Sunday, 7 July 2013

On Being an Old Woman

Well, it’s official. I am an old woman. A cheque to give me security in my old age is deposited in my account every month just to remind me of the fact. I’m on the government payroll! The job of being an old woman is the most secure job I’ve ever had.

I don’t feel like an old woman, but the facts are undeniable. What kind of old woman will I be? I think of the role models I've had in other older women.

I could be the rascally red-hatted woman who speaks outrageous things loudly, and breaks with convention just because she can. I could be the Nurturing Earth Mother, who sits knitting in her rocking chair on the front porch, visiting with the neighbourhood as it passes by. I could be the Intrepid Trekker, travelling around the world with only a backpack for company, fulfilling her life-time dream of travel. I could be the Valued Volunteer or go back to school to get a Master’s degree in something or other, graduating at the same time as my granddaughter. It’s wonderful to have so many options.

To help me think things through, I fantasize about the future, using my favourite medium, an art quilt. I choose a winter tree as my image and begin to decorate it with symbols of the life I hope to live.
A Winter Tree

To communicate a spirit of  beauty, strength, and resilience, the trunk bends in a curve and the roots are strong and wide-spread.  Buried amongst the roots is a treasure, symbolizing the value I place on my ancestors.  I add a silver charm of a hand to depict the playful work I hope to continue doing till I drop. I throw in a few fantasy flowers and leaves to indicate that there’s life in the old tree yet. Silver raindrops hang from the branches because I do not want my old age to be dry and barren. Hearts are added liberally...I can’t live without an abundance of love. A dream catcher hangs from a limb – I hope I never lose the ability to have dreams for the future. A butterfly and dragonfly are added to symbolize transformation and metamorphosis, and faith that my life will go on in some form after I’m gone. A white mask on one side of the tree is balanced with a black one on the other, a reminder that life has its bright but also its shadow side.

As the tree’s crowning glory, a crow sits out on a limb, perched there with her mouth wide open. She’s communicating with the world. As a symbol of wisdom, knowledge and intelligence across many cultures, she reminds me that an old crow lives within my branches.

Then it dawns on me: by creating this tree, I have portrayed all of the things that I already love about my life. Roots and raindrops, hearts and butterflies, growth and communication – they’re all already part of my life today. Now I see that it’s not what I wear, or how I behave, that will define me in my old age. It will be my inner self, the self that is already growing now inside me.

When I am an old woman – no, now that I AM an old woman –  I will be myself, only more so, I hope. I can joyfully live with that.


  1. Jess - as I said before, you encapsulate my own thoughts so well although our lives are different in many ways.

  2. Jessie you are such a deep thinker. I am amazed.

  3. willy nywening7 July 2013 at 18:27

    We are only old when we want to be. In our advanced age we become what we were meant to be. Old women are wise women. Wisdom is not measured in years but in what we give to others. You have given of yourself and that is a priceless gift. That is wisdom. Thank you!! Keep it up Jesse. Love you!! wn

  4. So a cheque makes you old, huh? :)

    Thanks for the posts, ma. They're good writing...