My husband Michael doesn’t have a retiring bone in his body. Nonetheless, after thirty-seven years of faithful service to the same agency, last year he tendered his resignation and retired on December 31st.
And boy, am I excited! No more solopreneur stuff for me. No, siree. Isn’t the whole point of marriage companionship? I’ve envisioned adventures ad infinitum for Michael and me to pursue in tandem—from writing and speaking on marriage, gym workouts and bike-rides, travel, and cooking and dance classes. Vive variety!
Wisely, Michael is taking a hiatus before plunging headlong into my plans for his new life, catching up on house repairs, decluttering, and trying to organize his beloved wife of forty years: moi. (That may consume his lifetime).
So reluctantly, I’ve acquiesced, realizing that everyone needs a timeout to regroup during major life transitions—especially as significant as moving into one’s legacy years.
But I also know that after reflection comes risk. I don’t want to push Mike into doing what he doesn’t desire to do. Yet I also see gifts in him that he doesn’t recognize, and if I know anything about legacy living, I know that now is the time to make a difference for God’s kingdom. And as married partners, we can have greater impact serving God together. As both Michael and I enter a decidedly autumnal decade, we need to relish every magnificent moment, living colorfully and daringly. Our time here, our time together is evanescent. Are we making the most of our days?
So I’m dusting off a poem called “Invitation To Dance” that I wrote for Michael two Christmases ago, reminding him that now is the time to dream and to dare.
That autumn before I’d presented it to him, Michael and I were picking apples at a local orchard and for reasons I can’t explain, a sudden urge swept over me. I don’t know if it were the invigorating air, or the apples’ pungent scent, or the rows of trees queued up like participants in a line dance, but I had to enter in. I had to dance—just dance, oblivious to how I looked, unintimidated by who was looking, uninhibited by what I feared. I longed to grab my partner’s hand and weave a waltz through a trellis of trees.
But Michael wouldn’t dance. He wouldn’t enter into the moment, because he thought he couldn’t. And despite my coaxing, and my “It-doesn’t-matter-whether-or-not-you-think-you-can-dance-or-who-might-be-watching” plea, he was immovable.
Mike would. not. budge.
And it’s at that moment, that I knew this was more than an invitation to dance. I was daring him to enter a reckless adventure, to kick up his heels in delight, to abandon rules without thinking, to move without knowing the steps, to risk looking foolish when people gawked, to live far away from the guidelines and sidelines of life.
So I’m extending my invitation again as Michael and I seek to live out our legacy years. Somehow, I have the feeling that we are going to do a lot of dancing through life together.
Editorial Note: The painting to which I allude in my poem is called “Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose,” by British mid-nineteenth-century artist John Singer Sargent. Not satisfied to paint by memory, he gathered all his supplies, hauled them outdoors, and painted at dusk—that ethereal, twilight hour when sunset melts across the skies, fading quickly to black. Desiring to paint in an Impressionistic manner, using only natural lighting, he worked feverishly, taking advantage of those fleeting, magical moments. It took two years to complete the painting, and he gave his all during those few moments each day. I saw a metaphor in how he worked.
for Michael, with love and urgency
“I don’t dance in apple orchards,” you say,
with a straight face, then a smile,
but all the while, my hand extends to yours.
“Come,” I say, “please dance.”
But you won’t bend.
“I don’t dance in apple orchards,” you stress.
And then, you wink.
But dare I ask again?
I know that you are resolute,
and I know that life will end
in an absolute blink, in the time it takes
for these apples, weighty with August’s wine,
to loosen from limp stems in a gust of ruthless wind
and fall and bruise and roll and roil into bubbling decay.“I don’t dance,” you say.
But if not now, then when?
And if not here, between these choreographed rows of
red-lanterned trees, festooned for plein-air dance
(like Sargent’s lanterned garden all aglow with twilight),
The painter highlights the evanescent hour,
and daily, feverishly dances transient light onto canvas,
knowing magic soon will end.
Is it possible to compress beauty?
I dare to ask again:
Will you thrust yourself into my arms
and commence this pas de deux?
Don’t fret about the steps.
Let the magic lead . . .
All life’s a dance
begging you to enter in,
to move in its embrace.
Take your cue:
Trace how the apples dance from breeze-swayed boughs,
before they fall.