By Edith Cook
Creativity can be with us no matter our age, provided we continue to open ourselves to new ideas. This truism was recently affirmed by Sarah Yerkes of Washington, D.C., who published her very first book, a collection of poems, at 101 years of age.
As cover for her book she chose an abstract painting her husband, David Yerkes, completed just prior to his death, and she titled her book Days of Blue and Flame. On July 28, 2019, on the occasion of a book party, The Washington Post produced an article on her lifelong accomplishments.
Yerkes’s venture into writing began when a friend invited her to a monthly poetry workshop he attended. A former architect and sculptor bereft of her husband, Yerkes found new purpose and meaning in writing. When the friend, Henry Morgenthau, published his book at age 100, Yerkes decided to follow suit. Both authors were published by Passager Books, an imprint that specializes in older writers—ageless ones, as we like to call ourselves.
In La Jolla, California, meanwhile, a 90-year-old author also published her first book, a wonderful memoir entitled The Choice: Embrace the Possible, which quickly became a New York Times bestseller. Edith Eva Eger is originally from Hungary. In the United States she entered college as an adult learner even as she continued to care for her family, eventually earning a doctorate. After her children were grown she became a psychologist specializing in helping people who have suffered trauma as she once did. In her teens, Eger was sent to a Nazi death camp along with her family, where they experienced unspeakable horrors. Her parents did not survive the ordeal but Egar was pulled from a pile of corpses when, in 1945, American troops liberated the camps.
In her book she alternates between her personal journey and the stories of those she has helped heal. She shows how we may be imprisoned in our own minds and how we can arrive at healing. Since its publication her book has won accolades and prizes. “The Choice is a life-changing book that will provide hope and comfort to generations of readers,” writes one critic.
The three authors mentioned here are brave and ageless ones. Each is accomplished in her or his own way. May their determination and persistence inspire us to keep going with the work we have set out for ourselves, though it may prove to be as challenging as it is enjoyable. “There is still time / the still time” the poet Galway Kinnell once wrote, who up into his eighties inspired a generation of confessional poets. Let us use our still time while we are able to do so.
Edith Cook is a writer, editor, musician and educator who lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming. She also contributed her valuable time as a judge in the 2019 Ageless Authors Writing Contest. From time to time, she will offer her perspectives on “ageless writing” in this space.