At the Denver Zoo, I become amazed with the number of animals who give prestige and power to other animals based on how much skin sags on their bodies. I’m serious. In a herd, the animal with the saggiest chin (dewlap) has the most power and prestige.
And another thing: Animals regularly make themselves look larger in this zoo. It’s best to be wrinkly, big, and old. It’s beautiful, powerful, and important.
The other day, I notice the thin little wrinkles that have formed around my mouth. I’m noticing all the sagging on my body and how nothing stays in its place. I notice my own hands as I type–leathery and sketched with crossing patterns in skin that’s getting old. I notice that it’s harder and harder to have a waist when you age.
But, oh, where these hands have been! Oh, the great conversations I’ve had with this very mouth! Oh, the places this body has taken me! I want these marks and sags to signify the beauty and prestige that they should.
I like the zoo. I like communities where old means beautiful. I want to foster that cultural shift in my own community.
Journal: How can I see signs of aging as beauty, power, and importance?
I’m sitting around a table with other couples, all in their 30’s and 40’s. As we talk about the different activities we’re encouraging our children to try–voice lessons, dance, musical instruments, acting–one mother suddenly announces how much she wishes she could take ballet lessons.
“Why don’t you!?” we all exclaim just as another mother confesses her desire to learn ballet. And then, the whole table erupts in a discussion of the classes we wish we were taking. We go around the room and answer the question: “What class do you secretly wish you could take?”
Painting, photography, guitar, voice, history, Spanish, piano. . . the list goes on as we share the things we still–even at our age–want to learn and do. But is it too late? I had just finished reading a chapter about neuroscience and the importance of novelty for brain health. Novelty–fresh ideas, fresh experiences, fresh activities–strengthens the brain as it ages.
It’s not too late. It’s never too late.
We commit to it as a group, encouraging one another in our desires. The gift we might give ourselves this Christmas for 2011 is novelty. Then, by Christmas of next year, we’ll have another interest to pursue.
Living with flair means I give myself the gift of novelty. Who cares if you’re the oldest ballerina in the room or if your arthritic fingers hesitate over the piano keys? You’ll inspire the rest of us with your courage, your enthusiasm, and your flair. Is there something you secretly wish you could learn? I’d love to hear it!
In my neighborhood, we all gather at the small Baptist church to vote. We come and line up, all of us representing different party affiliations. I love this moment, and sometimes I’ve even been known to cry right there in the line.
I’m one very tiny voice in a very large democracy. My ballot represents my voice in this system, and I come out of duty. Here we are–all of us together–participating in this supreme right of citizenship.
I’m in line, and I notice that nothing is happening. We aren’t moving along. I look ahead, and I see an elderly woman so hunched over with age that nobody can see her face. She’s propped up by a helper on her left and a cane in her right hand. Her movements are painfully slow. The folks working the polls stop everything to assist her. A chorus of helpers ask: Can she make it over to her booth? Is the booth too high? Can she hold the pen and cast her vote?
It’s like slow motion. When we observe her, we all start rooting for her. Volunteers call her by name to make sure she can reach the booth. We are all participating in this moment now. This woman needs to cast her vote. Nothing will thwart her. The moment takes on a weight I wasn’t prepared to experience.
It’s a beautiful moment. I feel suddenly aware of my own lack of interest in this particular election. I’m aware of how inconvenient it felt for me to drive over to the church and stand in line. I’m saddened by the fact that I had to print out a voter’s guide because I didn’t recognize half the names of the candidates on the ballot.
The woman who nobody could stop from voting has a name and a story. She has an opinion and a voice that shapes our nation. Her presence makes me realize another way I want to live with flair. I need to show up and participate as a citizen. And I need to help others do the same. You have a name, an opinion, and a story we need to hear to help make our nation great.
After church, I’m chopping vegetables to add to my pasta sauce, and I remember my garden. I haven’t harvested in weeks because the season’s over. The peppers are surely past their prime, so why bother? Those peppers are old, withered, and done.
It’s cold outside. The leaves are changing. The garden is no more.
But something nags at me to check the garden just in case. I run out into the crisp fall air, doubtful.
|End-of-Season Garden Peppers
Then, I get the camera.
Whoever said a season’s over or that something (or someone) is past her prime hasn’t seen my peppers.
|These Peppers Still Blossom in Old Age
I’m out there, knee deep in glorious peppers, and I’m laughing about all the hope out here in my garden. I recall the verse in Psalm 92 about folks “planted in the house of the Lord.” The psalmist writes: “They will still bear fruit in old age. They will stay fresh and green.”
And these peppers aren’t finished. They still blossom! They still send out new leaves! Defiant! Prolific!
Living with flair means I know nobody’s too old or past her prime. Things can happen and hope can live no matter what season, no matter what age, and no matter how long it’s been.