Betty Scott’s walker inspires her. She’s written a poem about the metal accessory she uses to get from point A to point B. She finds inspiration all around her — in the ocean, growing old, aquafit class, and grief — and the 87-year-old turns that inspiration into poems that encourage, uplift and delight the people around her.
“I only write what I have experienced; I write what I know and who I am,” says Betty as she sits relaxed in a colourful dashiki dress in the moments before her poetry reading for fellow residents at The Waterford seniors living community. “I’m inspired by people, water, ships, fire, great conflagrations, all that big life stuff.”
Her tone is sometimes cheeky, other times nostalgic, frequently profound and always candid. Her topics range from personal experiences like ice skating on the St. Lawrence River, the birth of her first granddaughter, and her retirement, to the deeper inner workings of her Christian faith, her husband’s death, and the passage of time.
Born and raised in Ontario, Betty met her husband Walter in Lancaster when they were both 15 years old. They married after she completed her nursing training in Montreal, and together they raised five children. It was in those days with little children at home that Betty began to write poetry.
Every phase of life offered new inspiration; first as a mother and then a grandmother; as a nurse and then a retiree; as a wife and then a widow. Each new season brought new insight. Betty had the sense that she would like to publish some of what she’d written, but the process of getting published was more daunting than writing poetry ever was.
“I’d write away to publishers, and get a letter back saying, ‘Send us 40 to 50 poems’, and I would say to myself, ‘I’m too busy!” I wasn’t even sure I had that many poems! So I put it off.” she recalls. Eventually, a friend pointed her in the direction of a publisher who graciously welcomed her in and showed her the way. Over the years she’s published three volumes of her poems, with plenty more handwritten compositions yet to be printed.
She’s written about everything in her life—the joyful, the mundane, the painful—with one exception. “I have no poetry from my time with a brain tumour,” she says. “It’s all angry stuff.” The tumour made itself known in her 80s and Betty wanted it dealt with quickly. Six hours of surgery removed it, but the subsequent recovery was difficult. “I was learning to walk, learning to write, all those things.” With the help of her daughter, she recovered, and it was in that season that she moved into her new home in The Waterford
“I was ready for plan B, and there is no question, it was the right move,” she reflects. “Living alone I could vacuum, I could shop, but it was killing me.” Life at The Waterford offered a second wind for Betty. “Someone else shops for what they feed me, and someone else cleans, and the service is excellent—so are the people. Everybody treats me like I’m Betty, not just suite 308.”
She made lots of new friends when she came to The Waterford, and Betty has always been willing to share her poems with her friends. Brenda Hodson, Recreational Manager, recalls the day she found out Betty was a published poet. “She brought me a little gift, a book of her poetry. Many of the poems brought me great joy and brought me to tears. Her poetry is genuine, down-to-earth and humble—just like she is. So I asked her if she’d like to do a reading for our residents.”
Betty was willing to do the reading but had a suggestion to make. “I thought we should offer everyone a glass of wine” And so on this day, she sits regally in her flowing green dress and flashy sandals with her toenails painted bright red, and she waits for the recreation team to finish serving the white wine.
Her books sit beside her swollen with yellow sticky notes marking the pages she’ll read. Today she will share poems inspired by the deep ocean swells she encountered on a cruise to Buenos Aires. She’ll read two inspired by the aquafit class she and her friends participated in after she retired. She’ll read a short, blunt one inspired by Walter’s death. And she’ll start with the one inspired by her walker.
Today we’re in the forest
The path is hazard free
So she walks with greatest confidence
Because she walks with me.
When we travel – I enfold her
When she’s tired – I help her rest
My seat is cool and comfy
Its construction is the best.
She can fold me like a story book
When needing extra space
Or fit me snuggly in the trunk
A dark but cozy place.
I’m so light that she can lift me
I’m so handsome, it’s a shame
That after all I am to her
I still don’t have a name!
OK! OK! How about…
May 17, 2016