Yesterday I was tasked with looking through decades of photographs belonging to a great friend who died a few months ago. Her home of many dozen years was being cleared out. What struck me was the overwhelming reality of the journey our bodies take as we are living each of our days, months and years. Our body changes while I believe our spirit does not rearrange itself quite in the same way. Looking through the pictures of this one woman, I saw her as a cute baby, a lovely teenager, a young woman with children, a young woman gaunt and beautiful, changed through one of the sadder moments of her life, the middle-aged woman, still full of life, and the older woman still full of life but now with a body surrounded by weight, her soul still shining through. These days I spend some time recognizing my own metamorphosis...feeling the same as my thirty-year-old self, and wondering who that person is I am looking at in the mirror.
So Reading Ursula K. LeGuin Wave of the Mind, I felt keenly that she was able to say the words that exactly fit. At this time, her death recent, It seemed to me it would be a good way of keeping her alive and those still here, ever mindful.
"My mother died at eighty-three, of cancer, in pain, her spleen enlarged so that her body was misshapen. Is that the person I see when I think of her? Sometimes. I wish it were not. It is a true image, yet it blurs, it clouds, a truer image. It is one memory among fifty years of memories of my mother. It is the last in time. Beneath it, behind it is a deeper, complex, ever-changing image, made from imagination, hearsay, photographs, memories. I see a little red-haired child in the mountains of Colorado, a sad-faced, delicate college girl, a kind, smiling young mother, a brilliantly intellectual woman, a peerless flirt, a serious artist, a splendid cook—I see her rocking, weeding, writing, laughing — I see the turquoise bracelets on her delicate, freckled arm — I see, for a moment, all that at once, I glimpse what no mirror can reflect, the spirit flashing out across the years, beautiful.
That must be what the great artists see and paint. That must be why the tired, aged faces in Rembrandt’s portraits give us such delight: they show us beauty not skin-deep but life-deep."