Apifera Farm - where art, story, animals & woman merge. Home to artist Katherine Dunn

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©Katherine Dunn.

Monday, July 25, 2016

An honest view of aging-it's the bones

"And yet I look at men and women my age and older, and their scalps and knuckles and spots and bulges, though various and interesting, don’t affect what I think of them. Some of these people I consider to be very beautiful, and others I don’t. For old people, beauty doesn’t come free with the hormones, the way it does for the young. It has to do with bones. It has to do with who the person is. More and more clearly it has to do with what shines through those gnarly faces and bodies." Ursula LeGuin

This really resonates with the transition I feel I am in, and will be for some years, as I go from looking somewhat fresh and 'young' to at this stage, really looking like I'm in my upper middle years, which I am. I seem to always prefer images of me with my face partially covered. My braid clumps still look ok, despite the fact my thick hair is thinning more.

I am almost embarrassed to write about some of these things. But it is an honest upheaval [at least it feels that way at times] to me. And with the upcoming Emerging Crone Workshop, it seems appropriate to talk about. One of my hopes is that the workshop will help other women in the same transition, or that women who feel they've already gone through it will help us emerging crones.

The reason I feel silly sometimes admitting it on a public space like this is...well, I'm not that bad-I mean, I don't have an illness, I am loved, I have a solid foundation of spirit and home, work I love, a mate I am best friend's with, and my body and face and 'appearance' to the outside world is 'not that bad.' Martyn assures me in his eyes I am still the woman he met. When I look at him, I still see him too, but when I look at photos, he has aged of course but in a way that doesn't bother me a t all and it's as if he gets more chiseled and more handsome to me as he ages. Could it be he sees my sagging towels and bulging middle in the same way? How could he? But, perhaps he does.

But the outward appearance of my body and face is not what gets things done, it is not what helps me create art, or help my animals or build barns. My appearance has nothing to do with how when I look out at beauty of the land - I am moved.

But it all goes back to old wounds, doesn't it-for all of us? When I was young I had a terrible body image of myself. I had red [bright orange to be exact] curly hair and I saw a fat girl in the mirror. I would look at many of my peers and see long thin legs and straight long hair which was the in thing then, and I would feel chubby. I truly believed I was chubby. But when I look back on photos, I really wasn't. How this started, I think, was when I was about eight years old, my father told me point blank I was too young to be fat. My mother immediately scolded him and reassured me I wasn't. But I felt it, I owned and continued to view myself that way well into my twenties. To stand up for my father, he had a chubby childhood and always struggled with his weight. He loved good food and was not obese by any means, but as a kid and teen he was a bit chubby, and I know that what he said to me was his stuff, not mine. But it took me into my adult years to understand that.

It was well into my late twenties when I began to settle into what I thought I looked like to the outside world. And from about 35 through my early fifties, I felt good about what I saw. I wonder if this is sort of an optimum age for many women–our bodies still have hormones and we are still very young looking. It took me so long to get to that point in my life of acceptance of my appearance, that when it all started going south I thought, so soon? I just got here.

I also hesitate to discuss this because when I hear a forty year old, or fifty year old who looks great to me discuss her wrinkles, fat, etc, I want to reach out and say...just wait. But they are going through it in their own pace. I remember turning 40 and looking great. Even 50 I felt great. Oh, a little bulge hear and there, but still jobless, still strong. Genetics is really much of it, and hormone loss. Living a healthy lifestyle, working in nature, eating right, doing yoga daily as I have done for years is not going to keep my body from sagging, or my middle from expanding. I have given up on that thought. I tossed all the ill fitting closes and bought new ones. I wondered if I was rich would I have my sagging towels and waddle tightened. I don't know. I'd rather use the money to pay the barn off.

But doing the best I can do with activity and lifestyle choices can help my bones stay stronger, and my lungs can keep giving me oxygen, and my skin might stay free of skin cancer if I keep it up.

I want to stay strong. I want to get to a point where what I see in the mirror is just like a painting, or a story line, or a blank canvas welcoming me each morning.

But what I've always sensed about aging is...it gets better, emotionally? I mean, the part of looking in the mirror. I'm not afraid to die. I actually think death will be...a release of everything. But seeing my face so visibly changed, and sag, and hair thin out, and bulging middle-it is a struggle to go through it.

So I really love what Ursula Le Guin says. And I don't think any of us should poo-poo the real angst many of us face when we see our bodies and vessel really changing in what we perceive to be unflattering, or ugly, or not what we wish for.

I am focusing on breath, and bone as I go forward. It isn't all pretty, but pretty doesn't grow muscle, experience does. When I work with the animals, it with intuition, and heart-they sense that and work with me. I doubt they even notice my neck.

Visit the workshop site to learn more about the upcoming September workshop here at Apifera-a day of doll making, communing, healing with animals and each other.

1 comment:

Palma said...

You are voice for many. Humor and action and affection...gets the job done! Happy On!

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Thank you for reading! The farm and my art/writing keep me hopping, so might not respond immediately. Thank you for understanding. ~Katherine & Apifera ~