During my Southeast months, I teach yoga for a fitness and recreation program called “Fifty and Wiser.” The name has always struck me as comical. At fifty and older, I hope we’re wiser than at twenty or thirty, but that’s not why there’s a whole set of exercise programs for that age group. Apparently it was not good marketing to say fifty and older, though.
In one of my online writing groups, a member asked for feedback on her new web site. Most people talked about the design and content in comparison to her old one. One person, however, addressed her sunny, smiling, middle-aged picture. He was adamant that an author should not post a picture unless he or she looked like a professional model, and said he wasn’t about to post his own picture, because he didn’t want his readers to know he was old but to think he was as young as the characters he writes about.
In honor of that comment, I’m updating my picture. In the one I’ve been using, taken indoors in black and white, my salt-and pepper hair looks only half gray. In bright sunlight, the gray shines and it looks totally silver. I like it—I’m like a little bitty silver-back gorilla. In humans, females get that honor as well as the males.
At the present progress of the Mae Martin Series, she hasn’t turned thirty yet. Starting with a young character allows me to keep the series going for decades if I choose, and the tumult and challenge of that stage of life make for good stories, but at that age I didn’t have either the patience or the perspective to write them.
Yeats published this poem in 1893, a young man imagining his beloved’s aging.
When You Are Old
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with a love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
When he was old, he wrote The Apparitions.
(I’m only including the final verse; you can read the rest at http://www.poemhunter.com/best-poems/william-butler-yeats/the-apparitions/ )
When a man grows old his joy
Grows more deep day after day,
His empty heart is full at length
But he has need of all that strength
Because of the increasing Night
That opens her mystery and fright.
Fifteen apparitions have I seen;
The worst a coat upon a coat hanger.
Who will we become when our empty coat is left behind? Aging. The heart grows full, while the hair grows hollow, light passing through it like a halo.