The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.
I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.
I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.
The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.
“…I’ve stabilized my life to an extent now over these past 10 years. I’m very at ease, and I like it. I never thought I would be such a family-oriented guy; I didn’t think that was part of my makeup. But somebody said that as you get older you become the person you always should have been, and I feel that’s happening to me. I’m rather surprised at who I am, because I’m actually like my dad.”
She is an oxymoron with her blue-black hair and stylish bob cut just below the chin. A mink stole wrapped around her shoulders as she sits among the other patrons who dig into their take out containers with plastic forks. She eats in a dignified manner, alone, in the dining area of the Whole Foods supermarket.
Her visage is unique–a prominent nose, painted red lips and a strong, masculine facial structure. She could be mistaken for a man in drag. But, she’s a woman past her prime–one who in her younger years shined as a glittering celebrity. After all, this is Hollywood, and it’s not unlikely that a movie star from the golden years is next in line at the checkout line in front of a budding television actor.
Someone once said you can always tell a woman’s age by her hands. In Los Angeles, I found the hands especially useful in distinguishing the real personae of the reconstructed, cat-like appearances of most Beverly Hill’s wives. The ability to point out who has been botoxed, stretched, lifted, implanted and rhino-corrected becomes easy. Most look the same–wearing an insecurity so obvious it’s frightening.
What is it about some women who feel the need to over compensate physically? Is it the competition of younger women? Is it the years of neglect by the men they love? Or, is it simply because they’ve stopped growing mentally, and physical beauty is the only compensation for their worth?
Then, there’s the older woman who has failed to see the physical changes. She looks into the mirror and refuses to notice how time has softened her facial features. Instead, she sees the reflection of herself at 22.
I walk by the woman in mink to see her, investigate her hands and how she has applied her rouge. I want to share a table with her, strike up a conversation about the weather and even say something witty, which will break her frown lines into a smile.
Insecurity, society’s boundaries, second guessing–they keep us from doing the things we should.
She eats carefully, slowly, breaking the meat away from the drumstick with knife and fork. I notice her shoes. She is wearing canary yellow Reebok high-tops like the ones coveted back in 1985. Hers are exhausted with wear, the ends of the laces are ratted and brown.
She reminds me of the ladies at Goodwill on Saturday mornings. There is the one who tried on the red jacket and stared longingly into the mirrored reflection a tad too long. Or the other lady, who I secretly admire. “If things don’t change soon, I’m going to turn out just like her.” She comes into the store with a black turban, a diamond broach at its center just above her forehead. She’s layered in black—long skirt, black tights and lace scarves wrapped around her neck and shoulders. She’s what I call the shabby chic of elegance. Looking divine even though the shades of black do not match and the shoes are painfully out of season.
The camaraderie of women. The physical and mental changes that occur. Some try to mask it—dunking their heads into a magical fountain of youth; while others entertain themselves and make do with what they have. The latter women I’m beginning to admire, no longer fighting with their big thighs, their gray hairs, their perfect makeup, the younger woman, the wandering eye of their significant other. There’s no one left to impress and are free to dress however they feel.
I wanted to ask the woman in mink if she’d like to meet up with me and my eccentric lady friends at Goodwill one Saturday morning.
After all, we’re the ones who can appreciate the pairing of yellow shoes with fur.