Magically the other day, without having read my last post “OLD”, my Chiropractor Kristen Wright began talking to me about “getting old”. Was it something I said? Or could she just feel “old” was on my mind? She warned against the energy-less, dull sort of aging headed toward nursing homes and wheel chairs. Maybe it’s better to imagine golf courses, assisted living and senior cruises (do they still play shuffle board?). I was feeling “old” because I fell and “ruptured” my shoulder. My valuable right shoulder often engaged whether it is pruning, shoveling, doing the dishes, or, like now, typing. So I felt a little old this week, or feared getting old a little more. My livelihood is in my right shoulder. I think Kristen would like me to use my head more. Think about better ways to use my body. “Work well, not hard,” she often tells me.
Although I am getting older, I healed quickly. And with Kristen’s help was back to to pruning, shoveling. And typing.
My father who is also getting older is slowly being dismantled by Alzheimer’s. What I used as a symbol of heightened awareness in the last post was just a pleasant symptom of a disease which now makes him uncontrollably angry, like a child, petulant, like a child, easily hurt, like a child. Is this also a state of grace?
There are many better symbols for the beauty and grace of age: the ancient sequoias of California, the beautiful ruins of the acropolis, the venerable cherries of Japan.
I still want to spend my birthday in Japan one year, under the cherries. My birthday falls during Hanami, the Japanese cherry blossom viewing festival. I love the pictures I’ve seen of the cherry trees, hundreds of years old, propped up with the utmost care and flushed with flowers like a school girl with a crush. And like a school girl’s crush the blossoms fade quickly. This tree represents to the Japanese the fleetingness of this life. Their drunken celebrations revel in it.
There is a Japanese photographer (unfortunately I can’t remember his name) who makes nude portraits of 100 year old women. A large “Eww!” just went off in many puritanical American minds. We live in a land where old is ugly. But this photographer, who spends months living with his models, cooking for them and bathing them before he ever takes a picture sees something else.
These life sized photos, not candid but posed, are not erotic or perverse, but some of the most loving and lovely photos I’ve ever seen. When you stand in front of them you stand in front of radiant mythological beings. You also stand in front of a full length mirror. See yourself in these wrinkled, gravity stretched women. Is it the photographers eye? Or does a sense of self forgiveness rise naturally?Transcendently? Benevolently?
As I get older it is much easier for me to be benevolent to others, and even my self.
There was a very benevolent character on "Six Feet Under", one of the deceased, simply called “Daddy”. He had a harem of wives and a herd of children he held in the embrace of his love cult. One of the precepts of his religion was to “ dance a little dance each day, even if it is only in your heart.” Now, I don’t usually recommend the advice of cult leaders, especially fictional ones form HBO. But there is some truth in what he said, some moving toward childlikeness in this little practice. I don’t always remember to dance ever day, still I think it’s a good idea no matter where it comes from. And if that dance deep in your heart brings a crush like blush to your face all the better.