I acknowledge that I am something of an anomaly in that I have never coloured my hair nor had a perm, nor will I. And I was delighted recently when an employee at the Canada Passport Office rejected my photo, clarifying, “Your hair is silver-grey, not white like in that picture.”
All my life I have aspired to emulate a woman very reminiscent of Amelia Werner/Warner in my Understanding Ursula trilogy. From as early as I can remember, she defined senescence with love, vitality, grace, and dignity. And, of course, it never would have occurred to her to alter the naturalness of aging.
During my 20 years as an educator with MacEwan College, I told my students, “I don’t fear growing old; I fear not growing old!” Invariably, I was rewarded with expressions of appreciation for sharing this perspective of longevity. Our culture has become so focused on youth and solipsism that there is precious little recognition of age as the mark of living, or of the awareness that our experiences confer wisdom as we learn the lessons of life.
It was eight days after I turned 65 when I signed with my editor. Arriving: 1909–1919 was launched just prior to my 66th birthday, Thriving: 1920–1939 just prior to my 67th, and now we are preparing for the release of Choosing: 1940–1989, mere weeks before I shall celebrate my 68th. And, I’ve had as many followers share their delight with my accomplishments as a senior as those who have queried, “Why did you wait so long to begin writing?”
I have always strived to be a student of life. I love to observe, to listen, and to interact with people in my perpetual pursuit of comprehending our relationships with one another in every circumstance. Thank you, John, for your gracious and astute affirmation in a recent email, “Your work and thoughts follow the lives of many as they travel this world. I find your talent to describe the human condition remarkable.”
During an author signing at Coles in Lloydminster, one of the very young employees came to me. “Can I tell you that, from the colour of your hair, I know you are older than I am, but I have never had your energy in all my life.” Her candid comment brought to mind an excerpt from one of my favourite writings, The Desiderata: “Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.”
I believe we can embrace aging by continually endeavouring to foster our dynamism, our passion for life, and our bright visions for the future. To quote Lord Alfred Tennyson from his noble poem Ulysses, “Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will. To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”