Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Mirror Image

I've seen a lot of them lately. Usually in book stores. These pictures of musicians, writers, generational icons. These pictures of familiar faces grown old. In his new autobiography Neil Young does it perfectly. On the cover is a picture of him, very intense, as he appears today. On the back cover is the same kind of picture of Neil Young in his prime.
It strikes me that some folks don't remember the young Neil. I get that. Many of the new friends I have in Portland don't know or remember me as a younger man. And then there are those like Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. Sure their faces have deep lines. Their voices are a bit more craggy too. But their aging over the decades is less obvious. Bob Dylan keeps rolling along. Five decades in the business and the new albums keep coming. The image of Dylan today is radically different from the young curly headed boy with no facial hair. The voice is fairly gone, but the lyrics as contradictory and subtle as ever. Maybe more of these rock stars will make their way to postage stamps. Will they do what they did with Elvis? "Do you want the young or the old Elvis stamp?" Some of both please.
I really love the people who age gracefully. The ones who manage to change with the times but don't really change. They accept the gray hair and it becomes silver. Silver is more valuable than obsidian. This juxtaposition of faces is both fascinating and frightening. There really does come a time when we look into the mirror and see someone else staring back. It's what we do about that and how we feel about what looks back that determines the measure of self-acceptance. I was standing on a corner yesterday waiting for the WALK sign. Three twenty somethings waited behind me and one was talking and gesturing wildly about a friend of theirs who had a recent encounter with someone. "She's like Im not gonna talk to him...he was an older man in his 60s..." Clearly this 65 year old being present meant nothing. And that is the stark reality, isn't it? Most people I meet think I'm a bit younger than I appear. The irony is that I use no dyes or make no attempt to hide my age. My silver-gray lightly dusts a bit of black, but my beard borders on white. So be it. Sometimes I read obituaries. There are all kinds and most are far too brief to encapsulate a life. Occasionally there is not just one picture but an array of photos over a period of time. That's really who we are and who we were. It is also much more interesting.

1 comment:

Marsha Rosenzweig Pincus said...

9I really love this piece. I am sometimes obsessed with those twin images... young/old. I love to seek out you tube videos of performances of the same song by singers at different ages. My favorite is Cat Stevens doing "Father and Son" then and now... As a woman, I wonder about the role gender plays here. We do not see the same unabashed aging among the women rockers, folk artists of our generation. Or do we and I am missing it?