The Fortunes in Fog

Years ago, a man who lives on a houseboat not far from my writing desk changed my life.

This man, Ernie, asked me two questions. First, “Tell me about your Tuesday Mornings,” and “Have you met my wife?”  He didn’t say the last question as a question, but as an order.

Ernie met his wife, who he still calls “his bride,” at a poetry reading years ago in the wine country up the road from where we live in Marin County.  According to the story, both were divorced at the time and not really looking to meet anyone special.

Ernie admits he didn’t even like poetry readings. I’m not sure why he went that night, but the point is, he, too, understood the value of seeing through his own fog, or at least clearing it out of the way.

So Ernie went to the reading and met “this beautiful blue-eyed, babe” Barbara, one of the poets. I’d like to think he fell in love with her words, but for them, it was love at first sight. The poetry was a bonus, because what you don’t know about Barbara is that she was in her late 60s the night she met Ernie Hubbard.

They were nearly 20 years apart in age.

And they fell in love and got married.

It’s never too late for happiness.

Barbara had held various jobs in her life, one of which was a department store model in the 1950s. I’ve seen photos of her back then. She is as striking now as she was 60 years ago, and she hasn’t had a single nip or tuck.

She told me she once worked at a drugstore soda fountain, schlepping sandwiches and sundaes, and realized she had a weight problem years before there were fad diets and diet pills. She just knew that she needed to exercise more and eat less. Now in her early-80s, she’s able to wear blue jeans that would fit a 20-year-old.

Barbara’s appearance and genetic code are not her only fortune. It is the passion and persistence with which Barbara pursues her writing dreams, even now, in her early-80s. She’s not only a poet, she’s also a essayist and novelist, working on the final edit of her debut novel, “Bitterroot” based on her mother’s immigration story to Montana back in the early 1900’s.  And it’s good, so good, that Skywriter Books will publish her book in 2010.

Do you know anyone in theirs 80s who is publishing their first novel?

I didn’t either until I met Barbara.  The thing is, for nearly 10 years, I’d been passing her houseboat, visible off the 101 freeway that connected me to the hiking and mountain biking trails for as long as I lived in the city.

I never once thought to consider who lived on those houseboats, what kind of lives they lead or what they did. And I never had a reason to stop and find out until I met Ernie and answered his second question.

Yes, Ernie. I have met your wife. I have befriended your wife. I even asked her to officiate my wedding.

I don’t think of Barbara as 80+. I don’t think of her as ‘old’ or ‘out of touch.’ Barbara is a much a part of my circle as my recently engaged 28-year-old friend and my five month pregnant 38-year-old friend. Barbara isn’t hung up on her age. She once told me she doesn’t think about it. She lives her life unplugged from the ‘program’ that says we deteriorate after the age of 55.

Barbara is a living example of what it means to take responsibility for her mental and physical health, her appearance, and her happiness.

She’s fluent with the computer, cell phone, most things technological, still drives a new Volvo sedan and on occasion, can be seen flipping the bird to the peloton of cyclists who clog up the only access road out of the houseboats when she’s trying to make an appointment or get to the grocery store before the tide comes in.

She’s a feisty Welsh woman with a wicked sense of humor and a way with words that some day soon might make a difference to you. Maybe there’s a Barbara Hubbard in your life, too, who will pull you out of  your own fog to discover a treasure. She was here all the time. I just had to look and take the time to know what I see.

Often the very things that inspire us are visible every day, but our agendas and cluttered minds don’t make space for us to see them. Writing this blog will force me to make that time to see.