Growing older gracefully
(I said ‘Growing older’ not ‘old’)
I’ve always been attached to my youth.
But something happened when I wasn’t paying attention.
Straying from the fountain,
my youthful skin slid to the ground.
Of course it happens every moment of every day.
Not to those lost girls and boys,
who choose to stay on Sugar Mountain,
attempting to remain forever young,
beating their wings faster and faster
against the ravages of time.
There you are minding your own business,
when all of a sudden,
a blast of grey weariness greets you,
Unable to sit cross-legged on the floor anymore.
Leached of colour.
Dry skin, cracking away under the layers of moisturiser.
The funny thing is that I’ve long thought this would be my time,
when I’d be my golden best.
The wise woman in her garden of herbs and spices,
constructing amulets for souls lost.
Offering kindness and understanding,
for bewildered travellers,
traversing their own paths.
As I stand on the brink of a new cycle,
I realise that these words
are not about ageing,
but the angst of denying age,
or to put it another way,
fear of the vulture devouring my youth.
I am preparing to follow Inanna* into the underworld.
So I gather my staff, my guide-book and a few wise Sherpas.
My wise woman elder calls me from a distant summit.
Her skin is craggy and pale,
but her smile lights up the world.
She knows all the sums of my parts and beyond.
She is familiar with my ghosts,
my miseries and anger.
She knows my achievements and my joys
and She of gentle heart, knows my future.
I’m longing to reach her,
but I have a teenager,
forlornly grasping my ankles.
One minute, pleading with me not to leave.
The next minute spouting angry curses at me,
Just like a teenager.
Her youth clouds my wisdom at times.
My clear direction, lost in admiring her flawless skin,
and her blooming potential.
The other night my teenager suicided,
or maybe I killed her,
leaving me to endure the grief that ensued.
She was trying to convince me to stay with her forever.
Only to convince me that I have to go,
and do it well.
The death thing was just a lesson, of course.
When I woke we were both still there.
Bound in our love/hate embrace.
Teenage cunning thwarting my progress.
She doesn’t yet understand.
I need her vitality to complete this journey,
her hope for a future,
and her fearless laughter,
to drown out the silence
of my increasingly grumpy old moods.
But I need her to grow up with me,
accepting the nature of things,
whilst massaging my heart when I run into trouble
and faint in the struggle.
You see this teenager and I (and all the others of course)
have nearly achieved one of life’s great goals.
We’ve already lived a rich and fulfilling life.
But I know that this next phase
will belong to me.
Help! A Vulture ate my youth
Previously I wouldn’t have thought of a Vulture as a symbol of wise feminine power.
The Vulture probably gets bad press because of its lack of classical beauty and its love of devouring dead flesh, but let’s view these qualities in a more positive way as the Ancient Egyptians did.
The Vulture was a very popular symbol in Ancient Egyptian art. It represented Upper Egypt as well as, Mut (pronounced Moot) who was the primordial Mother of all goddesses.
Because male and female Egyptian white vultures have no discernible differences in their markings, the Ancient Egyptians believed them to all be females. Therefore they believed Mut was born from the primordial nothing.
The Vulture and the symbol of the Crone are closely linked as well (the English word for crone is derived from a French word meaning “carrion”). They represent the wise part within of all of us that is female.
Vulture devours the dead so as to provide a cleansed space for the new.
Like the vulture, the Crone has also regularly been viewed in a negative light. She has been depicted in many faerie stories as an evil witch or hag, but she can also be seen as providing a very protective and helpful role.
Many cultures revere their elders for their wisdom and life experience. This is the way we can view the crone, the archetypal wise woman. She deserves our utmost respect, as do we all as we approach our middle age and beyond.
I like to picture her in her rambling garden of herbs, providing medicines and amulets made from nature.
* One of those dear Sherpa friends of mine directed me to the story of Inanna and her descent into the underworld. A perfectly relevant story for the theme for this week.