Over a year ago, I began the joyful task of collecting stories of people in their 60’s and beyond. I wanted to discover how different people made sense of ageing and how their early life experiences shaped their lives as elders. I call this collection of stories 50 Faces 50 Lives. The intention is to learn how to age well from your shared experience. Even though our stories are very different…what are the common threads that resonate with the experience of older people living life fully?
Last year I met with many wonderful people and over a cuppa in various locations. There was the wonderful artist Petrus Spronk and conversations at the kitchen table in his forest home. The musician, Maggie Jackson told of us growing up in a large catholic family and a home full of music. Over a glass of wine with views over acres of vineyard. I met with Graeme Leith. owner of Passing Clouds winery and heard the story of his labour of love in creating this winery. I met Di Percy, the amazing woman who has recently finished writing a book about grief. It’s with the publisher at this time. And in Indonesia I had an extraordinary conversation about ageing with Dewa Putra. From Dewa I learned that concepts of ageing are deeply rooted in the cultural setting of life and this opened a vast space in my thinking beyond the mantra of ageing – eat well, exercise, have purpose. I need to explore diverse cultures to broaden concepts of ageing. You can read all these stories in the 50 Faces 50 Lives section of this mag.
The stories slowed this year because of the Corona virus but hopefully, soon I will again meet more amazing people and complete the book 50 Faces 50 Lives.
Against this backdrop, it was very special this week to receive the gift of Maureen Moffatt’s story. You may remember her wonderful diary of a Tuscan foodie adventure, published here last year. Our Canadian Viva70 creative friends, Inge and Maureen sent through this wonderful story. I’ve never met Maureen but through her words I know the spirit of this warm, vital and lovely woman. One sentence in particular in her story is telling….
“When I started I wasn’t sure what it was about, I only knew I had to do it.” I think in this one sentence Maureen has captured an essential lesson for a good life!
Life is a Journey….You never know where it’s going to take you………..!
Maureen grew up in Montreal but spent summers on her Scottish and French Grandparents dairy farm. As a result she has been left with a life-long appreciation and love for both city and the country life.
As a young person, Maureen loved sports and adventure. So at eighteen, she left with a school chum for Aspen, Colorado. The four years spent there were life-changing. Although from a large cosmopolitan city, it was in Aspen where she was exposed to a larger world and one with limitless possibilities. Working at the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies, she met writers, philosophers, artists and some of the most accomplished musicians of her time. “It was an education” she mused, “which could not be obtained in any school”. It was a world of thought, ideas, dreams and of course fun. It was scintillating, dynamic and exciting.
Home and family brought Maureen back to Canada and to Ottawa. There she eventually found her life’s work. Her career in Environmental emergencies and crisis management was a natural draw. It was a new field in the Coast Guard and in Environment Canada. It required one to be able to deal with an ever-changing environment and people with hugely varied backgrounds. The Preparedness area, involving training and contingency planning was taking off, not just in Canada but the world. “When I started I wasn’t sure what it was about. I only knew that I had to do it”
Of course at the time Maureen reveals that she didn’t have insight into why she made those choices. She loved the work, the people and making a difference in a highly charged environment. The word “no’ was just the beginning of the conversation for her. It was also a challenge. “It wasn’t an easy path to follow back then” she shares. “It was often terrifying and lonely at times” she shares, but she knew she had to keep going.
Maureen measures success not in achievement but in terms of personal growth and following life’s path regardless of the obstacles and disappointments. “I loved the adventure, in spite of the enormous difficulties faced at times. If I had listened to all those who said I couldn’t do something or were discouraging, I don’t think I would have gotten out of bed in the morning. I was lucky as well to have a few good mentors who supported me even in the worst moments.”
Maureen’s work led her to work in the Caribbean, the countries of the Arctic and the United Nations organizations. “This work was the most rewarding” Maureen reveals. “Working together with people from all over the world with a common goal, just doesn’t get any better.”
In her fifties, Maureen married and moved to Calgary in Western Canada. She retired but continued consulting in her field, became a docent (guide/teacher) at the Zoo and became re-acquainted in the world of theatre and opera as performer and then as director.
In her seventies Maureen now lives in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. She is a warm, engaging, elegant, a seasoned hostess and cook and is open to all life has to offer. She believes that her childhood experiences and her career have prepared for the challenges she faces and those that still await her.
She sees her involvement in theatre as symbolic of life in that life is a play – you don’t know who is going to show up to audition. You may know where you start but you never know where the road will take you or what will happen in the end or who will be there.
Maureen feels there is a peace at this age she never experienced before. Simple things bring so much joy, children, a granddaughter, walks and being surrounded by wonderful and loving friends. Adventure, though, is always beckoning around the corner…
Sincere thanks to Maureen Moffatt and Inge Hatton for this lovely story and photos. Also thanks to Chris Czermak for the feature image.