As I approached turning fifty, I started thinking about my future as a woman, as a person. In “Beauty of Wisdom,” I was fortunate to photograph and interview my elders, women in their seventies and above, and I felt like I was looking into their eyes searching for who I was to become. Every single woman I met had a gift to share; an anecdote, humor, poignant words about aging and about their sacred connection to their hairstylist. If I wrote a thank you note to all the women of Beauty of Wisdom and all the women that they represent it would read something like this:
Dear Women of age and beauty,
Thank you for providing a look into my own future, one that is now filled with inspiration and enthusiasm. You have shown me what real courage is, the kind that comes from embracing life fully without expectation, except to be happy and connect to people. You have reminded me what is important in life with your anecdotes and stories and pearls of wisdom. Thank you Ellen, 70, from New Orleans, for reminding me to live authentically and Mrs. Guste, 89, who enlightened me about owning things. Her house was looted during Hurricane Katrina and all her jewelry was stolen, all the jewelry that her husband ever gave her…and she was wearing white plastic pearls and said, “everything is on loan, it’s all borrowed and when it goes away, it’s time to give it back.” Their lines on their faces, their white snowy hair, their hands strong with evidence of hard work and deep love gave me reasons to look forward to my own aging process and not to fear it or be ashamed by it. There was not an ounce of shame present, maybe shyness, but no shame. Now I have more role models than ever, to follow in their footsteps, my own mother and Lillian, who shared emails between her and her friends on the topic of aging in ways that kept me laughing and honoring their position in this life. I thank them for their “take me as I am” attitude, which gives us all permission to live in that way if we choose…as they have done, with no regrets as they still look forward in their lives….and to their weekly ritual of going to the beauty parlor where they connect with other warriors like themselves…who have been going for most of their adult lives, attending to their self-care in more ways than just getting their hair styled. Thank you for leading the way….you all are quite visible to me.
With love and gratitude,
Thank you, Robbie. I hope that we may all experience the deep wisdom and beauty of those who have traveled this earth before us.