I just arrived at the NY State Writers Institute which I have attended every summer for the last 14 years. For the first seven, I was a student, and the last seven years I have been writer-in-residence working with students on their novel manuscripts in one-on-one tutorials. This is my favorite job, and it’s in a new jungle all together. It’s hot and humid with my tribe of literary folk. Today, as I was leaving my apartment, I ran into Howard Norman who was heading to his car. We caught up for a second about how our year went. The subject turned to health as it does after the age of 50, and he told me a great story about how he is working on an old house in VT and the man working for him said he needed to replace a few boards, then looked Howard up and down. We both laughed at the metaphor. My partner and I are also working on an old house, and the metaphor of an old house and an old body can be carried through on so many levels. Old houses, like old bodies need TLC. First it’s just some coats of paint you need, then it’s new windows (reading glasses), then it’s the plumbing, then then it’s the foundation. On and on. But I wouldn’t trade my old house for a new one. My house has character and flaws, and will never be perfect, but it has memories, both mine and the previous owners. It creaks and it has cracks going this way and that. My house is solid though. It’s lived through earthquakes and rainstorms (when we had them in CA), and it’s still standing.
I left Howard and went for a bike ride. In the small town, of Ballston Spa, about 10 miles away, I was standing at a stoplight, waiting for it to turn green, when woman who stood at the curb asked me if I knew what was taking the light so long. “I’m tired of waiting,” she said, “but I’m not willing to get hit by the traffic. That’s just not an option.” I agreed, getting hit by a car wouldn’t be a good thing. “I’m 70,” she said, “and I plan on making it to 100!”
“I love your attitude,” I told her.
“I have six great grandkids,” she said, “and I plan on having the great greats, you know?”
“I know!” I said back, and realized I’d never thought that far, but that I too want great greats.
Then the light turned green and she was off. I’m pretty sure she’ll make it to 100. I’m right behind her.
It’s been a great day!