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Older Women and Younger Men: an AppreciationDr. William T. Hathaway Salem-News.com
Wellsprings, my new novel, is in part an ode to the joys of older women, demonstrating that age is no barrier to love.
(OLDENBURG, Germany) - An older woman can satisfy a younger man in very special ways. Her accumulated wisdom and emotional steadiness are needed qualities for him. Her personality has fully blossomed, in contrast to the tightly wrapped bud of youth full of inhibitions and uncertainties. In addition, an older woman has developed a seasoned sensuousness, a lush appeal. Fading roses smell the sweetest -- petals open soft and fragrant, exposing inner delicacies, gradually yielding to time and gravity. Even the wrinkles have a beauty to them; they make the surface of the skin more complex and interesting. Her skin, like her mind, has more to it now, the imprint of experience.
And he has something to offer her: Enthusiasm!
Wellsprings, my new novel, is in part an ode to the joys of older women, demonstrating that age is no barrier to love. Here's how the couple meet at a California hot springs:
"Watch out for the fire ants," the woman says. "Looks like they've already found your motorcycle. They're swarming it."
"Oh no!" I say. The metal of the bike, twenty yards away, seems to be moving. "Damn!"
"Is there food in it?"
"In the pack, yeah."
"They must smell it."
"I gotta get it back."
"You can't go just go charging in there. They'll eat you alive. I'll get us some tools." She walks to her Winnebago and returns with a broom and some other stuff. She's medium height and thin, wearing light cotton pants, a colorful long-sleeved shirt with buttons but no collar, and a blue sun hat over greying hair.
"You shouldn't have to go over there," I say. "I can do it."
She puts her hands on her hips and stares up at me, clear green eyes in a bright face. "Young man, I've had considerably more experience with fire ants than you have. You could use some help." She hands me some rubber bands. "Put these around your wrists and ankles. Do you have gloves?"
"In the saddle bag."
"Well, I only have one pair, and they're too small for you." She puts on gardening gloves and grips the broom. "You grab the motorcycle, and I'll try to keep them off. We need to move fast. Ready?"
I sprint, and as I near the bike my ankles start stinging. My shoes are covered with ants. I try to stomp them off, but that just makes them madder. The woman is beside me now, flailing with the broom, whooping to me with encouragement then yelping with pain as they attack her too. I try to brush them off my pants, but they cling to my hands, biting with hot jabs. They're bigger, redder, faster, meaner than regular ants.
I grab the bike, and the woman brooms it off as I wheel it away.
Some ants have reached my knees on their way up to more sensitive territory. Others are in my shoes, tasting my toes. I can see and feel them on my hands, pincers buried in my meat.
Out of enemy territory near the pool I prop the bike on its kickstand, and she continues to broom it. She notices my hands and says, "Oh dear." She brushes some off with her gloves, but others hold on. She's wincing herself every few seconds from bites.
"Over to the pool," she orders. "Drown the devils."
She sits on the concrete embankment long enough to take off her boots, then hops into the water clothes and all. My clothes and body are crawling with them, my skin afire. I follow her, vaulting over the side, but far enough away not to scare her ... although she doesn't seem scared of anything.
She sighs. "Ah, relief!"
My stinging fades by half.
"Sulfur water draws out the venom," she says.
The water doesn't smell or look good, but it feels good -- warm and soothing. It's dark and thick, almost slippery, with little things floating in it. Some of those are twigs and strands of algae, but others are ants swimming for the side. They all seem to know the right direction. The sides are concrete covered with greenish black algae. It's a green world here, water a dark blue-green, green iridescent dragon flies hovering and darting, green reeds rimming the pool. Her eyes. There's so little green in the big world now, so it's a luxury to soak in it here. I imagine the pool turning into green amber, and we're floating in it like fossils. Ants too. Someone would find us in a million years and say, "Who were they?"
"Since we're taking a bath together, we should know each other's name," she says.
I laugh. "I'm Bob."
"I'm Jane. Nice to meet you, Bob."
"Thanks for your broom action," I say. "You saved me lots of bites but got lots yourself."
"Glad I could help. A bit of adventure in the day."
A red-wing blackbird screeches at us from the reeds around the pool. "Must be their nesting time," Jane says. Above us a gull is slicing the hard blue sky with its scythe-like wings, and higher up a hawk is cruising. A white, long-legged bird walks in the mud nearby. It pauses -- one foot raised, head swiveling, round eye scanning -- then trots over to a swarm of flies and begins plucking them with its yellow bill.
"Wish that bird would eat some ants," I say.
"They need fish and frogs, things like that. But those aren't here anymore. This used to be a great place for birds -- egrets, sandpipers, even pelicans. The water in the lake was shallow, and they could find plenty to eat. Now that the water is gone, they're dying out. That egret is genetically programmed to breed here, but soon they'll all be gone. Just like the trees that used to grow on those hills." She points to the barren grey-brown slopes of the Sierra foothills climbing sharply from the valley floor. "Ponderosa pines don't need much water, but they need some."
