Knowing Love

Today, visiting my umpteenth Kyoto temple ( this time, Shoren-in )I thought how each time I reconnect with the places, things and people I love here, it’s like meeting an old friend after a long absence.  You can’t explain its satisfaction and happiness, but you sure know it and feel it.

The delicate maple leaves in the temple gardens  are certainly familiar as is the smile on a loved one’s face or the twinkle in their eye. The junction of wall and roofing always pleases too, not to mention the koi in the ponds, the stones, the quiet, the moss, the flowers, the mysteries hidden in the darkened sanctuaries.  How wonderful to be reunited!

 

People often ask me, how many times have you come here?  I truly don’t know, I stopped counting years ago.  It’s irrelevant anyway.  There’s always a First Time feeling to each visit.  I revere the integration of Nature in daily life.  The physical buildings of temples, generally hundreds of years old, are such a part of each temple landscape, looking as if they might have emerged from the earth itself. The carefully constructed gardens are often sublime.  It’s easy to feel a part of them as they have become a part of me.  As loved ones influence and mark our lives, so does this place for me.

 

 

Return to Youth with Anti-Ageing?? Get Over It

Can we please eliminate/eradicate the term anti-ageing?

There is no such thing. Anti aging=death. It’s a ridiculous phrase. It’s added as a descriptive term to advertising far too frequently. It’s understood to be undeniably positive, promoting everything from diets to yoga, face cream, lipstick, underwear, to acai berries. Let’s be truthful. Anti aging = anti-nature. Can’t be done. Don’t waste your time or spend you $$$. Or give it credibility.

We all age at different rates. If you’re like I am, you have already looked around at people your own age, wondering how some look so young, or what happened to make others look so old. There’s a wide variation among us. Some things in life accelerate the aging process, but if you have the pleasure (let’s hope) of living a long life, YOU WILL AGE SOONER OR LATER. Better to face it, than to flee.

Just as mid-life provides us with an opportunity to examine our lives and make changes as necessary, ageing provides a similar opportunity if we can jettison all the nonsense that surrounds it that just isn’t worth the dwindling time we have.

The somewhat obvious spin-off of anti-ageing rhetoric is designed to make us dissatisfied with ourselves and our naturally ageing bodies and minds.  It does just that if you don’t have your ears perked up and call it out for what it is.  It’s ultimately anti-life.

I don’t want to be approached by a pretty young thing patronizingly offering me a creme to make me look younger. Fuck off.  I’ve earned my place in life and I’m quite ok thank you very much. I’m not ashamed to look my age although I must admit to being a little too happy when I’m told I look younger than I am!  Old thought patterns don’t let go so easily.

I have zero desire to strut around in very high heels to make my body look better.  I’ve already played that painful game.

Now that I am approaching my late 70’s, I see ageism all around me. In myself too. We are SO culturally conditioned. I don’t like it in myself . I resent it in others . But, I’m becoming more and more aware of it. I’ve decided to become active in identifying it when I see it and calling it out. Others are doing it too. It’s well past time to be realistic, don’t you think?

… the success of the anti-ageing industry that caters to the needs of the elderly, like alternative medicine, it owes much of its success to its fundamental, albeit ambiguous, relationship with science. This particular sector in consumer society is shrouded with an aura of science that is used for the promotion of a variety of goods. It thrives on symbolic uses of science, while passing over its requirements for experimental evidence, peer review and official regulations. The aura and the discourse of science are skilfully applied for product enhancement in response to a fast-growing demand from the ageing public (see McConnel & Turner, page S59).

The anti-ageing market is replete with products: yoghurt cures, enema regimens, cell injections, magnetic devices, skin creams, herbal elixirs, glandular extracts, hormonal therapies, vitamin supplements, fad diets and exercise programmes. They give us anti-oxidants to neutralize oxygen-free radicals; chelators to bind heavy metal ions such as copper and iron; dehydroepiandrosterone to rejuvenate the immune system, improve brain function and relieve stress; growth hormone to increase muscle mass and function; retinoic acid to decrease skin wrinkling, and many more.  EMBO European Molecular Biology Organization

The Quiet Lives of Old Photographs

The photographs of my life huddle together in the darkness, secure in a bedroom cabinet. They now lead quiet lives, disturbed only occasionally. They once brought only pleasure to me and upon inspection, wonder. Now going through them brings a quotient of sadness too. The scale began to tip about 10 or 15 years ago. Their nearby presence exerts an energy that often tempts me to pay them a visit, but one that I usually resist. It’s a bottomless journey, that once begun leads down a road that’s too nostalgic. It invariably leads to sad emotions that I’d prefer to not indulge. It does show a rich lifetime of family times, travel, holidays and joyful events. The photos allow me to visit people who were once an important part of my life, now no longer available for one reason or another or sometimes for no reason I can state.  They just faded away.

Were my eyebrows really once that full and dark? Gazing at a photo of myself holding my infant children in my arms, I can still feel my daughter’s softness and inhale her sweet baby scent. Those sacred pleasures vanished too quickly. Pangs of times passed too quickly and unconsciously.  Another photo yields a glance of smiling faces at a school graduation. That was long ago, when there were more beginnings and a door closed meant that another door would soon be opening.

home from college, visiting my Dad

Yesterday, I uncovered a long-lost photo of my mother in her 20’s with a man other than my father. She and her gentleman friend looked very happy. I remembered her telling me many years ago that this man was her boyfriend before she met my father. They were close to engagement. And then they weren’t. The road not taken, but still present in my stash of snapshots. Does the gentleman still have a photo of my mom that his children puzzle over?

