The Last Rose of Summer – It’s Almost Never Too Late

A couple of weeks ago, I went to see the movie 3 Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. I don’t know what I expected, but I was stunned when the film opened with a song that I knew very well but somehow would not have anticipated being part of the feature that I had come to see. The Last Rose of Summer is a haunting song, and as the movie progressed, I knew that it was the perfect melody to open 3 Billboards–a motion picture that still shadows me, weeks later.

The Last Rose of Summer – Jacki Kellum Watercolor

“… nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, glory in the flower.” William Wordsworth

Because of one snafu or another, I have started and stopped my progression toward a career in art many times before, but in 2018, when I was almost 68-years-old, I finally began what I honestly believe will be a legitimate launching that will carry me through. In many ways, I am a Last Rose of Summer. I  don’t have many years ahead of me, but with any luck at all, I will still have several years to make art, and honestly, while I was not actually painting much the past 67 years, I have been doing other things that have enabled me to advance, now that the time seems right.

I lead a writers group, and I have often told one discouraged writer or another: To everything, there is a season.” [Ephesians 3:1] I tell them that even when our fields are lying fallow, they are in one of the legitimate modes of fertility. A fallow field is soaking sunshine and rain. It is restoring itself. It is strengthening itself. It is preparing itself for the seed that will eventually find itself planted there. A fallow field is making ready.

We often hear the words: “It’s Never Too Late,” but in reality, it will ultimately be too late for all of us. One month from today is my 68th birthday, and I am certainly understanding the truth that sooner, rather than later, it will be too late for me, and with that understanding, I am thinking today about all of the things that we simply say and do not mean or that we are repeating with only partial bits of information.

This morning, I was working on one of many edits for a book, and I was about to say the words: “It’s Never Too Late,” and I was about to join the droves of people who attribute those words to George Eliot, the author of Silas Marner and Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Just before I closed my document, something began gnawing at me. What if that lovely, illustrated quote that I saw on Facebook wasn’t an authentic quote? What if George Eliot actually did not say: “It’s Never Too Late.” It certainly did not sound like the George Eliot writing that I knew, and I began to research to see if I could find the primary source where George Eliot supposedly expressed the words: It’s Never Too Late. Finally, I found an article that a professor at Johns Hopkins University had written, saying that indeed, George Eliot NEVER said those often-quoted words. I further read that this supposed George Eliot quote is one of many (Mis)Quotations that we often see on refrigerator magnets, on journals, on calendars, etc. In other words, some things quoted are not authentic quotes. Here

For us bloggers, this is a scary situation. We hop from site to site, and we pick up well-accepted quotes from all sorts of places, and because we see the words in places that we trust, we have no reason to doubt that what we have read is correct. Yet, that is not always the case. After I discovered the reality that George Eliot is often misquoted, I began listening to the second week of video lectures from the University of Edinburgh’s free MOOC: Introduction to Philosophy.

Dr. Pritchard, from Edinburgh, was discussing Epistemology or the study of Knowledge, and he made the widely accepted point that what we know to be true is a believable truth. His illustration was, “The cat sat on the mat.” He said that if we saw the cat and know that he indeed was sitting on a mat and if we believe that what we saw was real, then, we have a reliable source of knowledge, which is not like believing that all women are silly flirts. The latter statement is not based upon a type of knowledge that can be proven and in spite of the fact that many people might believe the latter to be true, it is rather a statement of prejudice or opinion.

Things become murky, however, and here is where Philosophy becomes philosophical: Dr. Pritchard shared a point that was made by Bertrand Russell. Russell said that if we walk into a room and see that our clock, which has always been reliable before, says that it is 17 minutes before 10:00, we should be able to rely on the fact that it is indeed that time, but a later finding revealed that the clock had stopped. While it is understandable that we were misled by a stopped clock, our misinformed beliefs were not a reflection of true knowledge. They were the result of having relied upon a source that was not correct.

While I was listening to Dr. Pritchard’s lecture, I reflected upon how I almost misquoted George Eliot and how I would have been wrong, in spite of the fact that I believed that I had a reliable source of knowledge. Most of us know that it is important to cite our sources in writing, but especially in this age when misinformation is flushed from all sorts of digital orifices, it is also important to check the validity of sources. In fact, we need to trace our sources completely back to their points of origin.

I often write about Denial. I write about people who close their minds or who make important decisions based upon limited or faulty bits of information that they had appraised to be the whole truth and yet is not. A person can believe that he is operating from the basis of a set of credible, reliable, easily provable facts and still not be operating within the truth. As writers or even as people who merely interact in society, we need to be sure that our understandings are based upon reality–and not upon opinion and not merely upon our feelings. I did see a very good illustrated quote on Facebook: “Don’t believe everything you think.” From my own experience.  know that to be a quote based in reality.

But back to the discussion of whether or not it is too late: As it applies to my own life, the answer is that, even at the age of 68, it is not too late, and the same thing is true for many of you who have given up. I say this from the depths of my heart to you who have thrown in the towel: Grab that towel back, wring it out, and start again.

Three weeks ago, I launched my first professional art website, and my art has been viewed almost 10,000 times during those 3 weeks. Six of my original paintings have sold, and several of my prints have sold, too. I had almost surrendered to adversity, but at nearly the final hour, I reached out and grabbed the brass ring once more, and this time, I am finally getting my ride. If you have been discouraged and have quit, I want you to saddle up and join me. Let’s gallop through the last years of our lives.


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