I don’t feel like an old woman, but the facts are undeniable. What kind of old woman will I be? I think of the role models I've had in other older women.
I could be the rascally red-hatted woman who speaks outrageous things loudly, and breaks with convention just because she can. I could be the Nurturing Earth Mother, who sits knitting in her rocking chair on the front porch, visiting with the neighbourhood as it passes by. I could be the Intrepid Trekker, travelling around the world with only a backpack for company, fulfilling her life-time dream of travel. I could be the Valued Volunteer or go back to school to get a Master’s degree in something or other, graduating at the same time as my granddaughter. It’s wonderful to have so many options.
To help me think things through, I fantasize about the future, using my favourite medium, an art quilt. I choose a winter tree as my image and begin to decorate it with symbols of the life I hope to live.
|A Winter Tree|
To communicate a spirit of beauty, strength, and resilience, the trunk bends in a curve and the roots are strong and wide-spread. Buried amongst the roots is a treasure, symbolizing the value I place on my ancestors. I add a silver charm of a hand to depict the playful work I hope to continue doing till I drop. I throw in a few fantasy flowers and leaves to indicate that there’s life in the old tree yet. Silver raindrops hang from the branches because I do not want my old age to be dry and barren. Hearts are added liberally...I can’t live without an abundance of love. A dream catcher hangs from a limb – I hope I never lose the ability to have dreams for the future. A butterfly and dragonfly are added to symbolize transformation and metamorphosis, and faith that my life will go on in some form after I’m gone. A white mask on one side of the tree is balanced with a black one on the other, a reminder that life has its bright but also its shadow side.
As the tree’s crowning glory, a crow sits out on a limb, perched there with her mouth wide open. She’s communicating with the world. As a symbol of wisdom, knowledge and intelligence across many cultures, she reminds me that an old crow lives within my branches.
Then it dawns on me: by creating this tree, I have portrayed all of the things that I already love about my life. Roots and raindrops, hearts and butterflies, growth and communication – they’re all already part of my life today. Now I see that it’s not what I wear, or how I behave, that will define me in my old age. It will be my inner self, the self that is already growing now inside me.
When I am an old woman – no, now that I AM an old woman – I will be myself, only more so, I hope. I can joyfully live with that.