One dark winter’s night, not long ago, I was driving home listening to classical music on MPR. It’s about all I can stand anymore, radio in the Twin Cities having been reduced to a deplorable collection of pop, talk, oldies, and tuneless alternative music that I don’t understand. It was sometime after 6:00 and The Writer’s Almanac came on. I was lulled by the sounds of the road and by Garrison’s soothing, hypnotic voice when I realized he was talking about someone I once knew: another English major from Gustavus, class of ’83. Thirty–or even twenty–years ago, hearing a poem by one of my classmates on a national radio segment would have made me feel jealous and vaguely depressed. Instead, I felt nothing but happiness for her. (I later searched her out online and shared this story.) The poem was from her recently published collection, Cloves and Honey: Love Poems*, and is dedicated to her husband (“mi alma, mi vida”) who was also a classmate.
One of my favorite quotes is by Isabel Allende (found on a greeting card, though I’ve also read her novels): “After 50, most of the bullshit is gone.” If there are any young folks out there reading this, know that the day will come when you are released from the burdens of competition and achievement, when you stop endlessly comparing yourself to others and coming up short.
Back in my bookstore-owner days, I remember standing at the counter and having a conversation with a woman in her early 50’s. She told me how much she loved this stage of life, that she finally felt comfortable in her own skin. I was in my late 30’s at the time and thought to be be over 50 was to have one foot in the grave. But obviously her words made an impression. Now that I’m there, I know just what she meant.
I also believe that the older we get, the more we realize “that heaven is all around us, not just a blue line at the top of the page” (remember how you drew the sky when you were a little kid?). We find grace and beauty more readily because we slow down and pay attention.
Here is a poem for today, from Krista’s almanac:
It could be something simple:
your hand resting on my hip
while you sleep.
I wake, thinking
there is as much of God in this
as in other things I love:
cathedrals of birch,
the incense of woodsmoke,
a kyrie of wind off the lake.
All our lives we try
to reach for the sky.
The grace of age is seeing,
finally, that heaven is all around us–
not just a blue line
at the top of the page.
*I would love to share a poem from Athena’s book, but I suspect I need permission to reprint.