When you are old and gray and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep...
~ William Butler Yeats, "When You Are Old"
The first Monday of the new year is a time for looking forward, but this morning I find myself looking back and forth. It started with a song, "Old Man," and a video of its composer, Neil Young, singing it forty years ago when he and I and so many others were young.
Mr. Young has been a favorite of mine from the moment I first heard his warbly voice in a Buffalo Springfield song in 1966. I know he's not for everyone, but give this video of "Old Man" a chance anyway.
In "Old Man," a young man believes that loneliness creates a common ground with an older one. He sings,
Look at how the time goes past
But I'm all alone at last
Rolling home to you
In happy contrast, Neil Young's own life is notable not for loneliness but for a solid thirty-plus-year marriage to his talented wife Pegi. And that's my message for today. As the great Chuck Berry put it, "It goes to show you never can tell."
Old man pushing seventy,
In truth he acts like a little boy,
Whooping with delight when he spies some mountain fruits,
Laughing with joy, tagging after village mummers;
With the others having fun stacking tiles to make a pagoda,
Standing alone staring at his image in the jardinière pool.
Tucked under his arm, a battered book to read,
Just like the time he first set out to school.
~ Lu Yu, "Written in a Carefree Mood"