I dedicate this to David Kanigan–the poem I use in my newspaper column was on his blog:
“The second half of my life will be ice
breaking up on the river,
rain soaking the fields,
a hand held out,
and smoke going upward,
always up.” – last stanza of Joyce Stuphen’s “Crossroads”
In her poem, Crossroads, Joyce Sutphen sets the course for the second half of her life. She vows to “dress for the occasion” and her hair will be “whatever colour” she pleases. In essence she is determined to be herself. I can relate to her poem, being in the midst of the second half of my life, but I do not want those who are still in the first half not to take the same advice. She counts birthdays not as other people do as the years piling up—but as the beginning of something new, something to celebrate. She says:
“Everyone will go on celebrating the old birthday,
counting the years as usual,
but I will count myself new from this
inception, this imprint of my own desire.”
She says that the second half of her life “will be wide-eyed/fingers shifting through fine sands,/arms loose at my sides/ wandering feet”. I say that we should approach all of life and all it has to offer with wide eyes, open arms, and wanderlust—not just the late summer, fall and winter of our lives.
I was heartened by a story on the television program Sunday Morning today. It was about Late Bloomers, and the fact that it is never too late to find your passion—or to find a new passion. A professor was interviewed and asked by the reporter if he thought it was ever too late to follow a new passion, and while he admitted that a 90 year old might not be able to fulfill their dream of being in the NBA, they could certainly be a poet.
Numerous examples were given of people who started a new endeavour at a later age—Julia Child did not start her cooking television career until she was 50; and Frank McCourt did not write his first book (Angela’s Ashes) until he was 66 and it turned out to be a Pulitzer prize winner. And of course let us not forget painter Grandma Moses. Anna Mary Robertson Moses did not start painting until she was in her 70s. Even Martha Stewart did not start her television career until she was 40.
Each of these people had a full first half of their lives—in fact, it was probably the first half that inspired the success of their second half. So take heart those of you who are still youngsters—enjoy setting the pace now, but know that the second half still has lots to offer.
In her poem, Joyce forecasts that in the second half of her life:
“There will be new dreams every night,
and the drapes will never be closed.
I will toss my string of keys into a deep
well and old letters into the grate.”
I am not so sure about dropping my keys into a deep well except perhaps metaphorically, but I love the idea of “new dreams every night” and drapes that “will never be closed.” New dreams, new aspirations, new imaginings, new wishes and desires, hopes and ambitions—these are the things we should never lose (along with the keys to our front door and car).
Not closing your drapes keeps you open to life. And is that not what keeps the heart beating?