11.5.14 Age of Enlightenment

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photos by gluttonforlife
First things first: Thank you all for commenting on my last post. It's wonderful to see you all come out of the woodwork! The winner of Amy Chaplin's At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen: Celebrating the Art of Eating Well is "eb" (Elisabeth Bentz). Congratulations! Please send your mailing address to me at gluttonforlife at gmail dot com. I can't wait for you to start cooking from this beautiful book!

With the change of season, my thoughts inevitably turn to death and dying. What? you cry. How maudlin! And I can't deny that it's with a slightly melancholy turn of mind that I watch the garden wither and decay, for this is such an evocative reminder of the passage of time. Oh, spring will come again—the rhubarb will poke its gnarled pinkness up from the cold ground and the lilacs will bloom in a purple haze—but my own spring's awakening happened long ago and my winter years are soon upon me. Reading this piece by the wonderfully wise Dani Shapiro, I was comforted to know that I am not alone in wanting to acknowledge the inevitable, and to let that open me up to appreciating the moment even more. It's so important to embrace all of life's experiences. If we bury our heads in the sand and allow ourselves to by ruled by fear, who knows what we might miss out on?
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breaking down
Just a week before, I had read this article in the New York Times (at least check out the hilarious photos) and it really brought home to me, more than ever, how essential the mind is in helping us remain vital. The gist of it is that if you think younger and act younger, your body will respond by actually feeling—and behaving—like your younger self. You might not need your reading glasses! Your arthritis could ease up considerably. I immediately put on Elvis Costello's Welcome to the Working Week (it always takes me right back to 1981) and danced around the living room like a maniac.
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hop to it
How do we grow and mature and become wise without letting go of some of youth's most valuable treasures? Here are the youthful qualities I am happy to leave behind: Arrogance. Indifference. Ignorance. Innocence. And these are the ones I'd like to retain: Optimism. Energy. Lust.
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bleached blonde
In truth, I find the idea of "eternal youth" somewhat repellent. I don't want to live forever. But I want to live fully and with purpose. With my eyes, heart and mind open wide. "There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age," said Sophia Loren, a woman not unfamiliar with the surgeon's knife. Hey, we each decide how best to chart our progress.
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grey matter
Recently, I had the honor of spending a day with the amazing photographer Mark Hanauer who shot many beautiful portraits of me. I have posted some on my Facebook page, mostly of me looking joyful and rather radiant, if I do say so myself. But he also took this one, in which you can plainly see the shadow of the old woman I will become. It made me flinch. I joked that I could be cast in the next Ingmar Bergman film. And I certainly never thought I would share it with the world. But here it is, here I am, feeling very much alive, full of curiosity and optimism—despite (or perhaps because of) being keenly aware of the passage of time. 

I would love to know your thoughts on this journey, and how you feel about seeing the signs of aging on your face. xo
 
