These are the capstone years,
the time in which a whole new life is in the making again.
But the gift of these years is not merely being alive –
it is the gift of becoming more fully alive than ever.

~ Joan Chittister

 Profile

The oldest poet in our Celebrating Poets Over 70 anthology is Marion Fields Wyllie of Owen Sound, Ontario, born in 1906. Having published her first poem in The Globe in 1920, she has been writing and painting most of her life.  She is an award-winning author committed to documenting her thoughts and experiences in prose and poetry. She launched her book of memoirs My Nine Lives on her 100th birthday and her latest book of poetry Blossoms on an Aged Tree on her 103rd birthday. She continues to read samples of her new writing at the monthly meetings of the Grey-Bruce Writers Club, which she founded nearly 30 years ago.

The power of her reflections on decades of aging is reflected in two poems in our Celebrating Poets Over 70 anthology:

Commentary

Marion Wyllie exemplifies writing as a lifelong activity and most particularly as a strategy for aging well. Writing can be a pathway to understanding – a pathway which combines mindfulness with imagination.  Understanding yields choice, which fosters aging with vitality.

A centenarian active in writing, Marion Wyllie opens up the future for those seniors thinking that the best of their lives was in the past.

For information on centenarians, you may consult:

Book Review

THE GIFT OF YEARS: GROWING OLD GRACEFULLY.
Joan Chittister
New York: Bluebridge (Imprint of United Tribes Media), 2008. Hard cover. 224 pp.  $19.95US

This engaging book encourages us to choose growth, joy and an outward perspective for later life.

With a highly readable style, Chittister incorporates much of the psychology of aging informally, encompassing pre-retirement, active retirement, decline with more losses than gains, and preparation for dying.  According to one of the key models in gerontology, older adults, with or without significant impairments, can age successfully if they avoid further health problems and excess disability, exercise mentally and physically daily, and engage with life. Positive spirituality, her focus, is the driving motivational force for the required life style changes and commitments involved in aging with continued vitality.

The book guides the reader to reflect on choices for aging with spirit in short chapters, designed to be read one per sitting in any order.  Each chapter contains quotations, real-life stories, insights, and a structured ending with the burden of these years and the blessing of these years.  Expected topics  include Meaning, Adjustment, Relationships, Letting Go, Memories, Forgiveness, and Wisdom ;  topics likely to be more surprising to readers include Accomplishment, Possibility, Dreams, Agelessness, and Future.

For more see my book review.

NEWS  — Grandmothers for Grandmothers

2-RaeLisbieGMAfricaLisbie Rae is a member of Hamilton’s Grandmothers of Steel and one of 42 Canadian grandmothers and supporters who went to Swaziland in May 2010 with the Stephen Lewis Foundation to attend the historic African Grandmothers Gathering.  500 grandmothers from 14 different African countries met to share their strategies for turning the tide of HIV/AIDS in their communities, to celebrate their collective wisdom and strength, and to demand that their governments and the rest of the world support their struggle and give them the means not just to survive but to thrive.  Over 1500 grandmothers and supporters marched through the streets of Manzini in Swaziland to draw world attention to their demands as eloquently expressed in the Manzini Statement.

Lisbie visited Tateni, a home-based care project in South Africa, where she shared a snapshot of her daughter and grandchildren with a grandmother there.  This meeting deeply affected her and inspired the poem which she now tells during her presentations on the trip.  Her aim is to make the voices of African grandmothers resonate across Canada, opening people’s hearts — and purses – in support.

Lisbie’s Poem: RaeLisbieSnapshotinAfrica

See also Banchoff#9-Ince-Lunacy, #9 in the Writing Down Our Years Series.

Quotations

The evening of a well-spent life brings its lamps with it.
~ J. Joubert

To know how to grow old is the master work of wisdom,
And one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living.
~ Henri Frederic Amiel

Poems

Reflection Section of Celebrating Poets Over 70 anthology

Until next time,

Ellen Ryan