When I retired from college teaching, it was because I wanted to do more, not less. I heard the siren call of passions I’d kept on the sidelines and new interests I wanted to explore. When people asked what I was going to do, I said I wasn’t retiring, I was redirecting. With Emilie’s voice in my ear all these years, how could I do otherwise?
Emilie Loring wrote “The Fountain of Youth,” “Keep Young,” and “My First Real Vacation” at about the same time. Her children were grown, and although she had not worked outside the home, more of her time was about to be her own. She savored the possibilities.
Take up an interest that has beckoned to you through the years, but on whose allurements you have resolutely turned your back because your family needed all your time. Now that the young people have grown up, go to it with all the zest and enthusiasm there is in you.
Eventually, that interest was writing, but that’s not all she tried. Clubs, gardening, family history, and the renovation of Stone House all had their turns.
You have mental maturity, intelligence, concentration, and what counts most, a conscientious appreciation of the illimitable possibilities which the world of art, science, or business opens up for you.
Emilie’s favorite painters were Rembrandt, Titian, and Rubens. She favored historical fiction and Charles Dickens in literature, musical comedy in the theater, and Strauss waltzes on the concert stage. She filled her bookshelves with aspirational reading and traveled to the city to enjoy plays and concerts.
Now that your nose is no longer pressed to the grindstone of bringing up a family, raise your eyes and study the limitless possibilities that surround you until you begin to feel that subtle elixir of enthusiasm stealing through the veins which you had imagined were beginning to harden.
Efficiency proved an effective strategy. Emilie streamlined household tasks, planned no-fuss family meals, and planted easy-care perennials. She wanted a lovely home, excellent meals, and rejuvenating gardens, but she wouldn’t be tethered by them.
Stop longing for youth and put something across with the years that you have. It may seem a formidable undertaking but it can be done. Not only that, but it can be done so quickly that you will have years and years left in which to accomplish other things, and the second beginning won’t seem nearly the mountain that the first one seemed.
All of Emilie’s books promoted vital living, regardless of age, but this was especially true of the novel she published in her first year of widowhood, Beckoning Trails (1947). Sophie Brandt hid her age with a “hideous yellow bang,” but without a sense of purpose, she was unhappy. Keeping house for Tim Grant was her salvation:
“A chance to be of use had changed her from a pepless, unhappy old woman to an efficient person with courage, belief in her power to achieve, and with sparkle, definitely with sparkle.” Beckoning Trails
If it isn’t lack of youth perhaps it’s lack of opportunity which is holding you back. Opportunity! Look about among your friends. How many of them had their chance handed to them on the golden platter of opportunity? Not many of them, you’ll admit… their very enthusiasm and faith spelled opportunity.
Suzie bought a cute little house with a view of the mountains. Lynn, with her first passport, is about to begin the travel she has longed for all these years. Sue volunteers time to a program for at-risk young women, and Tom has taken up nature photography.
The next time that I’m-too-old-to-begin lethargy steals over you, shake yourself vigorously and remind yourself that middle life is a time of individual freedom, individual expression, individual development, individual thought. A time when you can express what life has taught you.
I took a little stand for vitality this past week when I hand-carried two tons of rock to my family’s lakeshore and rebuilt its two retaining walls. I had no idea of doing this project when I traveled there, but up came the idea, and pretty soon, I was hauling rocks.
It was that way with Emilie Loring’s biography, too. I had no idea of writing a book, no plan to create a website or blog. But one thing followed another, and here we are.
“’The gods provide the thread once the web is started.’” Uncharted Seas
“Get out. Go somewhere. Follow a rainbow. Who knows, you may find the legendary pot of gold at the end of it.” There Is Always Love
I hear little echoes of Emilie’s words: Hitch your wagon to a star, keep putting one foot in front of the other, “leg over leg, the dog went to Dover,” and, dollars to donuts, you’ll get there.
I have some weeks of concentrated writing ahead, and then I’m off to celebrate in Blue Hill, Maine. Good luck with the goals you dream for yourself and all that you are trying.
Happy Landings, everyone!