As a friend pointed out to me, retiring isn’t the same thing as becoming a crone. Lots of crones continue to work and many retirees haven’t achieved crondhood. But, for me, the two are related: retirement will signal the close of a large chapter of my life and the beginning of the final chapter, the one that’s supposed to tie it all up and finish with a profound insight and some good feels. I know; I’ve been reading novels all my life.
Over at the Wild Hunt, Alley Valkerie is writing about retirees:
As I watched her hand, moving so eloquently and furiously, I realized that I had seen her before, although in a different park on the other side of the river. She finished the bird with a few quick strokes and started to write underneath the picture in Chinese, quickly scribbling out a few rows of text in what seemed like seconds.
She then picked up the picture, blew on it, quickly looked both ways, and muttered a few words under her breath. And before I really understood what was happening, she pulled out a match and quickly set the paper on fire.
I gasped aloud, not meaning to, and she turned around, surprised to see me there. She nodded hello at me and I nodded back.
“It is OK, it is supposed to burn,” she said to me, smiling. “It is a prayer for the sparrows.”
“But you just spent so much time….” I stopped mid-sentence, recognizing the thought-trap regarding the value of time that I was about to fall into. She laughed.
“I have all the time in the world to draw things and set them on fire,” she said. “I am retired, I do not work. I do not like TV, I do not like bingo. Instead, I draw and I pray and I pay attention to nature.”
I would go back to work before I would spend my time watching tv or playing bingo, but I’d be happy to spend my days praying and paying attention to nature.
I’ve been reading Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life: The Plants and Places that Inspired the Classic Children’s Tales by Marta McDowell. Ms. Potter gardened and farmed in England’s Lake District. In The Writer’s Garden: How Gardens Inspired out Best-Loved Authors Jackie Bennett says:
Although it would only ever be a part-time home, Hill Top gave Beatrix the chance to put into practice all the aesthetic and practical ideas she had stored up over the years ab out houses and gardens. She was influenced by the Arts & Crafts movement, by things she had seen and done in her travels, and possibly by the great gardener of the time Gertrude Jekyll.
I’m getting more and more interested in how gardens and places influence the writers who live within them. One of my favorite poets, Wm. Wordsworth, also gardened and wrote in the Lake District. Ms. McDowell writes that:
In 1799, a few days after moving into he cottage, Wordsworth wrote that [his sister] Dorothy was very pleased with the house and that she had already started to imagine the summer house with a seat they would build at the top of the steep slope. On that slope they planted ferns, bulls, and will flowers, collected on their walks or given by local people. They created terraces, grew some of the food plants they would have known from the Cockermouth garden — peas, French and runner beans, distort, turnips and radishes — and planted honeysuckle and roses against the walls.
Can you guess the MOOC I’m planning to take?