- RT @JesseLaGreca: Dear Republicans, Planned Parenthood isn't profiting off of the deaths of children You are thinking of the NRA 10 hours ago
- RT @DSenFloor: .@SenatorBoxer on bill to defund @PPact: I gave birth to two premature kids and I just don't like lectures by men about what… 12 hours ago
- RT @MarkWarner: We can't deny women access to vital services like cancer screenings, birth control & well-woman exams #StandwithPP http://t… 12 hours ago
- RT @AlanGrayson: Tonight, a bunch of men will vote against women seeing doctors, because they saw a doctored video. That's the GOP for you.… 12 hours ago
- RT @AmandaMarcotte: The hypocrisy of conservatives stuns me. Make no mistake: Nearly every one denying the health care value of contracepti… 13 hours ago
- RT @reconfiguredpat: .@SenAngusKing: I've never understood why ppl opposed to abortion are also opposed to contraception & family planning … 13 hours ago
- "[R]ace is the child of racism, not the father." Ta-Nehisi Coates 14 hours ago
- RT @KosherSoul: I'm trying to tell a story that's going to change the way we view food,family,faith & the South. #cookinggene23 http://t.co… 1 day ago
- Monday Poetry Blogging
- Sunday Ballet Blogging
- Bonus Corn Rigs Lammas Blogging
- I’ve Never Made Promises Lightly, And There Have Been Some That I’ve Broken Lammas Bonus Blogging
- Lammas Blue Moon Eve PotPourri Blogging
- Almost Lammas Poetry Blogging
- Monday at the Movies
- Sunday Ballet Blogging
- Full Self Attendance Blogging
- Continuing Croning Cogitation
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?
I loved school all my life.
Well, not PE, and not Algebra, and, OK, not that semester in high school English when we read The Pearl, The Lord of the Flies, and Crime & Punishement, and, OK, to be honest, not Civil Procedure. But minor annoyances aside, I really loved school. It’s not for everyone. I know lots of people who hated the whole process, who don’t learn well listening to a lecture, reading books, sitting in desks. But me, I loved it. I loved the loose-leaf notebooks, the reinforcers that I put on each of the three holes on my pages of notes, my color-coded notes on textbooks, the getting the syllabus on the first day, and the midterms in Autumn and Spring, and the going out for burgers after finals and, well, for me, even rather prosaic schools may as well have been Hogwarts because I love going to school.
I’m almost sixty and although one of the reasons I went into law was the fact that it’s a career you can practice even when you’re “old,” — one where it’e really true that experience and guile beat youth and skill (almost) every time — I am beginning to think about what I’ll do in retirement. What I have decided is that retirement can’t be like what happens when I manage to get a few days off from my job. The last few (OK, the last dozen or so) years have been (and, Goddess knows, the rest of this year looks to be) very, very busy at work. When I do manage to get a few days off, first I collapse for a day or so and then I work like a madwoman trying to catch up on everything that my garden, my home, and my life require, given that I’ve put everything off for weeks and weeks due to work. Maybe then I get a day at an art exhibit. And then I’m back at work.
Retirement can’t be like that. I’m going to need a routine, some goals, a purpose, an over-riding plan. And it needs to include gardens, and art galleries, and French, and much more time for meditation.
Whenever I mention retiring, my closest friends always say, “Oh, you’ll do pro bono work. First Amendment, Water Rights, Energy. You’ll do what you love and have fun. You can’t quit writing law.” And they may be right, but when I retire I want to do All the Different Things — I’m not sure what they are, but I’m pretty sure they’re not writing briefs, although, who knows, I may spend a year going mad and then beg some group to let me write a brief for them because, well, life is real, life is earnest and the grave is not its goal, I suppose, and we all know that old fire horses, even when put to meadow, start to run when they hear the sirens. We all have to do what we’re good at, and I’ve spent a lifetime getting good at writing briefs. No, really, a lifetime. My dad was training me for this, whether he knew it or not, when we argued politics, and books, and life after every single dinner of my life. So it’s not at all inconceivable that I’ll just keep doing what I know how to do even after I retire.
