Stunned to find a typo in a Donald Hall piece in the New Yorker, I was also stunned to imagine myself really old. “Out The Window,” a personal history of the former poet laureate’s winter at age 83, reminds me of a pseudo-pact my Mount Desert Island, Maine, women friends made years ago.
When we get really old, “let’s buy a big house overlooking the ocean that has a spacious veranda (we said porch, but I like “veranda” better),” we said to each other, laughing. This conversation may have taken place over a few glasses of wine at the Claremont boat house on a summer’s evening.
If we’re left without spouses or partners, it’s the way to go. We’d each have our own room and our own favorite rocking chairs on the porch to spend hours looking out at the ocean. Mostly, we would be quiet. And maybe Kate would say, “Remember that brick-colored corduroy jumper three or four of us borrowed during our pregnancies?”
“Ayuh,” one of us would say, nodding. Again, silence.
“When I lament and darken over my diminishments, I accomplish nothing,” writes Hall, a fellow New Englander. “It’s better to sit at the window all day, pleased to watch birds, barns, and flowers.”
Watching the ocean, with all its movement and changes, would be more stimulating for me. I’m not a poet. I’ve always liked to watch ideas playing out on my mind’s movie screen.
Maybe I’ll just quietly appreciate how soothing the sea can be. Nowadays, when I visit with my children I gaze at their beautiful faces. I wonder — imagining the old Donald Hall sitting by his New Hampshire window — will seeing become more meaningful than blurting as I grow older, too?