The incredible beauty of age. Notice the smiles that light up the faces of the women in these photos all but one of whom was a brief encounter on the road. The first two women I met in Calabar, a hill town in Trelawny Parish in Jamaica. It was one of those rural villages where everyone immediately notices you as a stranger, and where eyes ask unspoken questions on your belonging or unbelonging. The second two photos are from Jacmel and Gonaives in Haiti. My friend’s moto-taxi had a flat tire, so we searched for somewhere to drink coffee while the repairs took place. I forgot to write her name, but I remember she was in her 80s and blind. She smiled a lot which wasn’t surprising as she surrounded herself with teasing grandchildren and great-grandchildren of all ages. We stayed for about an hour, laughed, made photos, drank thick sweet coffee and ate dry bread. I promised to bring the photos next time I passed through the town. I make these promises all the time and so far I’ve never failed to keep any of them. So I need to be back in Jacmel sometime soon.
I love the beauty held in the eyes of the women and their worn sculptured faces lined with time. I think of my own aging body and the energy I need to keep my chronic back pain at bay. Chiropractors, Chinese massage, walking, swimming, pain killers and muscle relaxants all add to my exhaustion. At the moment, I’m on a six week Feldenkrais Study [a little like pilates]. I’m also on two months of compression treatment that is supposed to stretch the L4 and L5 vertebrae that are causing sciatica which in turn leads to my back spasms. So far this has not proved beneficial, and I may well drop out of the program and stick with exercise. I can bear sciatica but the spasms are unbearable, so I knock myself out with various narcotics and lose a couple of days of my life. I can go for months with no pain and then I have other months when I live with pain every day. Over the years I’ve noticed my pain threshold gets higher and higher.
The physical body is continuously in the process of aging and from the moment of conception, we are one step closer to death. Death is the elephant in the room of our lives. I know that sounds morbid, but I like to remind myself of the certainty of an end.
The elderly who live on the margins of the ageist body-obsessed society are often the most vulnerable. We think of the Black / African family as taking care of their mothers and fathers. However in urban centers in Nigeria and Haiti, there are large numbers of the elderly, many mentally ill, abandoned by their families, some left to beg on the streets others more fortunate, living in charitable homes for the elderly. I heard recently that elderly abuse is a growing problem in the US with 1 out of 10 people over 60 abused in the home.
Except for Manbo Prejuste in the first photo who I have met many times, I only spent a short time with the women in these photos so I cannot speak to their home situation. However, I hope their smiles and the light in their eyes mean they are truly surrounded by love.