Ever feel like you’re drowning in dreck?
When that happens, this is one of the things I turn to—it never fails.
Johann Sebastian Bach, Suite No. 3 in C major for Unaccompanied Cello, 4th Mvt. (Sarabande); Pierre Fournier (1906-1986), cello
[O]ld age is a ceremony of losses, which is on the whole preferable to dying at forty-seven or fifty-two.
After a life of loving the old, by natural law I turned old myself. Decades followed each other—thirty was terrifying, forty I never noticed because I was drunk, fifty was best with a total change of life, sixty extended the bliss of fifty—and then came my cancers, Jane’s death, and over the years I travelled to another universe. However alert we are, however much we think we know what will happen, antiquity remains an unknown, unanticipated galaxy. It is alien, and old people are a separate form of life. They have green skin, with two heads that sprout antennae. They can be pleasant, they can be annoying—in the supermarket, these old old ladies won’t get out of my way—but most important they are permanently other. When we turn eighty, we understand that we are extraterrestrial. If we forget for a moment that we are old, we are reminded when we try to stand up, or when we encounter someone young, who appears to observe green skin, extra heads, and protuberances.
Whatever the season, I watch the barn. I see it through this snow in January, and in August I will gaze at trailing vines of roses on a trellis against the vertical boards. I watch at the height of summer and when darkness comes early in November. From my chair I look at the west side, a gorgeous amber laved by the setting sun, as rich to the eyes as the darkening sweet of bees’ honey. . . . Out the window, I watch a white landscape that turns pale green, dark green, yellow and red, brown again under bare branches, until snow falls again.
—Donald Hall, “Out the Window,” New Yorker, 1/23/12