While looking at the ravages time carved onto the face of Robert Frost I decided plastic surgery is for fools. I suppose some, who are maimed, might require such surgery, to avoid repulsing people with an unpleasant superficiality, but most of us are strangely improved by the battering of our features time gifts us with. This seems especially true of people who retain their sense of humor, and of beauty, despite hardship. Crafted into each wrinkle of their face is a hint that God is real, and death is not.
Robert Frost knew much about desperation, despair and darkness. He outlived his wife and four of six children, and had witnessed those dark landscapes made of a pain far worse than physical pain, misnamed “mental illness”, even experiencing a son’s suicide. How he got through it all is his secret and his triumph, and is written in his face more clearly than in any poem.
The best and most beautiful poem is but an attempt to express the self that already exists. I have no idea why it feels so sublimely satisfying to do this, for it is merely to copy. In fact I was always scolded for copying, when in school. However there are few things so fulfilling as speaking your heart, in a sense tracing what already exists with a tracing paper called “poetry”. Later, when the tracing paper is removed from the Truth you attempted to copy, you see all the imperfections. However when you first are focused on what the Creator has already created, it is completely absorbing, and you forget all your problems, even when you are tracing a problem called a heartache. That is why there is such a rhapsody in singing the blues.
An old face is no different from any other old object; it has a sort of patina that gives it value, as an antique. A young face is sort of raw, in comparison. It lacks something very beautiful the old have earned.
I was looking at my face critically the other day, noting how amazingly aged a couple of hard winters have made me, and I started to stretch my skin smooth, making the face in the mirror look like those bizarre old people, quite common in Florida, who have paid money that might have fed the poor to make themselves look weird. I burst out laughing. And when I laughed all the wrinkles gathered and made my face have far more character than I had when I was young, and was little more than a pretty boy poet.
Call it sour grapes if you will, but I suddenly felt sorry for the young, and glad to be wrinkled. Usually I cut off my beard when the weather warms, and a free scarf is no longer necessary, but this year I may keep my scruff, for a gray beard makes me look even older, and age is no disgrace. It is a badge of honor, given by the Creator. If nothing else, this attitude will save me a lot of money, and my boycott may put plastic surgeons in the position where they will have to save lives rather than egos.
One reason my attitude towards wrinkles has changed is due to sitting my granddaughter in my lap, and seeing her attitude toward wrinkles. I gather you have to become older than she is to be scared by age, for she finds wrinkles fascinating, and her observant eyes search my face as her little fingers poke. In a sense she reminds me of a student probing a poem, searching for the meaning in the lines.
Another reason may be that spring is absurdly early this year. I’m not fooled, for I’ve seen many a warm March give way to April snows, but one seed that can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked is peas. Usually we plant them on Patriots Day, April 19, and I’ve often planted them in snow, but this year I thought I’d see if it was possible to kill even a tough plant like peas, by planting them more than a month early, on March 16.
Of course there is something about spring and planting seeds that seems alien to wrinkles. Maybe it reminds the old of sex, when they were young, and tempts them to gobble that plastic surgery of the penis, Viagra, popping some Prozac as well to plasticize the brain. However here too I burst into laughter, which was what Abraham and Sarah named the child they made in their old age. That is the only real reason for sex: Procreation. All the other reasons people give are proof they are using sex as a poor excuse for genuine poetry. If you really want the sublime self-forgetfulness of creation, make a child if you are young, but write a poem if you are old.
I never really wanted to be worldly.
I wanted to space out, and be away
From schooling that abused me, and then hurled me
Out onto a world of greedy gray.
My teachers had no clue of how men make a buck.
They dwelled in ivory classrooms, stuffed with must
And never dared depart from muck, when stuck,
And clung to coins that hoped, “In God we trust.”
Me? I roamed a world which didn’t pity me
And toiled with bleeding hands and bleeding heart
Facing worldly responsibility
Though I disliked this world right from the start
Until now, life ebbs, and laughter stings
For I’ve become a man of worldly things.
I believe you are right. Our society and culture are very ageist. We should celebrate age, wisdom and experience as a society more than we do. A young person can be physically beautiful, but they have not yet really lived, experienced both the good and bad as we have. They are sort of half baked to paraphrase what you have said.
I keep hearing that a 50 year old out of work has a great deal of difficulty finding a job. I have an 82 year old working for me. I’d rather take him any day than some wet behind the ears kid just out of college. But unfortunately, that is not the way most people think.
I rue the periods of my life I had a “don’t trust anyone over thirty” attitude, and am glad of the times I got past my “ageist” attitude and heard the stories and gained the insights of elders.
Looking back, the one time I was usually a good listener, back in the day, was when hitchhiking was commonplace.
As I got older the “ageist” attitude came back to haunt me, as it tends to eventually be used against ones own self.
I think it is great that you have a 82-year-old working for you. No one should have to retire when they still are capable, and often minds stay sharp.
A lady neighbor in her late eighties can no longer take her six year old female English setter out for walks. Last Spring a bit deeper into Spring than now I offered to take Caelie out and found that she was anxious to run and trot more than to just walk. I had been thinking about taking up running, or at least jogging again after many years of not doing so and had even bought a pair of running shoes in anticipation, I started jogging with Caelie, and that evolved into three mile mixed walks, jogs, and full out runs according to Caelie’s desires. Over the past year my relationship with Patsy (Caelie’s owner) and Caelie has become deepened and become something precious, visits I look forward to four times a week for the short but always interesting conversations with Patsy, the only survivor of my parents’ generation I see regularly, and the joyful runs, jogs, and walks with Caelie. Patsy is a wise old Quaker, always ready with a witty observation or recollection from the past. Talk about expressive old faces! I get the biggest kick out of dropping my own witty remarks and seeing Patsy’s face light up.
That sounds like a win-win situation for all concerned. Thanks for sharing.
The only person I still know from our parents generation is in Florida all winter. It feels a bit odd to think of myself as “the older generation”, but there’s no stopping it.