Notes Nearing Ninety: Learning to Write Less

Donald Hall, the poet, essayist, and editor, who died in June this year at the age of 89, on aging and writing:

An athlete goes professional at twenty. At thirty, he is slower but more canny. At forty, he leaves behind the identity that he was born to and that sustained him. He diminishes into fifty, sixty, seventy. Anyone ambitious who lives to be old or even old endures the inevitable loss of ambition’s fulfillment.


Suppose I am the hundred-fifty-year-old maple outside my porch. When winter budges toward spring, I push out tiny leaves, which gradually curl yellowish green, then enlarge, turning darker green and flourishing through summer. In September, flecks of orange seep into green, and October turns the leaves gorgeously orange and red. Leaves fall, emptying the branches, and in December, only a few remain. In January, the last survivors flutter down onto snow. These black leaves are the words I write.

[via Charles Ying]


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