Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Gift of Time

An old pseudo-folk song said, “Nothing is what you could wish it to be.”

Oh life is a toil and love is a trouble,

beauty will vanish and riches will flee.

Pleasures they dwindle and prices they double

and nothing is what you could wish it to be.

It’s true but it’s not true, and how fortunate I am—no beauty was there to dwindle and I have enough money and I have time. Who knows how much time, but while it’s here it’s mine.

The Last Gift of Time, Carolyn Heilbrun titled her quirky book about the challenges and joys of being in her 60s. She had thought she would commit suicide rather than face that decade but instead she wrote a book about the changes. Then killed herself at 77, when she was still in good health. I was angry at her, knowing her only through her writing—the high-toned murder mysteries and the essays. Why destroy herself when she was well able to negotiate the city she loved and while she still had friends and the infinite horizon of writing to be done? In The Last Gift she wrote of her friendship with May Sarton who—as Heilbrun describes her—was in her old age still feeling angry and deprived because of the recognition she didn’t receive in academic and literary circles. Only millions of actual readers, not the establishment, loved Sarton. There’s definitely a lesson there in taking what you have and being grateful.

But while it’s here, time is mine, that was the thought. My time to pick the ugly larvae off the Asian lilies, to walk in the Quabbin Reservoir wildness, to talk to the cats, to write whatever I choose, to cultivate new friendships. To learn to live in what already is.