"You used to come here?" I ask.
She nods. "Back then it was crowded with campers. There wasn't much water, but some people would paddle kayaks in it. Now this little spring is the only water left. No fire ants back then, just regular picnic ants."
"Speaking of ants, I'd better take care of the bike, check my pack."
"OK. I'm going to soak a bit more. The water is supposed to be good for arthritis."
I clamber out of the pool, scraping off some slimy algae from the side. I'm dripping wet, shoes soaked, but feeling better.
* Later in the book Bob gets ideas:
I step behind her, put my hands on her hips, nuzzle my nose through her long gray hair, and kiss her on the back of the neck.
She stiffens. "Bob! What are you doing?"
She turns around, and I put my hands on her shoulders and kiss her on the lips. She stands still a moment, then backs away, her large green eyes now round. "Bob! Where did you get that idea?"
"A little bird told me."
"Tell that little bird to fly away!"
I want to kiss her again, but I'm afraid she'll get mad. "I just thought ... maybe we could ...."
She puts her hands on her hips. "You want to jump these old bones? No!"
"No butts -- especially not mine!" Then she laughs. "Bob, really, we can't do this. I'm old enough to be your grandmother."
Now I'm feeling mean, so I want to tell her she's a lot older than my grandmother.
"I like you ... very much. I really care about you. But not in that way. I'm too old for that." She turns up the palms of her hands.
"Well, OK. I'm sorry I tried."
"Don't be sorry. I'm flattered. It's just that ...." Her hands nervously stir the air.
"It wouldn't be right. You should find a girl your own age."
I get mad because she's making me feel like a kid. "What does age have to do with it? I thought you were a radical, but you're sounding like some advice columnist."
She looks at me with a mix of pity and surprise. "You dear boy ... oops, sorry, I mean man. You really are attracted to me, aren't you?"
"That's OK, we can forget about it."
"Well, this is not the kind of thing one can forget, but we don't need to do it. It's nice that you would think of me in that way. But really ...." She shakes her head.
"OK, I'll be good." I turn away in disappointment, not realizing how much I wanted her until she turned me down.
"Now your feelings are hurt," she says. "I don't know what to do. Will you still be my friend?"
I glance back at her. With the pleading expression on her face, she looks even prettier.
"Definitely," I say.
"Good. Thank you." She extends her hand for a conciliatory shake.
I take it. It's warm and soft. I can't help staring at her breasts rising and falling as she breathes ... heavily.
"Please don't be offended," she says.
By now I just want to drop the topic. "It's OK. I don't blame you. It was a dumb idea."
"If you need another blanket, they're up here on the shelf."
"Well ... sleep well. And we'll talk more in the morning."
We both give the other a little embarrassed wave, and Jane goes into her bedroom. I can hear the little click of the latch to lock her door. This makes me even madder. Did she think I would come in and rape her?
It's a long time before I can fall asleep. I keep thinking about her, sometimes mad at her, sometimes wanting her, sometimes both together.
Wellsprings is set in 2026 as the earth's ecosystem has broken down under human abuse. Water supplies are shrinking. Rain is rare, and North America is gripped in the Great Drought with crops withering and forests dying. In the midst of environmental and social collapse, an old woman and a young man set out to heal nature and reactivate the cycle of flow. But the corporations that control the remaining water lash out to stop them. A blend of love, adventure, and mystic wisdom, Wellsprings is a frightening but hopeful look into a future that is looming closer every day. Further samples: HYPERLINK "http://www.cosmicegg-books.com/books/wellsprings"http://www.cosmicegg-books.com/books/wellsprings.
William T. Hathaway's first novel, A World of Hurt, won a Rinehart Foundation Award. A selection of his writing is available at HYPERLINK "http://www.peacewriter.org/"www.peacewriter.org.
William T. Hathaway is an adjunct professor of American studies at the University of Oldenburg in Germany. His latest book, RADICAL PEACE: People Refusing War, resents the experiences of peace activists who have moved beyond demonstrations and petitions into direct action, defying the government's laws and impeding its ability to kill. Chapters are posted on a page of the publisher's website at http://media.trineday.com/
William T. Hathaway is author of the novels A World of Hurt, CD-Ring,, Summer Snow and a nonfiction book, Radical Peace: People Refusing War. He also wrote the screenplay for Socrates, an educational film starring Ed Asner that was broadcast on PBS.
Hathaway began his writing career as a newspaper reporter in San Francisco, then joined the Special Forces to research a book about war. Based on his experiences on a combat team in Vietnam, A World of Hurt won a Rinehart Foundation Award for its portrayal of the psychological roots of war.
After the war Hathaway became a peace activist. In his latest book, Radical Peace, he wrote, "Since then my books and articles have centered on this theme, as do many of my nonwriting activities. It's become my beat, as they say in the newspaper business." A selection of his writing is available at http://www.peacewriter.org. You can drop William an email at this address: email@example.com
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