It’s a new year. It’s the year I’ll turn 64. The Beatles’ song has played in my head often these past few months. I think back to when I heard it for the first time. I had just turned sixteen. I was at a party with a boy named Keith I’d had a crush on, for a year or so, and now I was finally going out with him. To be honest, he was a lot less interesting in real life than I had built him up to be in my mind. Isn’t that often the case? And he never appreciated how stunningly my mother dressed me; including the night he took me to the party where we heard Sgt. Pepper’s for the first time. If I was a disappointment to him as well, well, he can write that in his blog. I will say this in his defense: he was very beautiful to look at, and he could play practically any piece of music on the piano that he heard for the first time, even though (if I recall rightly, though I may be wrong in this) he couldn’t read sheet music.
On a side note, my mother had made me a cream-coloured outfit of silk sari fabric embroidered with real gold. It was a two-piece outfit consisting of a pair of “bloomers,” very short, with a pleated frill at their hem, and a sleeveless empire waist top that touched the frill so that it appeared to be part of the top, until you looked closely and saw the bloomers peeking out from beneath. The whole outfit was exquisite, and, these days, looking back at photographs of me around that age I wasn’t far off from exquisite, either–though this was largely because of how my mother dressed me.
Now I’ll be sixty-four in a few months. Lennon and McCartney were in their twenties when they wrote their song. I expect they couldn’t imagine any more than I could back then, turning sixty-four.
I remember at my twenty-first birthday party talking with a client of my mother’s, the travel writer and journalist Barbara Wace, who was sixty-four at the time. Her mother had died recently, she told me, adding, she felt too young to have lost her mother. (I was too young to understand.)
Miss Wace lived at the top of a building on Fleet Street that took many, many steps to reach it. I climbed those many steps at different times, when she invited me for lunch. I didn’t know then how valuable those meetings were. I was still in my lost and confused years (which stretched into my life until only a few years ago). If I had known then that what I really wanted to be was a writer, rather than simply knowing as I had from childhood that I could write, I would have been very attentive to everything Miss Wace told me about life, her writing, and the world at large. And I would have sought her advice. But I didn’t. And, now, here I am, about to turn sixty-four myself in a few months, without it. And without the advice of so many great and legendary people I met, through my parents, through my education, and long after. All I can think of is this:
I will be sixty-four this year, but I stand on stars billions of years old that still illuminate the earth at night. I am, in their eyes, a very young, young ‘un; I am a new arrival in their Nursery.
On the title of this post: the year we stand on stars. It’s adapted from a line of Carly Simon’s Let the River Run. When I was contemplating inspiration for this coming year, I thought of how much I love this song, the hope of possibility in it, and of Emily Dickinson’s poem I Dwell in Possibility. I read the lyrics of the song for the first time today, and knew what this year for me will be:
We the great and small
stand on a star
and blaze a trail of desire
through the dark’ning dawn.
2015: The Year We Stand on Stars
I believe that when I was 16, I couldn’t see how very young 64 was– when my Mom turned 55 and was still so beautiful and young, I began to know, if only for other people. I felt ridiculously ancient at 26, but now in middle-age, I feel young and full of possibilities, though in a decidedly different way. So much seemed open TO me, then– now, all those openings must come from me, as I see it. The world, back then, was the source of endless “coulds” and now I am the source.
Standing on stars– not a bad way to begin. Thank you.
I have played Let the River Run many times over the past few days and think of it as your song. Shelley’s song. Your the kind of soul who offers her hand to others from your star so others can enjoy the extraordinary view and open their dreams up to the universe.
You have an old soul, but a young spirit. You’re not afraid of evolution, and that may be part of the mystery of who you are as a person, and how you can speak to people of all ages.
You illuminate the world, dear friend. I’m emboldened to acknowledge the reach of those stars and stand with you.
On a side note of my own: It’s interesting to me that you speak of standing on stars and the title drew me in. The night before last I dreamed I was traveling, that I was at once moving away from something and towards another thing altogether. At the end of the dream, a friend led me up and up the stairs of a skyscraper and out onto the rooftop. She bid me look in this massive, beautiful telescope. I did and saw the planets shimmering and dancing so close I was hungry to touch them, to be with them. I told my friend this and she pushed me off the building. I woke up as I was falling, with no ill feelings about being pushed but had this dual sense of both my own mortality, and the great expanse of possibility.
I immediately wrote about the dream in my journal, knowing it was something I wouldn’t soon want to forget. Then, I find this post. It’s as if your heart spoke to mine.
Best in the New Year to you. Keep illuminating. xox
What a fascinating dream, Tonia. xxxs