There are so many photos! My short-term attempts at organization have always run out of steam. I can never throw out enough of them to even make a small dent in their number.  Now they lay, slightly deteriorating by the day, in boxes, albums, and stacks. They give testament to a life and youth gone by. They recall young children, departed relatives, exciting trips to Europe and Japan, important birthdays, a long-lost pet. I want to bring them to life, if only for a brief visit.

The gang in Brooklyn on Halloween Eve, many moons ago!
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A gorgeous early summer day near Stockholm.

I almost gasp when looking at photos of a long-ago party at my house, celebrating the visit of Doug Elkins Dance Company in 1998. Everyone was sooo young and so drunk.

Just Married, saying goodbye to parents as we head out for the honeymoon.  1963!

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ranch 2000
New Year’s Eve 1999

I found a photo of my mother with her arms around two of my daughters, probably taken 40 years ago. They all looked relaxed and happy. This photo brought me joy because my mother hated to have her picture taken, consequently, I have few photos of her where she seems happy and looks the way I want to remember her. She died of Alzheimer’s so my last memories of her are painful to recall. This photo helped me make her real and healthy again. The image is now on my desk and in my heart.

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My favorite look (for many years)

Thousands of digital photos sit right under my fingertips at my computer’s keyboard. They’re so easily accessible, and visited more frequently. They’re available for immediate recall and better organized.  I imagine that my grandchildren will have no boxes of photos to store.

Once again there came the time to put these memory capsules back in their cupboard.  After writing about them this time, I lovingly put them away, and even managed to feel happy.

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meeting the final grandchild!

Here’s to the Ladies Who Lunch

Many years ago I was too intimidated to walk into a high end NYC department store such as Berdorf Goodman. My mother favored Saks Fifth Ave when we made our annual visit to NYC. Particularly their pocketbook sales. My guess now is that Berdorf’s intimidated her too. The somewhat haughty “May I help you?” used to make me think that they somehow knew just by looking at me that I couldn’t afford anything they were offering.

My shoes are a better quality now. So is my attitude. Somewhere along the line, maybe when I got older than the sales persons, I stopped feeling intimidated. Maybe it was moving to CA that made me feel and think I looked more or differently sophisticated and could therefore feel ok in this status conscious temple. I know that, at some point, the Upper East Side look,which initially fascinated me and seemed unapproachable started to look conforming and dated. Nothing to fear here, for sure.

Today I wandered into the store needing a new lipstick. NO problem. It was near lunchtime so I made my way to the top floor to find a seat at their restaurant Bg. I took a seat in the lounge, because they told me there was no space in the restaurant itself. I had a perfect vantage point by the entrance to the restaurant to watch the arrival of the Ladies who Lunch. and even surreptitiously take a few photos for this blog.

“Look how gorgeous you are!”exclaims one socialite to another. “I didn’t recognize you in this fabulous color!”

It’s a chic timeless room with a green canopy of trees from Central Park visible from the windows. The  upholstered small tables for two by the windows are understandably coveted. A place to see and be seen.

window seats

“A glass of white burgundy and ice water with a straw,” the woman seated next to me briskly instructs her waiter.

I easily broke the diners into categories. (90% female)
A. Those dressed all in black with and without a reservation, looking quite comfortable and more than pleased to grab a seat in the lounge when told there was no room in the restaurant itself. They know their way around here.
B. Those who step off the elevator looking uncertain. They are doomed to remain on the outside of this clubby enclave. Treated kindly as far as I could tell, but quickly turned away. The woman in the center of this photo epitomizes this look.

C. Young, polished, self-assured  creatures who were there to attend a private party in the curtained off back room.They swept right through the door by passing the hostess. No one dares to question their right to be there.

D. The impeccably dressed and coiffed single female guests, greeted with a hug and large smile by the maitre d. He is positioned discreetly across the door from the hostess whom most check in with, for such an occasion when someone of “import” arrives and needs to be fussed over and ushered into the inner sanctum. Maybe there’s always a table waiting for this kind of guest? Too obvious and too close to even attempt a photo here.

I couldn’t help noticing the power shoes that came through the door. It was easy taking the photos of feet.

 

LOoks like the afro is back.

The people watching was great here. Probably unchanged for the last century. I think the only thing that fortunately has changed is my frame of reference!

Cleanliness Redefined

If there was a competition for the world’s cleanest country, I have no doubt that the Japanese would win it hands down, or clothes off.

We just visited the venerable Kinosaki Onsen about a two hour train ride from Kyoto on the West Coast. We traveled with two of our grandchildren, uncertain whether or not they would be up for naked bathing in a crowd. One bravely ventured in and the other declined for the obvious reasons.

The self consciousness that American women feel about their bodies is no where evident in a Japanese bath. It’s liberating.

It took me years to get to the point where I too am not self conscious. Maybe it was just a question of letting go of my foolish pride in my younger dancer’s body. Of course it all passes sooner or later, so to expect otherwise is just a delusion. At some point I realized that no one gives a damn what I look like without clothes other than myself. Bodies come in all shapes sizes and conditions and here there is no judgement by other bathers. If there is, I don’t detect it and cannot understand Japanese, so it’s not an issue!
I have come to accept and be grateful for my relatively functional aging body as is at this time in my life.

The canal running through town is bordered by willow trees just leafing out, and festooned with cherry trees, illuminated at night. The iconic scene is punctuated by the high Japanese bridges periodically crossing the river.

bridge

KInosaki is an old onsen town that has 7 public baths. I’m not sure how the Japanese go from bath to bath to bath because I’m happily cooked well done after one round of bathing. Nevertheless, visitors in small groups of families or friends. promenade in their yukata(cotton bathrobe) through town, clip clopping in their geta sandals on the stone sidewalks, visiting one onsen after another. The sounds lend a timeless sound track to the setting.

Visiting Kinosaki Onsen makes for an enjoyable getaway and a dip into another facet of Japanese culture not to be missed nor forgotten.