The Inner Landscape

In Transit

(written on the airplane Monday)

At the security gate, the attendant takes a long look at my driver’s license picture, then a searching look at my face. The picture, just over four years old, shows a woman with long, wavy hair no glasses. I stand before her in short grey hair, wearing my now necessary progressive lenses.

I am no longer young.

I may wear my hair long again someday, but I am no longer young.

In the Ladies Room I regard the person looking at me from the mirror, a woman whose hair has been many colors, letting a severe eyebrow waxing job grown in again, face still relatively unlined, visage sober. When did I become *so* serious? I make an effort to smile at people I meet, but I’m not sure how often I smile at myself.

Near the gate I search the other passengers for people who look like me. Who is my age? Where do I fit in the general categories of humanity? An elderly woman comes off the plane in a wheelchair; I’m not there yet. A mother seeks a gate claim check for an umbrella stroller, carrying a sleeping toddler adorned with a pink hat made of balloons. She seems much younger than I, though there are women my age with 3-year-olds.

A young couple waiting for our delayed stand so close together I can hardly see where she begins and he ends.

Lord knows, I am no longer one of them and perhaps I never was.

Of course they are my seatmates on the plane, which continues to be delayed on the ground — weather and traffic –a threatened "ground stop" — is that when the Earth stops turning?

The last person to board is a woman I would guess is my age. She wears a salmon-colored sweater with a little hood, dangling earrings, a flashy watch and chic hair. Nervously she checks her boarding card; she expected a window seat and does not want to believe that "D" is on the aisle. Eventually convinced, she remains restless, jumping up to ask for a blanket, then for the bathroom, finally guided back to her seat by a flight attendant as eager to take off as we are.

In line for the runway, she pulls out a magazine, Guideposts: a talisman against disaster?

The plane inches forward, each turning of the wheels raising false hope that we have finally reached the runway. From the galley I smell food that I know will not be served in my section. We will wait a long time for a Diet Coke and some crackers.

My seatmates snuggle, and I remember that not so long ago, after all, I did the same with Pure Luck on our great Southwestern excursion of 2001. he says that was a long time ago, but here on the plane it feels near in memory. We flew that night through a thunderstorm, watched lightning outside the window. We held onto each other, and if his hand occasionally rested in the neighborhood of my knee, at least it was under the airline’s insignia blanket.

I had a second chance at being young. At 39, I met a new love, who took me to unexpected destinations, inner and outer.

In front of us a thirty-ish couple patiently entertains two very small children.

Suddenly it doesn’t seem so bad to be no longer young. Here in the middle of my life I have leisure to explore the cast of characters surrounding me, to observe and remember, to learn something about myself.

We take off. Above the clouds, a bright sky waits.

17 thoughts on “In Transit”

  1. I waited ten years before renewing the picture on my driver’s license. That guy in the picture was 20 pounds lighter and had a full head of hair. You should have seen the looks I would get, now that I have no hair and my cheeks are fully filled out (understatement!). So I got my picture updated a few weeks ago. I don’t know the guy in that photo. It can’t be me,can it?

  2. When I get ready and face myself straight on in the bathroom mirror, I am the same “me” I’ve always been.
    When I catch a side view of myself in a restaurant mirror or a reflection in a store window I think: “Who the hell is that? Am I really that fat? Am I really that old? Why do I look so worried/grumpy/tired?”
    Must work on all of the above. -sigh- Thanks for the lovely meditation on ages.

  3. You have stated this so beautifully. I feel very young inside–I usually feel like the baby of whatever group I’m in–and am always slightly startled when I see a recent photograph of myself. How can I feel so young? Who is this person with gray hair and progressive lenses? She looks like a grownup.
    I have been organizing some “through the years” pictures of the Scientist and me for our upcoming silver anniversary celebration, and I am not sure how we got from those slim youngsters with all the long curly hair to, well, us.

  4. I pulled out my wedding pictures on Monday and was astonished at how very young I looked. These past couple of days have been a little rougher with my rehab–whadda ya expect from a 47-year old body? Except I did expect more. There are days I am totally comfortable, really grateful, to live in my skin. But every now and then, ah how good I had it and I didn’t even know!

  5. Don’t believe a word of this. Songbird is really a tall slender blonde bombshell. (And no she didn’t pay me to say so…or should I say she didn’t pay me enough not to tell you she paid me.)
    But seriously folks, her post reminds me of something my father used to say in his later years: “I feel younger than springtime until I look in the mirror and wonder why that old face is staring back at me!”
    Luv ya, Songbird 🙂

  6. After living in south Texas for so many years, I definitely have lines on my face, so I’m impressed that yours doesn’t have many! I hold in my thoughts that a dermatologist years ago told me she could tell I hadn’t grown up here, because I didn’t have that much “sun damage”–what about my kids??
    Sweet love at 39! I’m happy for you.

  7. Don’t they say that “old” is at least 20 years older than you are at the time you are thinking it? I love being 45 and wouldn’t trade the younger body/face for what it took to get to this point and know myself so well. Matter of fact, my fav t-shirt proudly says “If you’re under 40, you’re just larva.” (A saying created by the Sweet Potato Queen herself!) Hope it’s a safe trip home ((Songbird)).

  8. 60 is the new 40–and I’m not there yet!
    I’ve been having those “I’m not old/omg I’m old” feelings lately. Because in truth I don’t feel older than I did 10 or 15 or 20 years ago, but the mirror tells a different story. But it’s all relative, isn’t it.
    And while I’ve not seen you in person (yet) if your picture is anywhere close to true, your hair is gorgeous!

  9. Looks, looks, we dwell on looks,
    when our eyes should be in books.
    We are the age we are today
    no matter if our hair is gray.
    It’s how you feel inside, not out
    and if the outside makes you shout,
    then fix what you can and love the rest
    and that’s the way to have it best.
    (and this is from a woman who has had “some work” and am much more at ease with the mirror now)

  10. Beautiful reflection that articulates so well how I feel. (I too have a lump in my throat) 60 is the new 40 … and I’m past there! Can’t believe it, but it’s true … the mirror tells me so (even tho’ I love it every time people tell me they think I’m in my 50’s) Love who I am and where I am … just wish I had another hundred years to look forward to!

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