What’s it like to retire? Is retirement a great and noble adventure? Or do you feel confused about your place in the world? Has the world changed almost too much in your lifetime? Do you feel stuck? Or do you feel transported into a finer, more spiritual phase of life? A glass model sailing ship stirs up ambivalent feelings about life and old age.
I saw this extraordinary 1950 glass model of the sailing ship Charlotte Jane last week in the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch. I snapped it, but not literally. So superb, incongruous, ethereal, solid, fragile, almost as if it was knitted in glass. Not sailing but stuck in a safe dry place. The model is wholly itself, and yet (for me) it quickly morphed into a metaphor for human beings growing older and leaving the world of work for retirement.
I felt the glass sailing ship was volunteering to stand for a thousand experiences involving muddled motives or mixed feelings. And I wonder what ideas it triggers in your mind…
In 1950 the myth of the doughty British settlers still dominated the discourse of New Zealand history; I was 10 and we learned our history from the colonists’ viewpoint. 69 years later, our history is not so one-sided or so glorious.