Winter Light is a very brave and wise book. In a truly philosophical, expressive, and highly erudite way, it reinvents old age as a time of intense intellectual, emotional, and, yes, corporeal life rather than slow dying.” ~ Mark Lipovetsky, Professor of Slavic Languages at Columbia University

“Douglas Penick has written a book that is extraordinary in two ways. First, it’s on a taboo subject, the truth of our encroaching senescence. Second, it is about opening, not about closing—about possibilities that somehow arise only in our old age. He kind of sneaks up on us, through the inductive method. Lives, not principles. No instruction offered. Just his lucid writing. And then there we are. Nothing like it.” ~ Kidder Smith, Professor Emeritau and former Director of Asian Studies at Bowdoin College

“Douglas Penick’s Winter Light is a lucid and uncompromising meditation on aging, and on the astonishment of finding oneself suddenly old, a phenomenon that Penick reads deftly through the work of musicians, painters, and writers who created great art in their later years.” ~ Warren F. Motte, Professor of French and Comparative Literature at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Winter Light

In the contemporary West, the elderly are now regarded as somehow “other,” no longer who they used to be, no longer full members of the worlds they once inhabited. Being old is seen as a medical management issue. But old age is not a defective version of what preceded it; it is, like childhood, adolescence, middle age, its own time of life with its own challenges and gifts. It is an unexpected experience and largely an unknown terrain.

Winter Light is an exploration of old age as a time when sudden and uncontrollable losses reveal and clarify patterns of existence formerly obscured. In this context, the book tells of the lives of artists, musicians, and so on, who, in old age, changed radically to reveal visionary new modes of experience.

Near the end of their lives, Titian, Michelangelo, Beethoven, Tagore, Rhys, Palladio, Cézanne, Janáček, Stravinsky, and others found unforeseen paths, articulated subtleties and beauties never before encountered. Their visions are now woven into our culture and the stories of their lives are signposts for us. For, as Thoreau once said: “Not ’til we are lost… not ’til we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.”

In five essays, concerned respectively with, body, connection, pattern, loss, and vision, Winter Light explores irretrievable losses and dawning possibilities; each gives voice to aspects of the inner life that in old age unfolds with unanticipated depth, breadth, strangeness, and light.