I have a 101 year old grandmother who taught me to love grits and Wordsworth - all in the same breath. There’s nothing quite like a strong southern woman. Independence and charm, sass and grace, steel and velvet. Before now, I had never even met anyone who lived to be one hundred, much less known them personally. I am amazed with the gift of time I have with Lou Lou. She still lives in southern Alabama so I get to spend a Saturday a month with this national treasure. She is easily delighted – and most often with flowers, music and poetry. Louise Rushing graduated from Montevallo College (now the University of Montevallo) in 1927 and taught English for many years. Among her many accomplishments is the ability to recite poetry. Most impressive at any age, but at 101, it is downright remarkable. One of her favorites is “The Daffodils” by William Wordsworth.
“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
…For oft, when on my couch I lie,
In vacant or in pensive mood
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude:
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.”
So that’s why I dance with daffodils. It is in my genes. I have inherited Lou Lou’s happy heart. I am grateful.
Note added in 2010: Lou Lou moved to heaven on November 21, 2009 (my birthday!) at the age of 103. She had so many "favorite poems" but I'll share the "Psalm of Life" in her honor today:
Psalm of Life
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou are, to dust thou returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, - act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sand of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us then be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
(She always recited the last line as "Learn to labor and to pray" claiming she was confident that's what Longfellow meant to say.)