The window by my side of the bed looks out on a thickly wooded hillside. It’s the first thing my eyes take in upon waking. About a month ago, the view was predominantly green with a few glimpses of yellowy orange far in the background. As the mornings unfurled, so did the colours: the orange advancing, the green retreating, until the last brushstroke of green vanished into a sea of orange.
Turning leaves, cooling nights and shorter days preoccupy me during this brief, flamboyant season. I often wonder about the parallels with my own human life cycle. During my 60s, my hair grew longer and whiter. Gazing at my face in the mirror, I thought I had never looked better. A short-lived vanity! Now I see the bags under the eyes, the deepening creases around the mouth.
I have always been attracted to outer appearances, delighting not only in the obvious glories of nature, but also in the intriguing composition of visual artworks, exquisitely decorated ceramic pots, the gorgeous hues of hand-dyed yarn. And perhaps loveliest of all, the pleasing configuration of beautiful faces and bodies.
Now, in early elderhood, it strikes me that my notion of beauty needs updating. For example, the two maples by the garage stand denuded, their golden shawl of leaves completely unravelled. Yet their upward reaching branches form a lovely tracery against the grey sky.
Can I look deeper, wider, beyond the surface? My gang of women friends meet for our semi-annual lunch. All of us have left our youthful 60s behind; some are moving steadily through their 80s. All of us sport wrinkles, age spots, hairs sprouting from our chins. And still, eyes sparkle, laughs are just as deep. As I look around the table, I see kindness, humour, affection and acceptance. Markers of inner beauty, mellowed with age.
This excerpt of a poem by David Ignatow, with its haiku-like brevity, gives me an even wider perspective to consider.
I wish I understood the beauty
in leaves falling. To whom
are we beautiful
as we go?
~ from “Three in Transition” by David Ignatow