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20 Comments

Imagine. A change of face can bring silence.
Susan on November 5, 2014 at 12:24 pm — Reply
Wonderful post and photos! I am humbled by growing older and want to keep my mind alive till the end. I hope my creativity will help because I'm terrible at crossword puzzles. I need to dance more but my body wants a slow dance so I shall glide rather than stomp. x0
Suzinn on November 5, 2014 at 1:51 pm — Reply
bravo my wise friend xo
stephanie on November 5, 2014 at 5:06 pm — Reply
Beautiful photo, Laura. Perhaps you are seeing some of the depth and wisdom that is coming into your being, and it's a little unfamiliar. I also spend time contemplating death at this time of year, partially because it's the season (everything around us is 'going in' for the winter) and partially because my wife's final illness hospitalized her through November and December. I love the name of your blog, as I feel sharpened and invigorated, and look at everything around me with much more joy and enthusiasm than before my loss. I also look older and grayer. But I smile a tiny bit almost all the time. Perhaps you do too.
Tom on November 5, 2014 at 5:20 pm — Reply
I really relate to what you're saying, Tom. Smiling a bit right now.
laura on November 6, 2014 at 11:07 am — Reply
Since I don't participate in Facebook, I'm unable to compare this photo you've posted with the ones you refer to as joyful and radiant rather than the one above which made you feel ready for a Bergman film. Well, you're right about this photograph. However you are paying yourself a compliment since Bergman's films have matchless light and his actresses were unforgettable. Your portrait doesn't scream actress though. On the contrary. that look couldn't be more personal or penetration - an expression you rarely find on an actresses portrait. And believe me, it's more than just the beautifully natural hair and the lack of regret over all those signs of age. On the contrary. You've shown them for what they are, beautiful signs of a life richly lived. Annie Lennox with long hair! Thanks for being so frank and so lovely at the same time.
Antonia on November 5, 2014 at 5:42 pm — Reply
Thank you, Antonia!
laura on November 6, 2014 at 11:08 am — Reply
A full life, joys, love, sadness, trials and triumphs should show on our faces and in our bodies. The wrinkles and grey and weight (or not) is beautiful. I have eagerly awaited getting older. I purposefully had my children at a young age because I had a deep feeling that my middle aged years would be the best time for me. Xo
Tamika on November 5, 2014 at 6:46 pm — Reply
Yes, these middle years do seem to be getting better and better!
laura on November 6, 2014 at 11:09 am — Reply
Thank you Laura for pointing me in the direction of the NYT article. Absolutely fascinating. Shall apply most of those principles to my life from now on. The photo is beautiful. The stillness of your face. The photographer must have enjoyed the experience. Unfortunately I don't have facebook. Ageing is not something that frightens me, it is a privilege not everyone has been given. We must use that gift of life to its fullest potential.
Janet on November 5, 2014 at 6:56 pm — Reply
Mark, the photographer, and I did have a great day together. We hit lots of different notes.
laura on November 6, 2014 at 11:09 am — Reply
Old, schmold, let's eat now! Contemplate these photos for a startling view of life's passage: http://vanitasproject.com/
jan on November 6, 2014 at 10:40 am — Reply
I take it these are the remarkable Mexican momias? I'm not sure they fit in with Laura's lovely photo of her very much alive portrait! I understand her theme was aging. Perhaps not decomposition stopped in time though.
Antonia on November 7, 2014 at 1:11 pm — Reply
Wow, Jan, these are AMAZING. Can't believe it's Matthew Rolston, who shot fashion advertising when I was at BG!
laura on November 6, 2014 at 11:10 am — Reply
Wonderful! For me growing older is a place of privilege. I carry with me that richness and patina of time - the fuck ups, the appetite, proportion, gratitude, and a hopefully a little accumulated wisdom. We are as we are and it's all OK. Age sharpens the senses for living the big stuff and for everyday detail. I think we must strive to release the space inside us that's occupied by fear and fill up that very same space with our own version of joy. Your blog with its joy in the art of living is an expression of that.
Rain on November 7, 2014 at 1:49 am — Reply
So well said!
laura on November 7, 2014 at 8:55 am — Reply
What a fantastic post. I really loved reading the ny times article you linked and I am really interested to see how her cancer study goes. In such a chaotic world it is nice to believe we have some control over our own minds and bodies.
jo / the desert echo on November 7, 2014 at 4:03 am — Reply
I am reminded of my aging in my face, my body, with the passing of each season. Yet simultaneously I feel more alive, more passionate, more in the moment with the shedding of youth's many limitations. That curiosity for new, the quest for discovery, the joy and sense of vitality in creativity and the awakening of the senses are indeed the fountain of youth. Those visible and physical reminders while really hard and discouraging force me to find a better self and more meaningful life.
Catherine sadler on November 9, 2014 at 10:08 am — Reply
Only recently have I accepted that I am growing older. Gosh. It feels good to be home in me. And look at you! That's a stunner of a shot. xx
Pritha on December 21, 2014 at 2:42 pm — Reply
Shocking is how I feel...can't believe I have experienced so many years. Stunning portrait...may you continue to enjoy the journey.
thefolia on December 30, 2014 at 12:24 am — Reply