I am sitting in the cheap seats at the National Art Centre – dressed up in a below the knee bias cut plaid skirt, peasant style white blouse, and gold velour vest, the fanciest outfit I can afford I could afford. The lights dim, the audience begins to clap, and stage lights turn on and begin to focus on a legend, and my life-time folk hero – Gordon Lightfoot. He casually enters, waves to the audience and picks up his guitar. The audience roars. And then he starts. I am in heaven! I feel so grown up and cultural. I am in heaven!
This is how I remember my experience as a young grad student studying in Ottawa. To most people, attending a concert in the National Arts Center is not a big deal. It’s just another theater, and Gordon Lightfoot is just another folk signer. But to me it was a momentous occasion. To me it represented the optimistic spirit of youth – the time to dream of all the adventures yet to come, of the career paths not yet taken, of the roads not yet traveled, of all the visions of who I could become. And folk legend Gordon Lightfoot’s iconic songs captured this spirit. His words seemed to speak to me, and me alone, tantalizing me with adventure and spirit that I hoped to someday capture.
And so, last night, over 30 years later, I once again found myself sitting in the cheap seats waiting the appearance of this iconic legend. This time I no longer have an endless future ; I no longer look at the world from the innocent and hopeful eyes of youth. I no longer await the exciting career doors to open, nor do visions of who I will become tantalize me with naive anticipation. Instead, I am retired. Like the words from some of Lightfoot’s newer songs suggest, I am now old looking back wistfully at my enthusiasm. His voice is a little rough around the edges. Age has robbed him of the the high notes and strong tone. . His words no longer speak to me as they did before; I no longer enter my private bubble of inspiration when I hear his tunes. The “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” and the “Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald” no longer invokes invisible tears.
But still I enjoy listening. I am glad I had a chance to see this legendary songwriter perform. From what I understand, he still performs an average of 10 concerts a month. Gordon Lightfoot still inspires me, but in a different way. His ability to overcome serious illnesses and still perform in his 70’s gives me hope that I can too can still have grand adventures. I too can still be of use, even though I am retired. Despite how some younger people view those of us over 55+, seniors can still be vital. I can still dream, I can still have adventures. A part of my 20 something self still can exist. Life is still grand!