It occurred to me the day I met Lou that this might be a ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ kind of experience. I wasn’t wrong.
On a hot summer afternoon in July, I drove to Lou’s house for our first scheduled visit. My new 83-year-old spitfire friend greeted me at the door, and then promptly led me into her ‘conversation room’. We walked to the middle of the room where six high-backed rocking chairs were strategically positioned around a large circular coffee table. The fact that she had a room dedicated specifically for conversation - that wasn’t the dining room or the living room - was instantly intriguing. I could almost feel the residual energy left by the previous conversations that had unfolded around this circle. I selected my chair across from hers and remember hoping I had the good sense to listen far more than I spoke.
Once settled, we sat in silence for a good thirty seconds or so. Gently rocking back and forth she tilted her head back against the rocker and looked up at the ceiling. “Life is a grand adventure…” she finally offered with a look of pure, unbridled energy in her eyes. “Physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.”
I spent the next few hours listening to story after story of her grand adventures.
Lou (short for Louise) became a pilot in the 1940’s, had been married four times, and had raised two children. Born in the United States she’s also called home to Africa, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Canada, and more. She’s an accomplished harpist, having learned to play in her sixties, and has stories upon stories of her extensive world travel. What I quickly came to understand though, is that some of the most profound travel she’s undertaken – has been with her mind.
Lou possesses an insatiable hunger for learning. The only thing in Lou’s home that outnumbers her stories, are her books. Shelf after shelf, wall after wall, room after room, of books. To say she is well-read is an understatement of epic proportions. Her thirst for knowledge isn’t reserved for the classics or any particular topic or time period – she greets all learning with open, receptive arms.
Whenever Lou finishes a story, or exploring a particular idea, she has a habit of saying, “Isn’t THAT interesting!” For me, this has become much more than an expression. It’s one of the best ways to describe Lou and how she has chosen to approach the art of living. She’s interested. She’s curious. She’s eager, engaged, and excited about what she finds. She is a lifelong student of…everything.
We finished our afternoon with a guided tour of her home, which was like taking a trip around the world in sixty minutes. Each room was bursting with furniture, keepsakes, and books – each one containing a story from a far-off land. The room that captured my special attention, however, was her office.
After touring rooms filled with cultural treasures from around the globe, there sitting in her office was a shiny, white, (kick-ass, I might add) Mac computer with an impressively large flat screen monitor. Not what I expected from this 5’1”, silver-haired, 83-year-old. When I asked her about it she said, “Oh yes, I call him Tiger. He helps me find lots of things, like the new house I found for Norm and me on Kijiji.”
Words escaped me. I just smiled, and stood in awe of this wonderfully awake human before me.
I've gained a profound appreciation for Lou’s approach to learning in general, but in particular for her willingness to learn about current technology, an area so many of us can feel intimidated by.
I came away that day wholeheartedly subscribing to Lou’s unshakable belief that life is a grand adventure, if we choose to see it that way. Being engaged, curious, and excited about the world around us - at its very core - is the art of celebrating what’s right with the world.
What if each of us took a page out of Lou’s book, and approached our lives in a similar way…wouldn’t THAT be interesting?
*Illustration by Lauri Gwilt