Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
—T.S. Eliot, “The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock”
Ten years ago I started my monthly reflection with that quote, which seems apt again today as I think about my retirement and what will come next. Ten years ago I described how my stepmother Jane would insist on trying to waterski when she was no longer strong enough to do it. My father drove the boat, and didn’t hide his irritation as she tried and fell, tried and fell, tried and fell.
Today I’m only six or seven years younger than Jane was when she made her last skiing attempt. I still grudgingly admire her stubbornness, if not her common sense. Today I understand why Prufrock wears the bottom of his trousers rolled.
“Do I dare to eat a peach?” I choose to believe that he will dare, and that there are other kinds of fruit he hasn’t tasted yet. Other voices singing, if he stops to listen. A kind friend or new acquaintance who will hem his trouser bottoms, or teach him to do it for himself.
Daring may seem out of reach in this cold time of year – and peaches and most other fruits are out of season. But I invite you, this month, to dare yourself to do something that will make your heart sing. Perhaps the mermaids will join in.