I can set out again, Even at seventy— Just now I resisted Writing “seventy,” Fearing others will see Me as less Than I think I am Or try to be.
I walk fast, Dance, Make a point Of lifting, Bending, Being the go-to kid— Happy I can, Glad to help, And with something to prove To me, Working to be needed, Wanted, Included, Useful, Not left out.
So much is behind: Though I do not know The time ahead, I understand the difference Between potential And impossible.
But yes, I can set out each new day Better ready for the journey Than I have been before; The decades Nourish seventy: Years of stumbling And years of blessings Give a measure of guidance— Where to explore And where not to step again— Offer endurance, Acceptance, Optimism, Courage, Joy Discovering, Embracing New and familiar vistas Gracing Whatever is still to come.
I am beginning a new memoir project, whose tentative title is Making Peace, Finding Peace, Seeing Peace,
Giving Peace. Here are my project plans.
I recently turned 70, an age younger people often consider
elderly and generally past it. I am
blessed, however, to be active and lively—as are many others my age and
older. I am even inclined to be a bit of
a Peter (Petra?) Pan. I do understand
that more of this life is behind me than ahead, and no one gets to my age
without suffering loss and regret.
Although I am happy and so busy with activities I enjoy that I sometimes
don’t sleep enough, I look back on my life so far and see vast swathes I wish I
had lived differently. And the future
is, of course, filled with unknowns. And
so I want to examine my life from my current place within it, exploring how I
can better understand and reframe the past, find greater serenity, meaningfully
serve others now, and embrace what life still has in store. I would like for my new memoir to encourage
readers to see and value their own lives; I want to bring them hope, courage,
and peace of mind.
The central question of my memoir is this: How
can I make, find, see, and give peace now—at this point in my life—and in the
years to come?
In the area of making peace, I will explore my need
to make peace with
Never having married
Never having children and grandchildren
Not sustaining the kind of meaningful career I hoped
The men (the “Rogues”) I dated
Having not been the daughter that I wish I’d
been and that my parents deserved
Not standing up to bullies in my life
Aging and its unknowns
possibility of rejection
keeping up with my study of literature and earning a PhD.
becoming a successful writer
keeping up with my music
in many directions without finding my purpose
I will examine the areas of finding, seeing, and giving peace
in the context of
Nature, the Earth, and Creation
Empathy for others
Giving pleasure through my abilities
Creating without achievement expectations
My conviction that life is ongoing
Teaching in settings still open to me
without achievement expectations
and sharing ideas
more of the past’s great gifts
respect—honoring others and not belittling myself
Themes and Underlying
In the course of my memoir, I hope to illustrate, explore,
and establish ways to implement more fully these beliefs about paths to a
serene and meaningful life:
Know that it’s not too late.
Know that you’re not too old.
Cultivate your own individual style.
Be yourself; let others do the same. And avoid trying to find your satisfaction vicariously through someone else’s life.
Be able to articulate your values and beliefs.
Each day, use your creativity, interests, and talents in some way.
Write/Draw/Dance/Play music . . . to satisfy yourself, not for anyone else’s approval.
Embrace this truth: If you try to do something according to someone else’s opinions—in place of your own—you’ll probably either not like the results or give up before finishing.
Acknowledge that if you’re procrastinating, there’s something wrong with the situation. Figure out and address the problem.
Learn something new every day.
Learn for the pleasure of learning.
Have a sense of purpose in life and keep that purpose shining in your heart and mind.
Understand that your sense of purpose doesn’t have to be flashy, obvious to others, or highly specific (such as “become a bestselling author” or “sing Aida at the Met”).
Develop and keep routines and traditions that support order and meaning in your life. Include time for meditation and reflection.
Notice the interesting small details in nature and all of life.
Keep a journal so that ideas, impressions, and memories don’t fade and days don’t get lost in the tide of years.
Practice being fully present in the moment.
Define the present moment as meaningful and interesting.
Discover the positive potential and lessons in difficult situations.
