Tuesday, February 22, 2011

On aging...

I know.

I promised you beautiful, peaceful images.

But you never know what might catch the eye of a photographer – and as we sat in the ferry line yesterday, waiting for the 305 ferry that would take us to Shaw Island, I couldn’t take my eyes off this bit of plastic in the back of the truck beside us.

When I first noticed it, it was hanging like this, but when I went for my camera, the wind caught it, lifting it up so it sat hunched on top of whatever this is that’s wrapped up beneath it.

And it became a kind of game: the wind would drop it down, I’d position my camera, and up it would go again. I did get several pictures of the floppy piece lying on top, but this was the one I most wanted; I just loved the lacy wrinkled texture of it; like the skin of an ancient crone…

I’m not sure I’ll make it to ancient crone-hood; I’m not even certain I want to live that long (not that I have much choice in the matter). And I know from watching my parents age that it’s unlikely I’ll ever have that paper-thin, finely wrinkled skin I find so lovely in the elderly: my scandinavian roots seem to have guaranteed me skin too thick for that.

And why am I so aware of that texture of skin right now? Probably because I sang with the Community Singers at another assisted living center on Saturday. There was one very old, quite fragile woman, who got around in a sort of framework I hadn’t seen before, constructed of what looked like PVC pipe. I suspect they had created this sort of cage around her to keep her separate from the other residents, because it was clear she had a desperate need to touch people.

She would slowly, very slowly, inch toward one of the other residents, and her head would strain forward with this furrowed brow and a look of intense yearning, and then a thin bony hand would slowly come up, curled almost into a claw with one finger forward, and reach out to the face of the other person as if to stroke a cheek…

The other residents ignored her, and never even engaged in eye contact with her, and the cage ensured she would not be able to actually touch them. But I thought how sad it was to watch that naked longing.

… I hugged my husband and daughter quite tightly when I came home. And yet the woman’s yearning lingers still…

2 comments:

Maureen said...

Your image is otherworldly.

Your description of the resident reaching out . . . heart-breaking. It's hard to shake the image of her.

KimQuiltz said...

Such a beautiful image, but it's kinda scary at the same time ... hmmm, quite like aging is. Scary and beautiful.