I turned 65 this week, and I haven’t had so much attention paid to a birthday since … well, ever.

Daily mail and phone calls offer me health insurance, hearing aids, emergency alert systems, and river cruises. I’m not interested in any of these, but I am interested in the fact that the world at large, or the part of it in which I live, seems interested in celebrating this birthday with me – or at least, profiting from it.

It is a milestone in my life, and it has me thinking about the markers that remind us where we are in the journey from cradle to grave, some of the rituals with which they are marked, and the shifting flow of energy that accompanies them. For as important as milestones on land and buoys on the water are in directing our travels, there is great power in the tides, the ebb and flow of the sea and of our life’s energies, and in knowing when and how they shift and change.

Religious rituals recognizing and celebrating life’s milestones include Jewish Bris, Christian Baptism, Muslim Aqeeah, and other ceremonies of dedication on the birth of a child. These often articulate the role of the community in helping to nurture the child, the tide of caring flowing into the life of the one celebrated.

Other milestone rituals, such as Jewish Bar or Bat Mitzvah, Christian Confirmation, Latin American Quinceanera, and in a secular but real sense, the attainment of a driver’s license at about 16, mark a level of maturity and readiness to accept more responsibility, as the tide of caring begins to turn and we need less active nurture.

Graduations mark the end of formal schooling and readiness to begin contributing to the community through full time work. The energy flow has turned outward, and we are giving, earning, putting into the commonwealth. Marriage, marked with ritual ceremony, articulates the flow of caring energy between spouses. And age 65 and/or retirement marks both milestone and tide change, as we leave behind the daily striving of our active careers, and begin instead to receive the care of the community in the form of Medicare, Social Security, senior discounts, and some modicum of deference.

What is the flow of life, after this milestone of age 65? My husband and I, happily married for over 30 years, with challenging and satisfying careers behind us, have certainly experienced a tide change. For the 40 or more years prior, we were putting out energy, working hard every day; now we are receiving it, in medical and income benefits, and in the way we receive each day as a gift. We often quote Maine writer E.B. White, who said: “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” Having spent our working years earnestly trying to save the world, on passing the milestone of retirement we’re pretty committed now to savoring the world, every day and every way we can, for as long as we can.

Journalist and author Hunter Thompson (no known relation to me) has written: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, ‘Wow! What a ride!'”

I may not go out in a cloud of smoke, but I will go out deeply satisfied and grateful for the ebb and flow of life energy that has blessed me.

I wish for us all milestones to mark and celebrate the stages of life’s journey, and mindfulness of the tidal flow of energy into, out of, and again into our lives. Reverence for the flow as an expression of the Divine Spirit hallows and blesses our days. Thus may we, celebrating and paying attention to life’s milestones and tide charts, live fully and gratefully, giving and receiving as ebb and flow dictate, all of the days of our lives.

Andrea Thompson McCall is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, and served as interfaith chaplain at the University of Southern Maine.