Last weekend I went to a 87th birthday party for poet, Morgan Gibson!
How can anyone refuse an invitation to an 87th birthday? And certainly not one for a poet whose continued curiosity and excitement about the world keeps him creating.
I walked down the drive to the party and threaded my way past a low basketball hoop and around brightly colored toys, belonging, I guessed, to the youngest generations of his family. My planned path led me towards a middle-aged couple caught up in a lingering embrace and kiss – the kind that muffles the roar of the world into a tiny whisper.
What a marvelous way to celebrate life, I thought, and, with my already festive mood amped up a few levels, I went to find the poet.
Morgan was seated with friends in the shade of a tree, his white curls escaping from the khaki bush-hat he customarily wears. He invited me into the conversation with a couple of other poets.
I knew that he had recently returned from visiting his musician son in Japan and when the others moved towards the refreshment table I asked him about the trip. He had lived and taught there for 20 years and, having just completed a similar odyssey myself, I wanted to know about his return.
I remembered that the flight from California to Tokyo is very long,; it crosses a number of time zones and the International Dateline – which can wreak havoc with your sleep, your energy and your appetite. I was very impressed that he had undertaken the journey knowing its rigors, and alone at that.
He brushed off the details of the journey and launched into describing how he reconnected with his literary circle from his earlier time there and his delight as he once more experienced that special feeling of belonging.
Then, with a wry smile, he declared that, in a few short weeks, he was moving back to Kamakura – permanently – and undeterred by the fact he speaks only a few words of Japanese.
“You do understand? “ he asked.
I did and replied, “You are going to where your heart has a home”.
The length of the journey, the many preparations, the enormous changes involved in the move to a very different culture, as well as the challenge of learning sufficient language to communicate basic needs would quell the fire in many a fainter-hearted person , regardless of age.
Morgan continues to inspire me because, in spite of the messages about age in America, Morgan persists in continuing to write.
However, choosing to move thousands of miles to the place where he was happiest, is the most exciting kind of news for those of us who want to rewrite the roadmap of aging.
His decision at 87 opens up all kinds of possibilities for the rest of us!
He wrote a few years ago
“Putting off poems
near the ending of my life
was putting off the rest of it.
Poetry is living
as if nothing
is something else.
It takes time to write out of time.
I am telling you tales
so far out of mind
there is no distance between us.
(excerpt from “Poetry That I am Searching For “ in Lusterless Wanderer and Other Poems by Morgan Gibson 2012)