I finished reading a short story by Walter Clark about an 1880s prospector who returns from the mountains to town at the start of every winter. I was at Souplantation for lunch and sat at my table before beginning to eat thinking over what I had just read.
That was when it dawned on me that this story was not about prospecting, or about returning to the town of Gold Creek each winter. It was not about the prospector's horse or his mule or about the first look of the town as it came into view.
The story was about the impact on the aging prospector on learning that the few people who he was close to and who lived in town had passed on during his time away this year. The friend who owned the restaurant where he had eaten all of those years. The lady who owned the rooming house. The stable owner where he boarded his horse and mule. They had all died of old age.
He had taken their being there for granted this winter, as they had always been there before. Now, they were not there. The restaurant, the rooming house and the stable now closed.
As the story ended, the prospector came to first know in his mind that he had also taken his very own existence for granted. In that instant of understanding, he became a man who would not be planning his future years anymore.
Note: I believe that aging is a trick where what is coming is deliberately subdued and replaced by the thought that life goes on forever. And even though it doesn't, acting as though it does is the way to be.