A friend recently sent me a favorite poem of hers, and it quickly became a favorite of mine as well. She couldn’t have sent it at a better time . . . just after a routine visit to my dermatologist. Here’s the poem:
My face catches the wind
from the snow line
and flushes with a flush
that will never wholly settle.
Well, that was a metropolitan vanity,
wanting to look young
forever, to pass.
I was never a pre-Raphaelite beauty
and only pretty
enough to be seen
with a man who wanted to be seen
with a passable woman.
But now that I am in love
with a place that doesn’t care
how I look and if I am happy,
happy is how I look and that’s all.
My hair will grow grey in any case,
my nails chip and flake,
my waist thicken, and the
years work all their usual changes.
If my face is to be weather beaten
as well, it’s little enough lost
for a year among the lakes and vales
where simply to look out my window
at the high pass makes me
indifferent to mirrors
and to what my soul may wear
over its new complexion.
~ Fleur Adcock ~
Back to my doctor’s office visit. We took care of the usual routine, uninteresting matters that prompted the appointment, then my doctor leaned over my face and squinted. “If you’d like,” he said, “I’ll have my assistant talk to you about your eyes–“
He zoomed in for a closer look at the rest of my face, then added, “I don’t see too many age spots but there are those pesky spider veins . . . “
A few minutes later I was undergoing more scrutiny, this time by his pretty assistant whose eyes were bruised from her own recent eye surgery. “Hmm, hmm,” she murmured, nodding. “You would be amazed at the difference you’d see if we removed those fat pads. You’ll look years younger.”
Fat pads? I didn’t know until this minute I had fat pads. “I’m a writer,” I said, feeling the need to defend my eyes. When I’m at the computer ten hours a day, my eyes tend to take a beating . . . especially when I’m on deadline. They swell, get teary, turn red . . .” I sighed and shrugged. “It’s just part of the writing process.”
She didn’t look impressed. She had now moved her magnifying light to the tiny veins around my nose. “Three laser treatments and we can get rid of those.”
“Foundation usually does the trick for me,” I said, quickly calculating the cost of a bottle of Lancome versus three laser treatments at $450 a pop.
She didn’t look impressed with that tidbit of information either. I politely took the brochures, thanked her for her time, and said I would think about it.
That afternoon the above poem landed in my mailbox and I had to chuckle. Weathered? Yes. And proud of it. Every laugh line, every vein (my dad had them too, which somehow pleases me), every freckle (I prefer the word to age spot) is part of my weathering. As the poet so eloquently says, “I am in love with a place that doesn’t care how I look . . . “
The place I love is internal; it’s the place where I celebrate who I am created to be, no matter my age, no matter the tattered-Skin-Horse kind of wear and tear, no matter the fat pads and spider veins or other signs of aging. It is the place that brings a smile as I drop the dermatologist’s brochures into the shredder, then turn once more to my writing deadline.