While my wife and I were hiking down a trail last week, I saw these leaves highlighted by the morning sun and knew that I had a photo to take. I saw them as something beautiful in spite of the fact that there were scars showing that these leaves were on their last legs of life. It reminded me of those old people who are so wrinkled and bent with years who have been fully touched by their lives, authentically real.
There is a Japanese term that comes to mind, Wabi Sabi. “Wabi-sabi represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection.” [Wikipedia] Nature is filled with things we would call imperfect, yet when we truly look closely, we find a curious perfection in their authenticism. It is much the same with people.
In our travels around the world, we have seen many, many older people whose faces grab one’s attention. It is as though their faces become works of art upon which there are many stories to be told. Seeing these faces, there is a sense of respect for them as humans that emerges. If you have ever been to Cuba, there is an old woman who smokes cigars in a city square in Havana who draws everyone’s attention. It seems everyone wants to take her picture. Once while we were in Shanghai, we saw an old, very old Chinese man in traditional costume much as the old lady in Cuba was in traditional costume. Like the Cuban woman, this Chinese man captured my attention as well as the attention of other foreigners in the city. And like I did in Cuba, I took a photo.
Strangely, these people pictures I take on our travels around the world never include faces of sculpted perfection where wrinkles have been banished beneath too much makeup or cosmetic surgery. It is as though such faces deny nature, disrespect nature.
Those who fight the good fight, caring for others, being fully invested in living, and respecting their own bodies as they work to the moment were working is not possible anymore – these are the people I respect the most. They have dared life and met what life gave them, unashamed of their scars, their bent bodies. Honesty is beautiful, isn’t it?