Today I sing in praise of old women. Role models are not easy to come by at this age, so it was a great joy when three THREE! showed up in my awareness this week.
Alice Munro, 82, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for her latest collection, Dear Life, but really in recognition of her life’s work. She has brought new respect to the lowly short story. Alice is from Clinton, Ontario, and received the news (according to the account in the New York Times) with what I think of as typical Canadian understatement. “I would really hope this would make people see the short story as an important art, not just something you played around with until you got a novel.” She writes about life – desire, work, relationships, disappointments, aging – small, self-contained gems of insight and subtle humor. I find them delightful. Short enough to read in a short sitdown and thoughtful enough to last for days.
Mary Oliver, 78, is one of the few poets who writes for people who find poetry just too dense to wade through. Her new volume is Dog Songs, sweet poems to the many dog companions of her long life. One she describes as, “…a mixture of gravity and waggery.”
She won the National Book Award for poetry in 1992, writing mostly about nature and the ebb and flow of the seasons, life and death, outside her door in rural Ohio. Half an hour with Mary and I’m sighing and patting my heart with happiness.
Ginny Ames, 97, is famous only among her devoted circle of friends. But this week she is on her way to publishing a memoir of the years around WWII when she and her husband lived in Washington D.C. and he was involved with intelligence and espionage related to the war effort. She is an accomplished artist and writer, and five years ago started learning to play the bass fiddle. But more than anything else she is a wise and delightful human being it is my honor to know.
It is a comfort to be reminded that at this age joys and accomplishments are not all behind us, and that there is a wonderful sweetness in aging wine.