#40 A small aside about Diana Athill


I’ve read a lot on this trip. New York and DC novels, poetry collections from the poets I’ve met, and pieces about aging and creativity.

Diana Athill’s Alive, Alive Oh! is a great memoir about the memories that remain as the years progress. Athill is in her 90s, and this book tells of her move to a retirement home and letting go of her many possessions.

There’s a lovely section about a group of women, with an average age of 95, planting rosebushes in the grounds of the home. It’s raining. They worry that if they bend too far, they won’t be able to rise again. But they survey the soil, and start to dig with vigour. “The good thing about being physically incapable of doing almost anything, is that if you manage to do even a little something, you feel good.” They, surprising themselves, plant all the trees.

Another nice quote that has stayed in my head is this one:

[The philosopher Montaigne] considered it a good thing to spend a short time every day thinking about death, thus getting used to its inevitability and coming to understand that something inevitable can’t be too bad…it struck me as a sensible idea.”

Thanks to Emily for the gift of this book 🙂