Value your blessings while you have them, and not just in hindsight.
Do the best you can and then let it go. Don’t rehash the past by asking, “Did I really do my best and try my hardest?”
Once a situation is past, forgive everyone for everything (which does not mean letting bad situations recur).
Realize that other peoples’ behavior makes sense from their frame of reference.
Don’t try to change other people, but allow for the possibility of their changing. (Your example is more powerful than your arguments.)
Believe that no matter how hard others try to make you feel inferior, you are an equally important and valuable human being.
Minimize contact with energy vampires and other people who don’t make you feel good about yourself.
Don’t allow yourself to feel like a child who has misbehaved. You acted as you did for a reason, even if you will look at the situation differently next time.
Look for and take opportunities to give honest encouragement.
Recognize that encouraging others doesn’t mean trying to please them to win their favor.
Don’t allow yourself to act out of fear of rejection or criticism.
In relationships, act from the beginning according to the principle of mutual respect; it can be exceedingly difficult to change the relationship dynamics later.
Identify a mentor to help you strengthen your confidence, courage, and dedication to your values and life focus. A mentor can be someone you admire but don’t know personally.
Find and seize opportunities to see life from others’ perspectives and situations.
If you’re lonely, reach out to someone to whom you could give pleasure.
Be aware that reaching out to and helping others can take many forms, including writing and other creative endeavors.
Don’t value helping strangers above helping family members and other loved ones: both kinds of service are infinitely important, so serve where and how you can.
Realize that if you fail to honor your own fundamental needs, you won’t be able to continue helping others over the long haul.
If you are doing an assignment or task for someone else, first accept it consciously as something you are choosing to do, and then put your own stamp on it.
Accept that getting stressed won’t lead to greater punctuality/perfection/approval than will staying calm.
Strive, in your own way, to advance justice and kindness.
I am twelve, Loving summer camp With its quests Unexpected and new, Its routines and scenes, Moose Pond in the morning mist— A wide lake in spite of its name— The cloud wisps decorating Pleasant Mountain, Honeymoon and Japanese Islands Present unseen, Loving summer camp especially this summer Because I have a best friend, Louise; We explore, discuss, absorb The Maine woods and our unfolding lives.
Excursions and camping trips Are my pinnacle delight; For some, we paddle across or down our lake; For others, we ride, singing, In the open wooden-gated back of a truck, Sometimes to a distant lake or river That will carry our canoes to our sleeping cove, Other times to a single day’s new source of happiness.
As on the day we campers climb Over the face of a garnet hillside Collecting beauty from the center of the Earth.
I love rocks—geology has risen high Among the fascinations That will rise and fall and rise in new forms Across the eras of my life.
I am jubilant Tapping on the cliff In the warm Maine sun, Loosening treasures, Small rocks sparkling with deep-red gems To carry home with me at the end of summer In a footlocker weighing three times Its going-to-Maine weight.
Back home I am snared in the unhappiness of junior high; My Maine rocks join the granite boulders in our backyard.
As my years continue, Rocks give way to new passions— Folk music, the great apes, ice skating, literature— I live a floating life, Grasping the possibilities in view, Leaving left-behind possibilities on the shores of memory.
I meet rapids And create whirlpools where none are intended; I flail against benevolent waters Because they are not the waters I seek Or believe I need to find.
After journeying to distant shores Seeking elusive settling, I return eventually to Delaware, To our little white house.
Daddy shows me he has kept my loveliest garnet rock, Stored safely against our sheltering home.
Now the garnet-filled rock carries in its crystals Twelve-year-old me Held among the eons its gems have shone Within and on the surface Of our miraculous Earth.
My rock carries within itself Its ancient molten infancy And refracts the Light To bathe my ephemeral now With insight outside of passing time.
The girl I was is not lost But held inside of me; The future I wanted but did not find Forms strata in my knowing, In the strength I have to share.
God’s garnets in my hand Shine their peace-giving glow On who I was, Who I am, And who I still can be.