Saturday, July 11, 2009

Just the way you are...

While I was in Anaheim visiting at General Convention (I'm home now, safe and sound) I had lots of opportunities to visit with old friends from the days when I was an official Episcopal Communicator. And a couple of times I found myself telling the story (which I don't believe I shared here; forgive me if you've heard this before) of the presentations I did at the retirement centers on our island.

It was part of a project the Gallery was doing in honor of its 60th birthday -- they had set up a series of art courses for folks over the age of 60 (which will soon include ME!), and I was one of the teachers. It was suggested I just show photographs of the island, thinking they would be delighted to see some of the things they don't get out to see much anymore, but I decided to expand that idea to show some of the things you can do with digital photography and photoshop.

As part of the presentation I brought a copy of Treasured, a book that was created by the local Presbyterian church to feature some of the older women in their congregation. I had done the portraits for the book, and I talked about ways I had altered the portraits so they would be both more flattering and show what we THINK we see when we look at these women. As the conversation evolved, I ended up photographing the participants in my class at the retirement center and then taking them home, doing similar alterations, and bringing them back portraits of their own to keep.

The time I spent with those portraits was actually wonderful. I loved the people I met in the class -- loved their spirit and their beauty -- and it was fascinating to see how even in the course of an hour my image of them shifted. Old age -- as all of us who are aging know -- is not pretty: the skin wrinkles and spots, the hair thins, the eyes fade and hair grows coarsely in lots of unexpected places. But when you come to know someone, you really don't see those things any more: you begin to see the real person; the child of God who lives underneath the skin.

I'm thinking that this may also be the reason it is so important to create the time and space to come to know people of different races, religions, and political persuasions from ourselves; to broaden our concept of what is family to include those outside our expected groups and organizations (yes, I'm talking about Ubuntu again...). Because in the end race and religion and political persuasion may be just more hairs and spots; things that disappear when we realize the person beneath is just another unique member of our human family, not so different from ourselves.

And, just so you know, I loved the lady in these pictures; she was a wonderful participant in the class. And I -- despite the hairs and wrinkles -- actually find her MORE appealing in the picture on the left, because all those "distasteful" features I removed give her character; they are a part of who she has become over the years. And though, when you look at them closely and imagine them on your own face, you might wrinkle your nose a bit, I think it's important to see that they somehow contribute to the way her beautiful soul shines through. So today, take a minute to look in the mirror and love who you are becoming -- and remember that God loves you JUST THE WAY YOU ARE!


Katherine W. said...

This is really amusing- I was backing up my computer yesterday when I found all this stuff I had written in Creative Fiction in Boston, and there was this note in it for a short story I had written:

He thought of how unreal they all looked and was reminded of holograms. Perhaps all the city were just that, holograms. Nothing tangible, having of matter, soul. He smiled- in some way he had known this all along. You look at a picture of a model in a magazine, versus a portrait of a man who had worked in the fields all his life, and in the model, there is nothing shadowed, or hidden, everything is out and bright and flat and shining. In the man, the wrinkles given him by time and hardship are etched upon his face by the shadows- there is a realness in him, a connection with earth, while the model is airy and light, something ethereal and artificial.

I can only assume this was an observation I made in the city, but still, I thought it's way creepy fitting =P

Also how are you today? I got in a rare argument with Martin and I think it's because of leftover cranky from last night >_<

Anonymous said...

Welcome back!

philippe said...

I wonder if you had other pictures taken at the Convention that would add to the ones you already posted.
Thank you for bringing pictures into the picture.

Virginia Wieringa said...

Great post!