When did my elders get so smart?

Posted by Jennifer Hatt on 30 March 2012 | 14 Comments

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When did my elders get so smart?

It was a blue day: not in weatherman terms, with a cloudless sky, but in writing terms, where doubt oozes from every pen and blank paper stands ready to mock any futile efforts at recording anything worth repeating.
This is part of the vocation, along with wine at 10 a.m. and perpetual poverty.
As a modern writer, who couldn't find the corkscrew, I turned to the anonymous comfort of the Internet, hit StumbleUpon and sat  prepared to be taken away. 
Instead, I see this:
I beg you ... To have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to live the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you could not live them. And the point is to live everything.  Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future,you will gradually,  without even noticing  it,  live your way into the answer ...
I was introduced to German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, who wrote of  hope in love and solitude, setting down the exact words to needed to see  100 years before I realized I needed them. 
Blue day inches to blue evening. Conversation with fellow author friend sinks deeply into purposes and responsibilities of life. Can a human being ever truly be happy? Can one truly belong to anyone or anything in the world  in a body seemingly called to solitude? These were conversations  leading to moods far too deep for any volume of wine to buoy. My friend, drawing on her benefit of years, offers me a gift.
Enter Anne Morrow Lindbergh. In my youthful naïveté I knew her only as the wife of Charles Lindbergh. In fact, she forged successful aviation and artistic careers not on the heels or even at the side of her famous husband, but independent of his vast shadow, charting her own destiny which included her devoted roles as wife and mother, but did not end there. In her struggle to make sense of the demands and choices in her busy life, she took refuge at a beach and wrote Gift From The Sea. Its analogy of a woman's life cycle to the common yet mystical creatures de la mer was exactly what I needed to put words to my confusion. She wrote this in 1955, more than a decade before I was born. And, she quotes - wait for it - Rainer Maria Rilke.
My discovery in a day when I expected to find nothing spanned 100 years, two continents, and the prophetic genius of writers with the courage, foresight, and talent to preserve their thoughts. 
This is what writers do. This  is what the world needs not only to survive, but to thrive.
I do not expect my offerings to have the power or longevity of Rilke or Lindbergh.
But I am expected to try. With their help, I will write another day. 
If I find my corkscrew, I may even write another year.


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