A friend who recently moved to the Midwest to be with her daughter and toddler grandson sent me an email today. Part of it read, “… it’s always a joy to see my grandson, as active, bouncy, and as curious as he may be but I’m really quite exhausted and at this point would rather sit and look out the window rather than contemplate even one more project or outing.
I laughed to read what this woman had written, a former student of mine and 14 years my junior. Over the years, I’ve declined some of her invitations to visit a pottery show or see a movie. Now in her early 70s, my friend begins to understand my point of view.
I’m not the first to have noticed that as a person grows older, he or she needs fewer possessions or entertainment to be happy. Most of my treasures I’ve given away to friends. What remains is the airy stuff of memories.
When I was young, if I’d been wise enough to know what mattered, I’d have refrained from stuffing my closet to the brink so that it required my shoulder to close the door. Nowadays, an ample sweater and a comfortable pair of walking shoes, the kind with waffled soles and laces, is all I need.
I don’t regret my mistakes. Learning they were mistakes was necessary. Over time, they taught me how to sit still.
When I was ten, sitting at a wooden school desk on a spring afternoon while a salty breeze beckoned was torment. I could feel my legs grow prickly. They wanted to escape, to leap down a flight of stairs and burst through the sturdy oak doors of the building–whatever was necessary to satisfy my innate desire to fly.
A swing was the best I could do to take wing when I was ten. At eighty-four, I have a secret. I close my eyes, confident each time that the mind, though bounded in a nutshell, is a gateway to the infinite. What a daunting, humbling, and mystical realization that is.
In T. S. Eliot’s poem, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, his eponymous character dreads growing old. Seeing himself crabbed with age, he imagines how he will walk upon the beach, his trousers rolled just as before, yet no longer young enough to attract the mermaids’ call.
I am sorry for him. If I were strolling by his side, I’d advise him to close his eyes. The silence of the inner world dampens the distractions of the outer one. In that space, I have heard the mermaids singing many times.
Do I sound a little mad? Well, we are all mad here.
I am not without a method, however. These ruminations are a prelude to an announcement.
I grow old and want more time to walk upon the beach rather than attend to blogs. Rest assured, if in my sojourns I discover a sea shell or a colored bit of glass the tides have rubbed to diamond luster, I will, like a toddler, come running back to you, but only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On other days, if you imagine you see me seated in my leather chair, don’t be fooled. I am far away, floating in infinite space.