The Novice Author at Eighty

In 1994 I sat in a school auditorium filled with girls and young women, all of us listening to my dear friend share her wisdom.  She was being installed as President of their Academy. Her final comment before she left the podium was to quote the poet Mary Oliver:

“Tell me, what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”*

I give that thought to you, my reader, because it holds meaning across the decades of our lives. Those young women and girls on that day might have thought about their wild and precious lives from a youth’s window. What does a wild and precious life mean in our twenties when we might have a sense of beginnings, of taking new paths? In our fifties, our seventies? 

As our years accumulate will we hold room for the unpredictable and the wildness of unanticipated changes?  Will we make our lives bigger or will we become smaller?

When I heard Mary Oliver’s poem that day as my friend spoke, I wonder now if I paused to discover what I offered my carefully thought-out life. Was a faint inner voice speaking of possibility? Was I listening? 

Today, I stand at my window looking out over a snowy valley of junipers that stretch to the horizon. I’m considering what my wild and precious life is offering to me as I enter a new decade. At the end of last month, December 2019, I became eighty. 

There’s rich soil in imagination, and as my birthday approached, I puzzled over and reflected on the unexpected, the astonishing and the unpredictable. 

I’m an author. I haven’t always been one, and thus, the word novice in my title.Teacher, professor, counsellor — all these roles have nourished me and brought me to this place in time. And yet for many years, I pushed against the courage it would take to listen to my creative spirit. Perhaps even tried to silence her.

“I have to put a roof over my head; I need to be practical; maybe I’m only fooling myself, maybe I’m just being dramatic. When did anyone say I could write!”

I decided to let the naysayers in me have a rest and give more space to a spirit of being within me who is enlivened by story. I have a desire to write about the ordinary and the adventurous, to unravel the collective memories, the conscious and unconscious narratives of life’s journey. On this, my heroine’s journey, I decided to create a path beyond the expected and the comfortable.

 I pronounced my courageous, venturesome self in charge.

Life is a steadfast practice of growing into my own truth and urging my creative spirit to take the lead. I used to sing (still do, but no longer with others listening.) My inner naysayers sometimes railed against my song, but never enough to knock the props out from under my voice, my musical voice. Now that voice has become words on a page.

In my lifetime, I have taught little children to search out their imaginations. I’ve worked alongside teachers and gloried in watching them enchant, urge and inspire their children in classrooms. I sang my songs, taught little and not-so-little children. I encouraged teachers to listen to those moments when they and the children created the unexpected ‘ahas’ when pieces of  everyone’s learning, teachers and children, fit into the puzzle of discovery.  

Like those children and those teachers, my creative spirit speaks to me about the dance of discovery and learning.

The creative spirit does not dance alone. She and I are in step..

To Be Continued….

 * Oliver, Mary. The Summer Day. In Devotions: Selected Works. NY. Random House. 2017

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