Notes on How to Be Old

Today is my 72nd birthday, so I’m taking a refresher course on being old from one of my favorite poets.

May Sarton (1912-1995) was a prolific writer and poet. She did old age as well as anybody I ever knew or any writer I ever read. 

From her Journal of a Solitude:

We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.

There is no doubt that solitude is a challenge and to maintain balance within it a precarious business. But I must not forget that, for me, being with people or even with one beloved person for any length of time without solitude is even worse. I lose my center. I feel dispersed, scattered, in pieces. I must have time alone in which to mull over my encounter, and to extract its juice, its essence, to understand what has really happened to me as a consequence of it.

To read May Sarton’s poem “Now I Become Myself” click:

Now I Become Myself

by May Sarton

Now I become myself. It’s taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people’s faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
‘Hurry, you will be dead before-‘
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!
The black shadow on the paper
Is my hand; the shadow of a word
As thought shapes the shaper
Falls heavy on the page, is heard.
All fuses now, falls into place
From wish to action, word to silence,
My work, my love, my time, my face
Gathered into one intense
Gesture of growing like a plant.
As slowly as the ripening fruit
Fertile, detached, and always spent,
Falls but does not exhaust the root,
So all the poem is, can give,
Grows in me to become the song,
Made so and rooted by love.
Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move.
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!


“Now I Become Myself” from Selected Poems of May Sarton, © 1978 by May Sarton – George J. McLeod Ltd

About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for the past 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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8 Responses to Notes on How to Be Old

  1. I am partial to Shakespeare’s ‘Seven Ages of Man’ from ‘As You Like It.’

    Should I say Happy Birthday, or congratulations on surviving? At any rate, a most pleasant day to you, and thanks for all the hard work.

    • wordcloud9 says:

      Thanks Chuck –

      As you know, I am also very partial to Shakespeare!

      I think after last year, congratulations on surviving is probably where we are. Glad we made it!

  2. Happy birthday, and I love this piece for your special day!

  3. QueridaJ says:

    Happy Belated Birthday!! If i haven’t said it before, I’ll say it now because I’d want you to know I admire all the effort you put into your posts and have learned so much from them. Thank you!!!

  4. rafflaw says:

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

    • wordcloud9 says:

      Thanks rafflaw –

      We had pizza for dinner – for the first time in months, as the local place now has curbside pickup. It’s sometimes the little things that get us through!

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