It was hearing both Mary Kellogg and Jackie Thorne read their poetry, back to back at the last Bedlam Farm Open House when I first saw the connection between them and their work. Two poets from different places and generations, often speaking of the same thing. Both have been writing from an early age, publishing books later in life.
Mary had some of her old poems handy with notes for some new ones. At 86 she tells me the same thing she always has, how she needs to volunteer less and give more times to her poems. She always winds up doing both. Mary is still driving her friends, who are older than her, to their doctors appointments and to church every Sunday. “Just last week ,”she said we went to the concert on the green and went for ice cream afterwards.”
Both Jackie and I admire Mary. How she continues to live her life on her terms and never stops doing her work. All three of us are the kind of people who understand the need for time alone.
Then Mary asked us which direction we thought her poetry should go. Jackie and I both agreed that we’d love to hear more about her life now. What it’s like to be 86 years old. How her life is different and how it’s the same. What it feels like to be Mary now.
It seems to me it’s the writers who can come closest to helping the rest of us to understand what’s it’s like to grow old. With all it’s complexities and emotions. Something that seems to be almost impossible to understand without experiencing it.
Before we left, we talked about cats, Jackie’s kittens and Mary’s black cat, who used to follow her around the house and died a few months ago. Jackie brought Mary pickled squash that she made from her garden and Mary told us how she can no longer weed her gardens (they both belong to garden clubs).
The next time Jackie and I visit Mary I’ll bring some ice cream or cookies and Jackie will bring some of her poems. And I bet by then Mary will have a new poem to read to us. Maybe about how she loves to live alone in her farm house, or about having ice cream with her friends, after the concert at the village green.