David Kirby wrote in his New York Times obituary of former United States poet laureate Donald Hall:
"the bulk of his poetry over a 60-year career emphasizes the cycle of life as it plays out in the natural world and those who live in it, though often in a way with which urban readers could identify. "
Beyond poetry there were two great loves of Donald Hall's life; Eagle Pond Farm in Wilmot, New Hampshire and his wife, poet, Jane Kenyon.
In 1993, Hall and Kenyon were interviewed at the farm by Bill Moyers for a PBS documentary, “Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon: A Life Together,". At the time Mr. Hall was continuing cancer treatment which had been detected in 1989.
Sadly though, Hall's cancer had gone into remission, it was Ms. Kenyon, age 47, who would die of leukemia in 1995. Mr. Hall wrote in The Best Day The Worst Day Life with Jane Kenyon: "Still, it was long before every cell in my body believed in her death. It was a year before I could give away her clothes and two years before I could gather together her letters and manuscripts, her unfinished poems"
Anyone who has lost someone close knows this that "every cell" takes a long time to believe, to grieve, to accept.
In his book "Without" Hall wrote poetry about the end of Kenyon's life.
In his poem titled Letter After a Year
Mr. Hall wrote ...
"It's astonishing to be old. When I stand after sitting I'm shocked at how much I must stretch to ease the stiffness out."
Reading Donald Hall's Essays After Eighty he is so honest about what age has taken from him and left him with.
He wrote: " After a life of loving the old, by natural law, I turned old myself. Decades followed each other- thirty was terrifying, forty I never noticed because I was drunk, fifty was best with a total change of life, sixty began to extend the bliss of fifty, -then came my cancers, Jane's death and over the years I've traveled to another universe. However alert we are, however much we think we know what will happen, antiquity remains an unknown, unanticipated galaxy."
Later in the same paragraph:
"When we turn eighty, we understand we are extraterrestrial"
Donald Hall wrote so eloquently about all aspects of life and nature believing that the words “life”,“work” and “love” had become interchangeable".
We who are fortunate enough to be aging can turn to his words for humor, solace, and guidance through this bewildering transformation becoming an alien creature.