Isak Dinesen, also known as Karen Blixen, was a fine story teller and example of a woman who followed her convictions. Since the age of thirteen, when my father gave me a copy of her book, Out of Africa, I have held her in high esteem. When she lived in Kenya in the early 20th century, she became, in addition to an author, a coffee grower. The opening sentence in her book is, “I have a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills.”
In the 1990s I had a farm in Oregon, near Elkton in the Coastal Range. And like Isak/Karen, I was married to a charming man. I loved the rural life and built a small cabin above the Umpqua River where I wrote little stories. I think she and I each asked too much of our marriages. Neither lasted.
I clung to the similarities between my life and that of Isak Dinesen’s.
Then I left the farm and moved to the beach in Santa Cruz County and didn’t think about her very much and the years passed. Now, in a senior community in Santa Rosa, I will be 90 in September and think about being old. What does that mean? Will I be a burden to my family? Will my life begin to revolve around doctor appointments? Will I become creaky? disillusioned? grouchy and picky? Will my life narrow and my perspective diminish? These are what elders often dwell upon.
Then, suddenly, when I was least expecting it, I ran across this quote from Isak Dinesen! She said, “Women, when they are old enough to have done with the business of being women, and can let loose their strength, must be the most powerful creatures in the world.”
Just in the nick of time!
I’m determined to make the next ten to fourteen years the best they can be. Like Isak, confronted by a massive lion in the bush, when I face depressing thoughts, I will wave my hands and say, “Shoo. Shoo.”