There’s immense beauty in life lived. In every wrinkle bought by time and much expression. It is evident, open, there to see. There is beauty in the well-lined faces of elders. In our own. They are pathways earned by living. Furrows sewn by memory and feeling. Intricate etchings of how one came–and still comes–into one’s own, how spirit’s grown.
A little boy of four told me the other day: “My granny is very pretty. She has lots of lines all over her face like spider webs because she’s old. She gets more lines every year for her birthday. I like her face. It is so soft and her eyes love me.”
There is history to tenderness and respect for the older. Many native traditions venerate their elders and hold their wisdom in high interest and regard. They know that life leaves marks, and most of them are well-earned knowledge. The lines upon a person’s face reflect not decline or oddly shameful claims of “one’s age showing” but rather are a mirror to a person’s wisdom, depth, growth.
Many of us have lost the Way, in modern times. In the rush to seek erasing life from our expressions, we’re urged to look away from those who forged before, who cleared the paths, who taught us all we know. We are expected to see wrinkled faces as what we should fear becoming. It is our own life we deny when we do not accept that we would none of us be had it not been for the elders’ lives, how it is now our history. The aged’s perspective is what holds our own horizon steady. They know of corners we do not yet see for we are in too low a vantage point, compared. Their faces show it. Maps of living. Losing sight of it is losing part our ourselves, of what we may have the blessing to become sometime later be.
The little boy who sees his granny’s life etched in the softness of her face and the love in her eyes–he gets it. His priorities are calibrated. He sees the beauty of life lived, not the images peddled by companies seeking fortunes by telling people lies: that life reverses, that years should not be seen, that age that shows is somehow shameful and wrinkles should be believed to depict a worn-out living, unworthy of respect. The opposite is real, and this child’s vision is clear, aligned with Truth: that the paths we walk become a part of us. That our beauty lies in our compassion, in what we learned of ourselves and others, in how we live. Beauty is not measured in complexion or in how well we do in life’s erasing.
If only more could see. The beauty of life lived. Reflected.
I am someplace in early middle years. Not nearly old enough to spider-web, but in the place where I receive a few new gifts of wrinkles for each birthday, and hopefully some of the wisdom they can depict of some experience. I see them, welcome into my visage: laugh lines, small remembering of oft expression, better understanding of the interplay of gravity on time and skin.
The same little boy looked at me the other day, his eyes full of inspection, his young forehead creased lightly in concentration. He searched my face. Lifted a hand to my cheek. “You have some wrinkles, too,” he noted. That’s pretty.” He sighed. Satisfied.