About the Authors
We elderwomen have each walked the earth for at least six decades and have a measure of contentment in our worn paths and comfortable shoes. We are less concerned about growing old gracefully and more concerned about growing old consciously. The images we capture with our cameras and the words these images evoke help us to live in our world more mindfully. We delight in sharing our awareness with one another and are grateful for the insights and appreciations that emerge through this communal effort.
I have always wanted to write about the feelings and discoveries that I have known in my life, but words alone have never been adequate to convey these experiences. My pride in my children and my search for balance in helping them to become who they want to be. My enduring love for my husband and all we have suffered and celebrated together. My parents’ struggle to grow old while remaining independent. The friendships that have made my life fuller and helped to draw out the person that I have become. The delight I experience in my grandchildren and the eagerness they have towards life. My love of the wild world, especially trees and mountains, rivers and lakes. Words are not enough.
Then my good friend Donna and I discovered photojournaling, what for us has become a way to get at the soul’s deepest rumblings. We went on weekly photo excursions, wrote about our experiences, and then shared our reflections. In the process we learned more about ourselves, our friendship, and the world in which we live. We helped one another become better photographers and better writers. Through our work together, I finally began to realize the meaning of meditation in my life. The world pulls me into itself through my photographs, and then my writing enables me to say to others what I hear the world saying to me.
Elderwomen Musings has been created as a way of sharing and extending our photojournaling experience. We are excited to be joined by other elderwomen who share our passion for photography and writing and who, like us, want to live the third epoch of our lives to the fullest of our womanhood.
What I love about my life right now is the time I have for reflection and relationships and play. The photographer, the writer, and the artist in me are becoming stronger and more self-confident while the task-master, that person who got on the treadmill every morning and handled five or six tasks at once all day long, is losing her grip. Every once-in-awhile she tries to regain control. It’s hard to break life-long habits. But I’m more and more convinced that this is MY time. There are parts of me that are clamoring for attention, for development, for expression.
My interest in photography began in college. But my career moved away and it became a snap-shot deal of vacations and kids. I have made a commitment to learn more, practice more, slow down and be more deliberate. It is only now that I have the time.
Writing has always been important, both in my career and in journaling. I think best through my fingers and a pen or a keyboard. I have begun to experiment with internal dialogue and other writing exercises. It is only now that I have the time.
Kathleen and I stumbled onto photo-journaling as a way to share time. We’re both rather project, gotta-have-a-purpose driven. The whole experience of shooting and writing has taken us to a deeper level of understanding of our own emotions and thoughts. But even more significant, it has given us a deeper level of connection with each other and with those who read our work and say, “Me, too. I know what you mean.”
These are the journeys of a passionate eye, an eccentric wit and an earth loving heart with camera, paintbrush, pen and field notebook in hand. How to describe these ardent wanderings? There is a wildness to these eldering days that feeds me, and I cannot live without it. Nature is the canvas, and the wind is my brush – the turning seasons compose the symphony, orchestrate the score and write the choreography for long thoughtful rambles through the landscape with camera in hand.
The camera is my third eye, the clear and ever present lens through which I peer at existence, connect with it in a profound, painterly and elemental way and filter my experience of the living world. The lens through which I see everything as an elder is metaphorical, sacramental and relative – it arises from a sense of kinship, a bone deep and inexpressible faith in the elemental grace and grandeur that glue the universe together.
It is all a matter of becoming what the late Florida Scott-Maxwell called “fierce with reality”. Sometimes, the camera captures a trace of the Great Mystery at the heart of existence. I merely stand there holding the recording apparatus.
Grieving over a personal loss several years ago, I picked up my camera and began taking pictures of flowers. The photographic process itself became my healer, offering no expectations, just an invitation to see. The blooms touched me with their impersonal and surprising beauty.
Perhaps I related unconsciously to the unique opening and unfolding that flowers do, moving from buds with tightly closed petals to elegant or funky swirls or fans or sunbursts of color and scent. A few years ago, as I dipped into my sixth decade of life, I began to see my own self as a flower wanting to open, a human late bloomer.
For years I had told myself a crazy tale. I had the soul of an artist, I said, but lacked the requisite talent and skill. Fifteen years ago I heard the cry of my soul, laughed at the lie, and began drawing and painting, dabbling in the materials that are everyone’s birthright. Years before, I had declared myself to be a writer. Today, I feel just plucky enough to call myself a writer, an artist, a photographer.
Only recently have I begun discovering the alchemy, the sheer fun, of combining words and images. There is a dance going on in my life, a dance of art, photography, and words. Somewhere in the midst of it all, I am finding that place that is free of rules, full of something wild and sublime and real.