Ever think your creative juices are all used up? Maybe you’re over-the-hill and your best years are long past? Think again. I have been ruminating about older women who are crazy talented and chock full of grit and determination. I wish the world valued their gifts more than they currently do. Many of these women are role models for younger women who are moving on to that stage where they are seen as “past their prime” (as former CNN commentator Don Lemon might say). How misguided is that thinking? It is important to appreciate these women with special gifts who gained even deeper insights as they aged.
If you haven’t watched the Paramount series 1923, I highly recommend it. It’s a prequel to Yellowstone and follows the series 1883. The series 1923 features Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren and Timothy Dalton, to name a few cast members. It’s well acted and has a compelling plot. In my mind, the star of the series is Helen Mirren. At age 77, Mirren is at the top of her game. She is a phenomenal actress and has won American Academy Awards, British Academy Awards and the Laurence Olivier Award. She’s best known for her portrayals of Queen Elizabeth and for her role in Prime Suspect. Mirren was appointed a Dame for her services to drama in 2003. She is the absolute best actress! And I might add, her talent only seems to grow as she ages.
Maggie Smith is my second nominee for stellar performances by older actresses. Love, love, love her. Who wasn’t charmed and delighted by her character Violet Crawley in Downton Abbey? At age 88, she too doesn’t appear to be slowing down. She has won two Academy awards, a Tony Award and four Primetime Emmy Awards. She’s best known for her roles in The Prime of Miss Jean Brody, the Harry Potter film series, and Death on the Nile. Let’s hope she continues to add to this amazing acting repertoire.
One of my favorite writers of all time is Maya Angelou. Angelou, considered a poet, memoirist and civil rights activist, died in 2014 at age 86. With her publication of I know Why the Caged Bird Sings in 1969, she told of her life up to age 17. In addition to her prolific writing career, she made several appearances on the lecture series each year and continued doing so well into her 80’s. She recited her poem On the Pulse of Morning at Bill Clinton’s inauguration. Angelou appeared in a supporting role in the series Roots and later became a friend and mentor to Oprah Winfrey. At the age of 85, she published the seventh volume of her autobiography. Her words continue to resonate with so many of us. She was simply amazing.
I just finished reading the novel Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver. At age 67, Kingsolver has written a true masterpiece. I found the novel in short, brilliant. Kingsolver took the plot of Dickens’ David Copperfield and transferred it to the plight of a boy growing up in rural Appalachia where she lives. The novel is powerful and an intense description of the plight of the downtrodden in terms of education, healthcare, and discrimination. It also is a novel about salvation. Kingsolver won the Pulitzer Prize for Copperhead as well as the Women’s Prize for Fiction. She is the only woman who has received that award twice. Born in Canada, Kingsolver is a novelist, essayist, poet, literary critic, teacher, environmentalist and inventor. Her best-known works include The Poisonwood Bible, and Animal, Vegetable Mineral.
For the last few years, I have had the pleasure of attending several Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival Concerts at Easton’s wonderful Ebenezer Theater. If you haven’t gone to one of these concerts, please do. They are spectacular and inspirational. One truly inspiring contributor is Marcy Rosen. She is the Founder and Artistic Director of the Chesapeake Music Festival, and an outstanding cellist. Every time I hear her play, I am transported. Rosen made her career debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra at age 18. Currently age 66, she has appeared with numerous symphonies and served on the faculties of several schools of music. She is considered one of the most respected musicians of her day and The New Yorker Magazine called her “a New York legend of the cello.” She has released recordings of Mendelssohn, Strauss and Grieg, and many more, and has collaborated with the world’s finest musicians. Rosen is currently a professor of cello at the Aaron Copeland School of Music at Queens College. We are extremely fortunate to be able to hear her play the cello locally. Her mastery of the cello is beyond impressive. And her familiarity with so much of the music draws you in. It’s as if she’s coming home each time she plays one of her standard favorites.
I applaud the accomplishments of these women who have continued their creative pursuits as they aged. And one could argue many have improved with years gone by. The author Herman Melville once wrote, “To know how to grow old is the master work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living.” Perhaps we can all take a page from these amazing women’s chapters.
Maria Grant was principal-in-charge of a federal human capital practice at an international consulting firm. While on the Eastern Shore, she focuses on writing, music, reading, gardening, and nature.