But one of the things that I’ve always hoped to do when I retire is to go to school. If retirement is a time to do what you love, well, as noted, I’ve always loved going to school. And there are about a gazillion, OK, well, at least a lot, of courses that I never got to take. My bachelors and masters degrees are in Special Education and although I took and loved a few semesters of Reading Swedish, Danish, & Norwegian, some Geology, a bit of American History, and some good tennis instruction as an undergrad, and although my masters work on Alfred Adler has informed pretty much every day of my life, and my time in the Maryland Archives writing a dissertation on the Lunacy Commission was grand fun, those degrees were pretty technically-focused. And, then there was my JD, which, Civil Procedure aside, I found really interesting, but I was an evening student and I mostly took what was going to be on the bar exam. And, so, I’ve always imagined that one of the things I’d do when I retire is go to school. Take the Great Books courses at St. John’s College, or take advantage of the fact that most states allow seniors to audit college courses for next-to free. French Romantic Poetry, Chinese Art, Philosophy of Religion, the Bronte Sisters, Virginia History, Garden Design, Southern Cooking, Flower Arrangement, Jugenstil Design, William Morris, Anais Nin, Feminist Poetry, Norse Government, Science of the Aurora, . . . . There’s not much that I wouldn’t study.
But technology has gone even farther. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about a MOOC, or massively open on-line course, I’m thinking of taking even now, before I retire.
What’s your plan for being a Crone???
Today is the Feast of St. Mary of Magdala, which translates to St. Mary of Elegance. Jesus’ hetaira, she has become, at least through myth, perhaps the last in a long line of sacred and blessed religious sex priestesses.
Here’s my brilliant friend, Amy, singing her praises:
And, of course, here’s the hymn attributed to her that I knew as a young woman:
She inspires poetry to this day:
You know it was funny because he seemed so well the night before
I stayed over to meet a student before class
—sitting at the picnic table…already so hot so early.
I must have been looking for a pen or something
when I thought of the car keys and, rummaging through my bag,
couldn’t find them and was up and walking across the grass when
I heard myself say, I feel as if I’m going to lose something today,
—and then I knew, and ran the rest of the way.
Me, I’m a long way from wanting to enable/adore/care for some man or some god. But I still think of this Mary as a friend of mine, a fantasy I had when I was young and didn’t dare to know myself.
But compared to the danced religions of the past, today’s “faiths” are often pallid affairs — if only by virtue of the very fact that they are “faiths,” dependent on, and requiring belief as opposed to direct knowledge. The prehistoric ritual dancer, the maenad or practitioner of Vodou, did not believe in her god or gods; she knew them, because, at the height of group ecstasy, they filled her with their presence. Modern Christians may have similar experiences, but the primary requirement of their religion is belief, meaning an effort of the imagination. Dionysus, in contrast, did not ask his followers for their belief or faith; he called on them to apprehend him directly, to let him enter, in all his madness and glory, their bodies and their minds.
Do you remember how Claudine used to crouch by the fire, turning a hatpin just fast enough to keep the toasting nubbin of chocolate from dripping off? Sometimes she did it on a hairpin over a candle. But candles have a fat taste the would taint the burnt chocolate, so clean and blunt and hot. it would be like drinking a Martini from silver.
Hard bitter chocolate is best, in a lump not bigger than a big raisin. it matters very little about the shape, for if you’re nimble enough you’ll keep it rolling hot on the pin, as shapley as an opium bad.
When it is round and bubbling and giving out a dark blue smell, it is done. Then, without some blowing all about, you’ll burn your tongue. But it is delicious.
However, it is not my secret delight.
Mandrake is famous almost entirely for being infamous. Even its name sounds at once sinister and sexual. This humble-looking, low-growing plant has attracted a fascinating collection of myths and legends over the centuries: It screams when you pull it out of the ground and anyone who hears this cry will go insane; the root, an aphrodisiac, is actually a little homunculus (a miniature, but fully formed human); the plant sprouts in places where the semen from hanged men has fallen.
In Europe, [W]itches were said to celebrate their sabbath with potions and ointments made from the plant, whose psychoactive properties give a sensation of flying through the air. The list of fantastical tales is long and frequently repeated rom herb book to herb book. As a plant, it is strangely beautiful — like a sinister-looking gloxinia or nicotina with wide, pleated leaves and cup-shaped dark purple to white flowers clustered tightly at its center. Later in the season, pale greenish-yellow fruits that look like round eggplants appear at ground level as the leaves begin to wither.
Online reports concur that the plants’ severe emetic and laxative properties far outweigh any high that is obtained. Mandrake root should be approached with extreme caution if at all, evan as a low-dose botanical for homeopathy. I, for one, would be happy to grow it as a conversation piece to show dinner guests as we sip our relatively safe gin and tonics from a distance.
What’s in your Summer book bag?