Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done…..
Come, my friends,
T’is not too late to seek a newer world…. – Alfred Lloyd Tennyson
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God
But only those who see take off their shoes;
The rest sit around and pluck blackberries. – Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Those two quotes represent two different aspects of retirement, not necessarily in opposition to one another but requiring a fine balance.
I read the first quote by Tennyson in a Macleans Op Ed written by recently retired Canadian Supreme Court Justice Beverly McLachlin. McLachlin who is some ten years older than I am, is certainly taking Tennyson’s words to heart. She just retired in December but has already completed writing a novel that will soon be published and has accepted a part-time post as a foreign judge on the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal. She is finding ‘work of noble note’ even as she approaches the last decades of her life.
I read the second quote by Browning on the Facebook page of a chaplain in a retirement facility. Retirement offers us an opportunity to take a break from constant work and really notice all the beauty around us here on earth, to ‘take off our shoes’ and soak up the wonders of nature, the kindness of strangers and the excellence of a good book. Browning warns that if we are so busy working we won’t have time to notice that beauty around us.
The challenge lies in achieving a balance. Doing some noble work so we have a purpose, so we still feel like we are making some small contribution to a ‘newer world’, but also making sure we have time to revel in the beauty of the natural world, spend time with family and friends and enjoy literature, music, theatre, physical exercise, travel and art.
It’s a fine balance. I often am tilted too far to one side or the other, but I know how lucky I am to have the opportunity to try to continue to balance my life before ‘death closes all.’