.S. Congress is now in the hands of people who set climate policy based on what Fox News pundits tell them to do vs. what scientists recommend. Writing about these things (in novels, articles, blog posts, tweets, and so on) is something I feel compelled to do. Also it’s cathartic. If I couldn’t write about this stuff I think I’d go mad. Example—my wife and I visited Yellowstone National Park in late October. It was just starting to get cold. Vibrant fall colors. Wildlife everywhere. Not many tourists. We headed for the Lamar Valley, our favorite part of the park—the place where wolves were reintroduced in 1995 and ‘96. The wolves were there. Hunting. Playing with their pups. Living their lives. One evening—right at sunset—we watched four black wolves, likely from the 8-Mile Pack, trotting along a ridge against a platinum sky. It was a magical scene I won’t ever forget.
Sadly, wolf hunting is legal outside the park and the 2014 season has been a bloodbath. Fifty one wolves have been taken in the Montana hunt since it opened in September—including some wearing radio collars—collars used by Yellowstone wildlife biologists to learn about wolf migration and behavior. Believe it or not, for some hunters, killing a collar-wearing Yellowstone wolf—a wolf that during its lifetime delighted tens of thousands of park visitors—is like winning the lottery. An achievement to be celebrated and bragged about on Facebook. The only way I can deal with this stuff is to write about it, work to educate people and fight for better laws. By the way, I’m not anti-hunting. I grew up hunting with my dad and brother-in-laws in Arizona and Alaska. I eat meat. What I’m against is trophy hunting and the senseless killing of highly intelligent, highly social animals that depend on intact family units—packs—to survive.
I’m optimistic that we will find ways out of this and other environmental messes we’ve created and I believe well-crafted stories can play a role. EXODUS 2022, my new sci-fi thriller, has received more than 100 reviews on Amazon to date and many readers mentioned that the book caused them to think about the planet, and other species, in new ways. One of my favorite comments came just a few weeks ago, from the educational curator of the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor, on San Juan Island: “… A must-read for anyone who cares about the oceans, wildlife, and the environment, and likes to think that the animals will win in the end. It’s my new happy place… Kudos to the author for creating a really imaginative way out of this environmental mess we’ve made of our planet.”
Such feedback keeps me writing, gives me hope and helps me stay focused, motivated and moving forward.
Thank you Meredith Schorr for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts!
Kenneth G. Bennett
How Do You Know? (December 2nd)
What if you were approaching the end of your thirties and all of the life milestones you took for granted in your youth suddenly seemed out of reach? On the eve of her thirty-ninth birthday, Maggie Piper doesn’t look, act, or feel much different than she did at twenty-nine, but with her fortieth birthday speeding toward her like a freight train, she wonders if she should. The fear of a slowing metabolism, wrinkling of her skin, and the ticking of her biological clock leaves Maggie torn between a desire to settle down like most of her similarly aged peers and concern that all is not perfect in her existing relationship. When a spontaneous request for a temporary “break” from her live-in boyfriend results in a “break-up,” Maggie finds herself single once again and only twelve months from the big 4.0. In the profound yet bumpy year that follows, Maggie will learn, sometimes painfully, that life doesn’t always happen on a schedule, there are no deadlines in love, and age really is just a number.