Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Red Hat Club: Buddhism and Being Yourself

This post was very popular when it appeared a couple of months ago. Here it is again, due to multiple requests.

When I am Old I Shall Wear Purple (and Learn to Spit)

Jenny Joseph wrote this famous poem in the 1960's. The second line inspired the Red Hat Club. She's probably not a Buddhist officially, but she understands compassion, and paying attention.

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.

And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves

And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.

I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells

And run my stick along the public railings

And make up for the sobriety of my youth.

I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other peoples' gardens

And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go

Or only bread and pickles for a week

And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street

And set a good example for the children.

We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?

So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised

When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

The old lady in the photo is not Jenny Joseph, whom I've never seen.  She is just somebody sitting canal-side enjoying a smoke on the island Burano near Venice, where all the houses are painted in bright primary colors.  When I saw her, though, I imagined she must have read Jenny's wonderful poem, so we exchanged smiles and a nod and she let me make this snapshot.