Aging with Character
This one stopped us. We picked yesterday for our weekly photo shoot because it was the only day that promised sunshine. Reality required that we delay departure for an hour because of icy roads and there were heavy clouds – all day – not a single ray of sunshine.
We hung on to the hope that the clouds would clear, and headed to the northwest. We haven’t spent time in this area and found lots of dirt roads we didn’t know existed. There were many interesting subjects, mostly barns, but we passed on by because we agreed they needed a spot of evening or morning sun. We hope we remember how to find them again.
This two-story house stopped us – we lingered with the car running – we talked about it – we opened the doors to the cold and grabbed our cameras. This building has character that was enhanced by the cloudy day.
We spent some time discussing why some dilapidated buildings have character and others don’t. I’m intrigued with this idea of aging with character – probably because I am aging and I want to do it with grace and character.
There is definitely different criteria for beauty when we age – with associated challenges. I see so many faces that don’t fit our standard for human beauty (young and new, for starters) but have character and within that character have beauty. I find it hard to see beauty in my aging face when anti-aging serums are hawked by 20-somethings. Did I fail to use the right products so my face wouldn’t have wrinkles, “aging” spots, and stray hairs?
Maybe this house has character because it has some adornment. It is on the same property, close to the owners and it seems like they have staged this falling down structure – just a little bit. They seem to love it – and seem proud of it. It feels cared for in a subtle sort of way.
I don’t see aged beauty in faces and bodies that are overly kept. Lots of make-up, gold, diamonds, and elegant (expensive) clothing that are used to cover signs of aging seem to also disguise character. Maybe this is an unfair cultural issue as I’m not from a wealthy background. Maybe what I look for is authenticity, being true to who we are. This home was never big and grand – but being true to it’s humble background, it has character. We also saw a very large, grand old home that was crumbling. It had authenticity and character and beauty (but needed a touch of sun to highlight color). I feel comfortable with people from all stations of life and see beauty in their faces and bodies if they are being authentic – if they have pride in where they came from and confidence in who they are.
Character can come from having a past, maybe even some hints at secrets that aren’t totally divulged. I didn’t notice the stones on the ledge of this upstairs window until I was post-processing it. How did they get there, what is their meaning? How are these remnants of the past maintained while the structure collapses?
The aging friends who I enjoy the most are those who have had a past filled with joy and pain, excitement and tedium – and they aren’t afraid to look at their past straight on. They are confident because they embrace both successes and failures in their past. They are transparent but know when not to divulge. We seem to like a sense of mystery, don’t we.
What is interesting is that we are always becoming. This brings a sense of excitement to me as I am living this day. There will be new challenges and I will need to learn how to live into them with integrity. Julie and I talked about how nature, and also structures built with natural materials, eventually are reclaimed by the earth. This building is being reclaimed and I know my body will also someday be reclaimed by the earth and that is as it should be. This doesn’t seem morbid or depressing because I know my spirit will live on in the lives of the people I have touched.
And I remember my faith story at this season of Christmas. I have found no better model for living than the story of Christ’s life here on earth and the promises he made to me about death. This old house touched me, and maybe I don’t have to worry about having character as long as I maintain loving relationships and live true to my faith.