On crisp autumn days when I was a little girl, my mother often sang a song with the following lines:
And flowers of June together
You cannot rival for one short hour
October’s bright blue weather
I found myself singing it this weekend, which seemed to stretch endlessly and beautifully, bright and blue and warm and gentle, the perfect goodbye for fall.
We worked hard and played hard – finished cleaning the garage, got the flower beds tucked in for winter, made at least a dent in the never-ending oak leaves, and finished our afternoon with a long walk along our favorite riverside trail, where the low water level and slower flow caused by a stretch of dry weather meant the usually brown and muddy river perfectly reflected the bright October sky.
It was the late seventies, I was freshly divorced, and I was in shock and definitely not happy. So when my new counselor handed me the flyer for an Association for Humanistic Psychology workshop entitled “How to be Happily Unmarried,” I was all over it. I desperately needed hope from somewhere, and I was sure willing to learn from anyone who dared put the words happily and unmarried in the same sentence.
I can still remember my nervousness as I entered the large ballroom in a downtown Chicago hotel – there must have been over two hundred people in the room. I almost turned around and walked out, but desperation won the day and I walked in. I probably slunk to the nearest seat – still royally ashamed that I was not only single, but divorced. I’m quite certain I didn’t make eye contact with anyone.
My heart sank again when I saw our presenter: short and unassuming but reasonably trim, she was neatly dressed in slacks and a sweater, and her hair was gray. How was anybody that old going to have anything useful to say to me?
Once she started speaking, however, she energized the room. Lively and charismatic, she could have made a living as a stand-up comic. She swiftly broke us into small groups, handed us assignments, shuffled the groups, gave us a new task, and only then did she tell us her story. In her mid fifties, she was divorced after a life-long marriage, and she was taking no prisoners in her determination to form relationships and build happiness back into her life.
We had a one hour lunch break that day, and she gave us marching orders for that, as well. Our instructions were to start conversations with at least four strangers on the streets of downtown Chicago. It didn’t count if the person ignored us – we had to keep trying until four different persons at least responded to something we said. (f.y.i., she didn’t say form a relationship or take these persons home to our bed – just start a conversation!)
The day was a total success. I sailed through her luncheon assignment with flying colors (and probably made eye contact, too), and by the end of the day I had dates with three other workshop participants, my first dates since the divorce. I considered it money well spent: I could taste happiness again, and I began to have hope.
Those three men are long gone from my life, but something else from that day has stuck with me. During Q&A, a timid-looking woman raised her hand and asked something like the following: “Aren’t you afraid of rejection?” I’ll never forget our presenter’s answer: “Honey, if I don’t get rejected at least once a day, I’m not trying very hard.”
I won’t say I follow her advice every day, but I know it made a difference in my life, and that difference is part of why I now write erotic romance with my husband of three decades. It’s also part of why I so much admire Claire Johnson, heroine of our latest Baby Boomer release, Ripening Passion (Whiskey Creek Press Torrid):
Claire Johnson’s dedication to sex—the cornerstone of her career—led her to found the Center for Sexuality and Sex Practices. Now in her fifties, she knows the Center must keep pace with the rapidly growing Baby Boomer market, so she agrees to go back on camera for a series on sex and aging. But work with her nemesis?
Former English Professor Max Wilson has championed the cause of the Center ever since his deceased wife sought the Center’s help to rekindle the nearly extinguished sexual flames of their relationship. He loves working on camera and welcomes the challenge to perform with the svelte but feisty temptress.
Sparks fly immediately on and off camera. Can either Claire or Max transform those sparks into a fire of sexual desire for their viewers? And if they succeed, what will happen when the movie’s over?
I don’t think Claire ever had a need to take a workshop like my success story from the seventies – but she sure could have taught it. The other piece of wisdom I gleaned from this look backwards in time? Mid-fifties doesn’t seem nearly as old as it used to! Something else I couldn’t have known that day – hot sex after fifty is a good thing.
Purchase Ripening Passion at
This weekend we went to visit friends in Western Iowa we hadn’t seen for a long time. Iowa is crossed by two major interstate highways – but they weren’t much use getting from our house to theirs. After a brief stretch whizzing by the landscape headed south on I-35, we turned west on two-lane roads for the remaining three plus hours of our travels. Externally enforced relaxation. Fifty-five miles an hour at best, and we’re in the middle of fall harvest, with extra-wide farm equipment possibly over the next hill or around the next turn in the road to slow us down even more.
And for that, I am grateful. Most people think of Iowa (if they think about it at all) as monotonously flat and populated by cornfields. Speeding through Iowa on I-80 to get to somewhere more important, it’s easy to get that impression. We were travelling towards the Missouri River and into one of the most unique geological formations on our continent – the Loess Hills. Barely an hour after leaving I-35 we entered a rolling, golden landscape with terraced fields of corn and soybeans, large combines gathering in the grain, a dusky haze of harvest dust hanging over all in the late afternoon sun. A restorative, relaxing drive through a stunning slice of America’s heartland.
I wish I’d taken pictures. I scoured the web this morning to find some that aren’t copyrighted, but I didn’t succeed, so I’ll tell you where to go for visuals and more insight into this beautiful part of our country:
Caldeira & Co.’s photostream on Flikr has the largest collection of Loess Hills harvest photos, many that look like they could have been taken anywhere across the last hour of our trek west:
The Nature Conservancy (to which we contribute) is gradually acquiring lands and working to preserve the unique Loess Hills heritage, described here:
We’ll bring you more of this landscape in some upcoming WIP’s we’ve chosen to set in Iowa’s prairie country (and you can bet we’ll spice them up with lots of tantalizing erotic moments). And oh, yes, we did have a lovely visit reconnecting with our friends. A sweet weekend, at a much slower speed than we typically live our lives. I highly recommend it!