|Thirty-five, and counting|
I'm finally beginning to sense myself as living in Leftover mode. There has, until recent years, been just enough leftover pretty to feed my ego as needed. I've lately become that 35 year-old woman trapped in an aging and shriveling body -- looking in the mirror each day and wondering what happened?
My self-image has become out of sync with what the camera captures, and it's disconcerting at best. I don't mind having my photo taken -- countless times each week -- just don't want to look at them. Maybe it's because my mother jumps in front of the camera lens every time, and she died in 1995!
Maybe this is the cost of continuing to live a life out of context. The world around me grows younger with each day -- as I grow older. That just doesn't compute, does it?
Then I walked out of the front door and down the stairs (more rapidly than usual, just to show my neighbors might be peeking out from behind the curtains at that exceptional 'lil ole lady) to the mailbox and found therein a large manila envelope from Dr. Stephen Lockhart containing the recently published catalogue of REI, as promised, and I'm the centerfold in a story about the empowerment of women.
There was also a large white envelope holding a long letter from John Hartnett, a student of a museum class at City College of San Francisco who was in the audience of a presentation at San Francisco Maritime two weeks ago. He was assigned to create a community engagement plan for an exhibition of a local museum with the goal of targeting a new audience, mostly the African Americans who are unrepresented in museum visitation figures.
He enclosed his proposal, asking me to provide some feedback ("... if time and your busy schedule permits"). His work is both imaginative and evocative.
In the same delivery was a long letter from a young Latina from Texas, Gabriele Contreras, who was responding to the NatureBridge Gala, a staffer, I believe, and it was a stunning testimonial that affirms my work in a way that places the concerns expressed about aging in the category where they justifiably belong, on the trash heap!
|Wedding day at Fifty|
That I'm being heard at 95 is priceless. The contents of a long memory bolstered by continuing insightful analyses based in Truth cannot be bartered, bought, or sold. It is I who establishes the value on that, and no one else. How I'm being seen is fully dependent upon external sources over which I have absolutely no control. It is foolhardy to even attempt to influence how one is seen.
I need to be satisfied with the fact that -- when it was important to have those peacock feathers -- they were there. I wore them well. I lived a good part of my life as a very pretty woman, though it may surprise you to learn that this was hardly the way I saw myself at the time. It's only in looking back that the obvious becomes clear. I wonder just why that is? Little came from that source except for the two husbands that I've out-lived, both men who would have settled for far less than the complex woman that I was/am. Most of my worth was recognized long after the "pretty" began to fade. Physical beauty was little more than a distraction. How fortunate that I've lived long and deeply enough to know that my tenure on Earth has been meaningful and far more grounded in reality than physical attributes would ever suggest.
... and when every breath is being laboriously breathed back into life through work of substance; after the last drop of juice is in the process of being squeezed out of the physical frame received at birth and re-shaped year-by-year -- when laughter is still a first response to it all -- this is what remains:
Pretty is a lovely thing to be, but is highly transitory when viewed through the rear vision mirror.
I'm being interviewed by our filmmakers upon return from the National Tree-lighting ceremony in Washington, and recalling a moment in the evening when I overheard someone explaining over the public address system why things were a bit delayed,"... we just heard that Miss Piggy is caught in traffic." I was so deep into fantasy at that point -- the entire experience had become surreal -- that I remember thinking with all seriousness, "Someone should have told her not to drive!"
a frame from a film in production by Carl Bidleman
But I do still miss the pretty ... .